May 31, 2004
Something Else to Worry About on Supply Side: Hurricanes
Forecasters are predicting three major storms in the Atlantic for this hurricane season, which begins tomorrow. With companies operating more than 4,000 oil and gas assets in the Gulf, from unmanned to large manned rigs, a major storm sweeping through the Gulf could disrupt supplies for days. Furthermore,
If a storm blows into a major refining centre like Houston, it could send already high gasoline prices even higher. About 12 per cent of U.S. gasoline, enough to fill more than two-million automobile tanks a day, is refined in Houston. The city hasn't taken a direct hit since 1983.
May 30, 2004
CNN report on current status of grisly Khobar attacks by Al Qaeda.
Tuesday should be an interesting day on the oil futures market.
Saudi Arabia is supposed to be the swing producer, able to fill the gap between supply and demand in times of crisis. If (or when, according to some thinking) they go into crisis, who fills the gap then?
Some now are pointing to Russia as the swing saviour.
That might or might not be possible -- but the underlying assumptions that everything will straighten out and that we have a nice, long timeline to figure out what well do next in terms of energy seem naive at best.
Gas Crisis...in Iran
It may sound counterintuitive, but here it is, from the Tehran Times.
Unbridled and unconstrained gasoline consumption in the country and growing fuel imports at exorbitant prices constitute a big challenge to the Islamic Republic. According to estimates, the budget allocation for fuel imports in the current calendar year (started March 20) will be enough for only six months.
We imported 16 million liters per day of gasoline in the first quarter of the last calendar year. But we are predicted to import 26 million liters per day this year -- showing a 62.5 percent increase.
May 29, 2004
New Canadian Biodiesel Plant
The new biodiesel facility will use Bioxs unique cost-cutting conversion technology initially developed by David Boocock, a now-retired professor of chemical engineering from the University of Toronto.
BIOX chief executive Tim Haig told the Star he couldnt discuss any possible announcement because of confidentiality agreements. But weve got to get our skates on in Canada. The European Union is already producing 1.5 billion litres of biodiesel and intends to double that by 2010, he said.
Created in 2000, BIOX is a joint venture of Toronto Innovations Foundation (UTIF) and Madison Ventures Inc. BIOX began operating a 1 million liter capacity pilot plant in Ontario in April 2001, showing a 40% reduction in capital cost and more than 50% reduction in operational cost compared to other biodiesel processes.
You can see a summary of the chemical process on the BIOX site.
Al Qaeda Attack in Saudi Oil City
The Daily Telegraph and the Scotsman provide some detail on the attack this morning that left at least five foreign workers and a child dead in the Saudi city of Khobar on Saturday morning. The dead reportedly include an American, a Briton and three Filipinos. The gunmen also seized a number of hostages. A quote from an email claiming responsibility and purportedly from Al-Qaeda makes the targeting of the oil industry clear:
The heroic mujahedeen in the Jerusalem Squad were able, by the grace of God, to raid the locations of American companies ... specializing in oil and exploration activities and which are plundering the Muslims resources.
Al Khobar is a commercial -- oil -- city on the Persian Gulf, close to Dhahran, the headquarters of Saudi Aramco. (Click on map at right to enlarge.) In 1996 terrorists used a truck bomb to attack the Khobar Towers housing complex in Khobar, killing 19 US airmen and wounding more than 300. Earlier in the month Al Qaeda killed oil workers in the western city of Yanbu (circled in yellow on the map.)
This latest attack will just add to the market nervousness about oil supply, as fears grow about a potential disruption of the Saudi flow.
UPDATE: From Reuters. Death toll now appears to be 16, with 50 hostages held.
May 28, 2004
GM Hybrid Diesels for Seattle
GM is delivering the first of the 235 hybrid-diesel buses for the Seattle fleet (earlier post).
The 60-foot mass-transit vehicles, which are more expensive than standard diesel buses, deliver up to 60 percent greater fuel economy and can reduce emissions by as much as 90 percent, GM said.
The $645,000 cost is $200,000 more than a standard bus. These buses use the Allison Hybrid Electric Drive with diesel engines from Caterpillar.
The image at right is from a GM presentation on its Hybrid Bus strategy, and shows the component packaging for the hybrid buses, which come in four basic formats: the 60' articulated coach going to Seattle, a 40' transit bus, and 40' and 45' suburban coaches.
EU Invites India into Research Program
The European Union (EU) is involving India at a strategic level in the 20 billion euro research and technology development (RTD) program. The budget of the EU RTD programme will increase to 40 billion euros for a four-year period from 2006-2010.
EU-India science and technology agreements first joint committee meeting was recently held in Brussels, as a result of which five thematic priorities were identified: life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health; nanotechnology and nanosciences, knowledge-based multifunctional materials; information societies technologies; surface transport with emphasis on automotive issues; and sustainable development, global change and ecosystems.
Both the EU are India are doing a great deal of work with biofuels and biomass feedstock for energy.
Army Showcases Alternative Energy Vehicles
The Army showed a dozen alternative energy vehicle prototypes during a four-day symposium exploring clean energy sources for and from Alaska.
The Army hopes the vehicles will reduce its fuel consumption on the battlefield, and other military branches are watching closely. In fact, the Air Force has assigned a representative to the Army’s Detroit-based National Automotive Center, which is developing the vehicles through partnerships with manufacturers.
All represented the virtues of energy-saving technology that’s so crucial at a time when the Army burns 750,000 gallons of fuel a day in Iraq alone, said NAC Director Dennis Wend.
Its an extreme example, but a good example, of knowledgeable customers driving the market.
China Looks to Brazil for Deepwater Help
In addition to the agreements China and Brazil struck earlier this week about investment and support in the oil industry, the two are now in discussion over jointly exploring deep-sea oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea.
Petrobras is experienced in deep-sea oil and gas exploration and development, with drillings reaching depths of up to 2,000 meters in the Gulf of Mexico, while most of the [current] offshore operations in China are conducted in shallow waters not deeper than 500 meters.
The map (source) to the right (Click to enlarge) provides an overview of the oil fields closest to China. The South China Sea holds major undeveloped oil reserves, although estimates of the amount vary widely. The EIA provides a good summary of the situation.
Ownership of the deepwater resources could get a little tricky -- it is a crowded and contested area and one of the worlds most important shipping channels.
VW: Synfuels Step to H2
At HYFORUM in Beijing this week, Volkswagen restated its emphasis on clean, synthetic fuels ((Gas-to-Liquid (GTL); Coal-to-Liquid (CTL); Biomass-to-Liquid (BTL)) as a transition to hydrogen down the road. Along with it comes another clear statement from an automaker about the risk of oil dependence.
Concentrating on oil as a primary energy therefore involves considerable risks for the future, not least in view of the political instability of many oil-producing regions. Volkswagen has developed a drive system and fuel strategy to find an alternative that reduces this dependence.
We need more statements such as that -- and louder -- from the major automakers. And action backing those statements.