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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Low oil prices hurting some US shale operations; slumping oil prices putting pressure on drillers

October 23, 2014

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

The number of active rigs drilling for oil and gas fell by their most in two months, according to the latest data from oil services firm Baker Hughes. There were 19 oil rigs that were removed from operation as of Oct. 17, compared to the prior week. There are now 1,590 active oil rigs, the lowest level in six weeks.

“Unless there’s a significant reversal in oil prices, we’re going to see continued declines in the rig count, especially those drilling for oil,” James Williams, president of WTRG Economics, told Fuel Fix in an interview. “We could easily see the oil rig count down 100 by the end of the year, or more.” Baker Hughes CEO Martin Craighead predicted that US drilling companies could begin to seriously start removing rigs from operation if prices drop to around $75 per barrel. Some of the more expensive shale regions will not be profitable at current prices. For example, the pricey Tuscaloosa shale in Louisiana breaks even at about $92 per barrel. But that also reflects the high costs of starting up a nascent shale region.

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Topsøe researchers analyze hydrotreating catalyst at single-atom level; potential for more efficient catalysts for cleaner fuels

September 30, 2014

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Cover courtesy of S. Nygaard, Haldor Topsøe A/S. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Haldor Topsøe A/S have analyzed an industrial-style MoS2-based hydrotreating catalyst at the single-atom level using electron microscopy. With this method, the sites of single cobalt atoms, which are responsible for promoting sulfur removal from oil distillates, are resolved. The study is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Co-Mo-S is the active part in Haldor Topsøe’s series of TK catalysts; the cobalt serves as a promoter of the functional properties of the transition metal dichalcogenide (TMD) MoS2. The researchers obtained images—achieved following decades of attempts—disclosing detailed knowledge about the structure of the catalyst. The research could mean more efficient catalysts for oil refineries in the near future, promoting a cleaner environment and helping industry to deal with increasingly tight and more stringent environmental legislation.

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EIA projects world liquid fuels use to rise 38% by 2040, driven by growth in Asia and Middle East; transportation 92% of demand

September 10, 2014

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Liquid fuels production (OPEC crude and lease condensate, non-OPEC crude and lease condensate, and other) and consumption (by OECD and non-OECD regions) under three price cases in 2040. Dashed red line shows 2010 consumption of 87 MMbbl/d. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

World petroleum and other liquid fuels consumption will increase 38% by 2040, spurred by increased demand in the developing Asia and Middle East, according to the Reference Case projections in International Energy Outlook 2014 (IEO2014), released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Those two regions combined will account for 85% of the total increase in liquid fuels used worldwide over that period, said EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski.

IEO2014 projections of future liquids balances include two broad categories: crude and lease condensate and other liquid fuels. Crude and lease condensate includes tight oil, shale oil, extra-heavy crude oil, field condensate, and bitumen (i.e., oil sands, either diluted or upgraded). Other liquids refer to natural gas plant liquids (NGPL), biofuels (including biomass-to-liquids [BTL]), gas-to-liquids (GTL), coal-to-liquids (CTL), kerogen (i.e., oil shale), and refinery gain.

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Soros signals Argentina’s shale is biggest place to be; doubles stake in YPF SA

September 04, 2014

by James Stafford of Oilprice.com

One of the world’s legendary investors is upping his bet on Argentina’s shale oil and gas industry in a show of confidence for shale production in South America’s largest unconventional prize—and a big boost for both supermajors and smaller players making big waves in the heart of new discovery areas.

George Soros has doubled his stake in YPF SA, the state-owned oil company in Argentina, which sits atop some of the world’s largest shale oil and gas resources, and is about to get even larger following a new discovery over the last couple of weeks of a second key shale play.

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DOE to award $9M to promote consensus on future fossil energy technologies

July 20, 2014

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy will award $9 million over five years to organizations to assist it in building domestic and international consensus on future fossil energy technologies (DE-FOA-0001111). The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) anticipates two awards being made: the first for $7 million in the area of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and fossil-fuel-based Clean Energy Systems (CES); the second for $2 million in the area of international oil and natural gas.

One of the key missions of the Office of Fossil Energy is to “ensure the nation can continue to rely on traditional resources for clean, secure and affordable energy while enhancing environmental protection.” In pursuit of this, the Office provides outreach and education to many stakeholders, including the general public, in order to allow them to make educated choices about energy.

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DOE releases report on water-energy nexus

June 19, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a new report that frames an integrated challenge and opportunity space around the water-energy nexus for DOE and its partners and lays the foundation for future efforts.

Present day water and energy systems are tightly intertwined. Water is used in all phases of energy production and electricity generation. Energy is required to extract, convey, and deliver water of appropriate quality for diverse human uses. Recent developments have focused national attention on these connections.

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EIA: China promoting both fuel efficiency and alternative-fuel vehicles to curb growing oil use

May 13, 2014

Consumption of gasoline in China grew from 0.9 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2003 to more than 2 million bbl/d in 2013, according to figures from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). This continues a trend of significant growth in China’s transportation sector since the 1990s.

Increasing oil demand is requiring increasing imports; since 2009, China has been importing more than half of its petroleum needs. To counter this trend triggered by China’s rapid motorization, the Chinese government is adopting a broad range of policies, including improvements in the fuel economy of new vehicles and the promotion of alternative-fuel vehicles, EIA notes.

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DOE issues request for information for Grand Challenges in Subsurface Engineering

May 11, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for information for Grand Challenges in Subsurface Engineering (DE-FOA-0001135). The purpose of the RFI is to gather information from industry, academia, national laboratories, and other federal agency stakeholders on critical subsurface knowledge and/or technology gaps that, if filled, will enable significant improvements in the understanding of the character and behavior of the subsurface environment and improve the ability to access, predict, manipulate and monitor the subsurface. Responses to this RFI are due no later than 8:00 PM ET on 23 May 2014.

Background. Subsurface reservoirs account for more than 80% of US primary energy, and also offer potential for the storage of energy, CO2, and nuclear waste. Despite decades of development, DOE notes, current technologies do not allow full utilization of subsurface energy resources; for example, only ~10 to 40% of the oil and gas is recovered from shale and conventional reservoirs, respectively.

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DOE to award up to $35M for environmentally-prudent unconventional resource development

May 04, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001076) for projects in Fiscal Year 2014 (FY2014) that focus on improving the environmental performance of unconventional oil and natural gas (UOG)—i.e., shale gas, tight oil, and tight gas—resource development. DOE expects approximately $25-35 million to be available for new awards under the FOA.

While in-place, unconventional resources are substantial, recovery efficiencies are commonly low in these reservoirs. Current industry practice includes decreasing well and frac stage spacing to increase overall recovery. The objective of the new FOA is to address critical gaps of knowledge of the characterization, basic subsurface science, and completion/stimulation strategies of tight oil, tight gas, and shale gas resources to enable more efficient resource recovery from fewer and less environmentally impactful wells.

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LCA study finds carbon intensity of corn ethanol decreasing, gasoline rising; ethanol estimated 43-60% lower than oil by 2022

January 30, 2014

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Top: Weighted CI (g CO2 e/MJ) of petroleum fuels and corn ethanol consumed in the US over time. Bottom: Weighted CI of petroleum fuels consumed in the US and California over time. Click to enlarge.

The carbon intensity (CI) of corn ethanol—i.e., the greenhouse gas emissions produced via the production of a volume of the fuel—is declining, while the average CI of gasoline produced from petroleum sources is gradually increasing, according to a recent report prepared by Life Cycle Associates, LLC for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). Life Cycle Associates has completed numerous life cycle analysis studies, including those to establish fuel pathway carbon intensities (CI) for the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

According to the study, the average corn ethanol reduced GHG emissions by 32% compared to average petroleum gasoline in 2012—including prospective emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC) for corn ethanol. When compared to fuel produced from unconventional petroleum sources such tight oil from fracking and oil sands, average corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 37% compared to the former and 40% to the latter.

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ExxonMobil Outlook: 35% growth in energy demand by 2040; hybrids to account for ~50% of new vehicle sales

December 15, 2013

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By 2040, hybrids are expected to account for about 35% of the global light-duty vehicle fleet, up from less than 1% in 2010. Hybrids are expected to account for about half of global new-car sales by 2040. Source: ExxonMobil. Click to enlarge.

Driven by increasing population, urbanization and rising living standards, the world will require some 35% more energy in 2040, according to ExxonMobil’s annual forecast report: Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040. Anticipated population growth will reach nearly 9 billion in 2040 from about 7 billion today, and the global economy is projected to double—at an annual growth rate of nearly 3%—largely in the developing world.

Demand for energy in non-OECD nations will grow by about two-thirds, accounting for essentially all of the increase in global energy use. ExxonMobil projects that meeting future energy demand will be supported by more efficient energy-saving practices and technologies; increased use of less-carbon-intensive fuels such as natural gas, nuclear and renewables; as well as the continued development of technology advances to develop new energy sources. Without the projected gains in efficiency, global energy demand could have risen by more than 100%.

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Sapphire Energy and Phillips 66 parter on co-processing of algae crude oil with conventional crude

December 10, 2013

San Diego-based Sapphire Energy, Inc., one of the world leaders in algae-based “Green Crude” oil production, and Phillips 66, an integrated energy manufacturing and logistics company, have entered a strategic joint development agreement aimed at taking production of algae crude oil a significant step toward commercialization.

The companies will work together to collect and to analyze data from co-processing of algae and conventional crude oil into fuels. The goal is to complete fuel certifications to ready Sapphire Energy’s renewable crude oil for wide-scale oil refining.

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Canada files to define outer limits of expanded Atlantic continental shelf; preliminary filing on Arctic, targeting North Pole

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Overview of the outer limits of the expanded Canadian continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean. Click to enlarge.

On 6 December, Canada filed a submission to define the outer limits of its expanded continental shelf area in the Atlantic Ocean with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. At the same time, Canada also filed preliminary information concerning the expanded outer limits of its continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, which could include the North Pole.

In a news conference on the submission, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said that Canada will indeed try to extend its territorial claims to the North Pole. “What we want to do is claim the biggest geographic area possible for Canada.”

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IEA World Energy Outlook 2013 sees CO2 emissions rising by 20% to 2035; oil use on upward trend

November 13, 2013

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Energy demand growth moves to Asia. Source: IEA. Click to enlarge.

The newly released 2013 edition of the IEA World Energy Outlook (WEO) depicts a world in which some long-held tenets of the energy sector are being rewritten; importers are becoming exporters, while exporters are among the major sources of growing demand. However, the report advises, long-term solutions to global challenges remain scarce; as one example, the report sees global CO2 emissions rising by 20% to 37.2 Gt by 2035.

WEO-2013 presents a central scenario (“New Policies”) in which global energy demand rises by one-third in the period to 2035, although energy demand in OECD countries barely rises and by 2035 is less than half that of non-OECD countries. China is about to become the largest oil-importing country and India becomes the largest importer of coal by the early 2020s. The US moves steadily towards meeting all of its energy needs from domestic resources by 2035. Together, these changes represent a re-orientation of energy trade from the Atlantic basin to the Asia-Pacific region, according to the report’s scenario.

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