On Energy and Geometric Progression

The following video has been labeled “The Most Important Video You’ll Ever See.” Hyperbole? It’s just a lecture on math, given by a Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Colorado-Boulder. It explains how just a 7% annual growth in energy use equals a 100% growth in 10 years. After a few decades, you’ve got a really big number. And a tremendously enormous problem. Watch and learn, please.

[H/T Peter Hufnagel]

Trying to Save Their Skins: BP Attempts to Quarantine Risk

BP is to hive off its Gulf of Mexico oil spill operation to a separate in-house business to be run by an American in a bid to isolate the “toxic” side of the company and dilute some of the anti-British feeling aimed at chief executive Tony Hayward, the company said today.

The surprise announcement was made during a teleconference with City and Wall Street analysts in which Hayward attempted to shrug off the personal criticism saying words “could not break his bones”.

BP has faced mounting anger in the US over the accident on 20 April when the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up and sank with the loss of 11 oil workers’ lives.

The Macondo well continues to spew out oil although a containment cap was placed on top of the leak today. Hayward said it would take a further 48 hours to know whether it was successful.

Responsibility for the leaking well and the clean-up strategy will placed in the hands of Bob Dudley, one of the company’s most able directors.

Dudley, a US citizen, has been looking for a suitable role in the company since he was thrown out of Moscow in a battle with the Russian shareholders of the TNK-BP joint venture in the middle of 2008.

Hayward said the clean-up business would be run separately by Dudley with his own staff but the finances and budget would come from the main BP group. The BP chief executive said the purpose of the split was to allow Dudley to concentrate on the Gulf problem while he and other directors were not distracted from keeping the main business on track.

read more at the Guardian.

What Obama’s Speech Means for Shell in Alaska

ENN THRUSHJOSH GERSTEIN write for Politico,

What he said: While announcing that he was extending a 30-day moratorium on new offshore drilling for six months, Obama mentioned, almost in passing, that he was pausing plans for new test wells in Alaska. “We will suspend the planned exploration of two locations off the coast of Alaska,” he said before moving to discussion of other actions.

What he meant: You wouldn’t have known it from Obama’s presentation but his decision to block drilling in Alaska may be the most politically significant of any of the actions he took on Thursday.

A coalition of major environmental groups has been pressing the administration in newspaper and TV ads to halt the planned drilling by Shell near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The groups were watching Obama closely on this. Some analysts said they had been holding back criticism of the government’s response to the Gulf spill as they awaited word from the White House about whether the drilling planned for this summer would go forward.

“The environmental groups have been saying: if Obama allows Shell to drill, we’re abandoning his presidency. But if he says no to Shell, it’s a turning point,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University who closely follows the environmental movement.

Postponing the Alaskan drilling, which can take place only over a short season each summer, buys Obama some time, but likely avoids the expense and legal battle of yanking Shell’s permits altogether. “He pauses the issue until after this election season. That will keep the environmental community at bay,” Brinkley said.

As recently as two weeks ago, Shell wrote to the Interior Department arguing that its Alaska plans should be allowed to proceed because conditions are “much different” than the deepwater drilling that led to the Gulf spill. Shell said it would be drilling not a mile underwater, but 150 feet below the water’s surface and that divers could intervene at that depth.

The company had a muted reaction to Obama’s move scuttling their drilling hopes for the year. “We respect and understand today’s decision in the context of the tragic spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but we remain confident in our drilling expertise, which is built upon a foundation of redundant safety systems and company global standards,” Shell said Thursday.

Read more at Politico,

Topkill Might Be Sorta Kinda Maybe Working? Part II Adding Junk

So it turns out that viewers at home marveling at how much ‘mud’ was spewing from the leak were right, apparently something wasn’t working. The force of the mud was not enough to bring down the well pressure, which is the bench mark that starts the application of concrete. They have resumed pumping the mud, but are now injecting junk, or ‘bridging material’ into the mix. They have also been introducing junk and various other jamming materials into the BOP hoping to lower the pressure that way.

So it sounds like BP wasn’t able to force the mud deep enough into the well to plug it, but due to risks they probably started this process with the lowest estimated pressures to keep the pipe intact. Let’s see what happens when they put some weight on the pedal.

CNN Wire Staff writes,

“This whole operation is very, very dynamic,” Doug Suttles, the company’s chief operating officer, told CNN’s “John King, USA.”

“When we did the initial pumping (Wednesday), we clearly impacted the flow of the well. We then stopped to monitor the well. Based on that, we restarted again. We didn’t think we were making enough progress after we restarted, so we stopped again.”

The light-brown material that was seen spilling out of the well throughout Thursday was the previously pumped fluid from the “top kill” procedure mixed with oil, he said.

read more at CNN

Oil Well Has Stopped the Flow of Crude, Temporarily

BP’s latest effort to plug a leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well has stopped the flow of crude, at least temporarily, the US Coast Guard says.

The British energy giant began pumping heavy mud into the gusher on Wednesday, hoping that the mud would cap the steady stream of millions of litres of oil.

Thad Allen, the head of the Coast Guard, said early on Thursday that oil is no longer coming out of the well. But he said the well still has some oil pressure, which could theoretically cause a weak spot in the pipe to explode.

BP will now pump cement into the well to permanently seal it off.

Lisa Novak, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard, later said that Allen “did not declare success.” But “things are going according to plan,” she said.

BP officials struck a more cautious tone. Bob Dudley, the company’s managing director, said in an interview with US broadcaster CNN that the “operation is proceeding like we expected.” The company is expected to issue a full update on Thursday afternoon.

read more at AlJazeera English,

President Obama Extends Moratorium on Drilling

Mike Allen writes for Politico,

The changes come after a 30-day safety review on offshore drilling conducted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, which Obama will discuss at the news conference.

Obama is effectively hitting the pause button on new wells like the Deepwater Horizon, which has been spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico for more than a month.

And he’s delaying planned exploration off the coast of Alaska in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas while his blue-ribbon panel explores what went wrong the BP spill and how to prevent future accidents.

The halt to planned drilling this summer off Alaska will meet a key demand of environmental organizations, who have been pleading with the administration to stop exploration Shell is planning this summer. The environmental groups have featured the Arctic plan in some anti-drilling television ads.

Read more:

Require Relief Wells From the Start

It appears some countries are aware of the dangers involved in off shore drilling. Canada has a standing policy for some of these wells that require a relief well to be dug before a disaster so that during an event like the BP well in the Gulf, sealing the well via the relief would be ready at a moment’s notice. Citizens of the Gulf have already waited a month, and expect to wait until August before one of BP’s relief wells reaches the leak. Officials in Canada are currently trying to reverse such laws, but recent events may be too hard to ignore. Hopefully President Obama will announce a similar requirement today during his speech.

Paul Watson writes for TheStar,

In the western Arctic, oil companies are pressing federal regulators to ease demands for relief wells that might help avert disasters like the one unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil firms operating in the Beaufort Sea must be able to drill relief wells, and if necessary, safely shut them down with original wells during a single Arctic drilling season.

Imperial Oil, BP, which owns the well leaking in the Gulf, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers have asked the National Energy Board to suspend the regulation, which has been in effect for more than three decades.

Canadian areas of the Beaufort and the Mackenzie River delta are rich in oil and natural gas in 53 known fields. At least 183 exploration wells and 66 development wells have been drilled since the mid-1960s.

read more,

Topkill might be sorta kinda maybe working?

Reuters reports,

BP remained cautious about the outcome of the much anticipated “top kill” procedure, as did President Barack Obama, whose credibility stands to suffer if one of the country’s worst environmental catastrophes does not end soon.

But the fact that the London-based energy giant was able to launch the complex maneuver around midday and keep it on track in the first hours was a welcome respite from a string of failures and setbacks in the 37 days since a rig blast triggered the disaster.

Undersea robots were helping to inject heavy fluids and ultimately cement pumped down about a mile to the sea-bed well, while BP chief executive Tony Hayward and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu monitored operations together in Houston.

“The operation is proceeding as we planned it,” Hayward said in a media briefing four hours after launching the top kill strategy.

“It will be another 24 hours before we know whether or not this has been successful,” he added.

The embattled CEO stood by BP’s 60-70 percent odds of success. But top kill, a routine procedure on the surface, has never been attempted at such depths, prompting one industry expert to predict less favorable odds.

“You have got some of the smartest guys in the business trying to figure this out, but it has never been done before,” David Pursell, partner at Houston investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co, told Reuters Insider.

“I think the odds have to be 50 percent or less,” he added.

Obama said that if successful, BP’s plan to cap the well should greatly reduce or eliminate the flow of hundreds of thousands of gallons (liters) of crude billowing into the Gulf.

If it fails, “there are other approaches that may be viable,” he said on a trip to California.

Obama, who has told aides to “plug the damn hole,” will head to Louisiana on Friday for the second time since the April 20 rig blast that killed 11 and unleashed the oil.

If the top kill fails, the next approach would be to install a containment device over the broken blowout preventer, a structure at the top of the well on the ocean floor, said BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said at a briefing with the Coast Guard Wednesday.

It is still unclear how much oil is flowing from the well, but it is already shaping up to be the worst oil spill in U.S. history and a long-term threat to a rich ecosystem.

The disaster is also reshaping the U.S. oil industry. Obama is expected to announce on Thursday that he will continue to hold off issuing deep water drilling permits off the Gulf of Mexico, but allow permits to be issued for shallow water drilling, a government source told Reuters.

The oil’s destruction of critical habitats continued to spread, with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal saying that more than 100 miles of the state’s 400-mile coastline were now affected.

PIVOTAL DAYS FOR OBAMA, BP

These days may be critical for BP and Obama.

BP’s reputation and its big presence in the United States is at stake and investors, who have wiped $50 billion off BP’s market value since the start of the spill, will watch closely to see whether the latest attempt to seal the well works.

BP shares seesawed in London trading on Wednesday, with investors boosting the share price about 2.6 percent at one point before it closed up 1.4 percent. BP’s announcement that it had launched top kill came after London markets had closed.

read more at Reuters

Topkill Underway

It looks like BP will go ahead today with it’s Topkill option in an effortt to plug the oil geiser in the Gulf of Mexico that has been leaking millions of gallons (42 gallons makes a barrel) of oil for over a month now. They plan to use ‘mud’ and concrete to create 400 tons of force to contain the leaking pipe. Bill Nye gives a pretty good description of the process on CNN.

After a congressman intervened, BP has agreed to allow the live video feed to continue as they attempt the procedure. In related news, the LA Times reports a series of health risks related to the cleanup, and a new leaked memo from BP based upon the 3 little pigs paints a picture of a company that values profits over safety.

And finally, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida is demanding that the President seize control of the disaster response if BP is unable to perform the Topkill. Let’s all cross our fingers for the coast.

Landfall: Oil Slams Louisiana Coastline

JEFFREY KOFMAN, MATT GUTMAN, RYAN OWENS, SARAH NETTER and BRADLEY BLACKBURN write for ABC News,

The heavy, black oil that people along the Gulf Coast have feared since the start of the BP spill exactly a month ago finally has arrived on shore, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said today.

Following a boat tour of Pass a Loutre, La., today, Jindal reported seeing thick oil in the sensitive marshlands.

“The heavy oil is here,” Jindal said. “This was the day everybody was worried about, everybody was concerned about. That day is here, that heavy oil is in the marshes.”

“This was not the weathered, the emulsified oil,” Jindal said. “It wasn’t tar balls. This wasn’t sheen. … This is oil that is going to be very, very difficult for them to clean up.”

read more, and watch Gov. Bobby Jindal’s remarks

Top MMS Official Chris Oynes Steps Down

Juliet Eilperin writes for the Washington Post,

Chris Oynes, who oversaw oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico for 12 years before being promoted in 2007 to associate director for offshore energy and minerals management, informed colleagues in an e-mail that he will step down. He has come under fire from former MMS officials for being too close to the industry he regulated.

The news came as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar unveiled a series of reforms to change the way the department conducts onshore oil and gas drilling.

He said they would “establish a more orderly, open, and environmentally sound process for developing oil and gas resources on public lands. The BP oil spill is a stark reminder of how we must continue to push ahead with the reforms we have been working on and which we know are needed.”

read more at the Washington Post

‘Concept can now be considered proven,’

MSNBC reports,

Following a setback Saturday in its tube strategy to contain the flow of oil in the Gulf, BP was giving it another shot on Sunday.

Natural gas was siphoned out Saturday and then burned off when it got to the surface. Oil also entered the tube but a glitch stopped the strategy before any oil could make it all the way to the surface.

“The concept can now be considered proven,” a source close to the operation said shortly before BP said a new attempt was under way.

The fix involves guiding undersea robots to insert a 4-inch tube into a 21-inch pipe, known as a riser, to funnel the oil to a ship at the surface.

BP said Saturday it was confident its latest experiment using the mile-long tube would capture much of the oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

read more at MSNBC

BP Has a Fix?

JASON DEAREN and JEFFREY COLLINS write for the Associated Press,

Oil has been spewing since the rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 people and sinking two days later. The government shortly afterward estimated the spill at 210,000 gallons – or 5,000 barrels – a day, a figure that has since been questioned by some scientists who fear it could be far more. BP executives have stood by the estimate while acknowledging there’s no way to know for sure.

BP said Sunday it had a glimmer of success in its latest effort to stem the leak. The company said engineers used a mile-long tube to funnel some oil to the surface from the gushing well before it became dislodged.

In a news release, the company said it halted the process early Sunday after the setback, but a tanker at the surface managed to capture some oil and gas brought up by the tube. Engineers were trying Sunday to get the tube to work again deep beneath the ocean.

read more

Warning Signs Present Even on Fateful Rig Day

Ford Gunter writes for the Houston Business Journal,

The Deepwater Horizon rig did not pass a key pressure test on the morning of April 20, the day of the explosion that claimed 11 lives and ultimately led to an ongoing environmental catastrophe in the form of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Wall Street Journal.

U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said that James Dupree, BP Plc’s senior vice president for the Gulf of Mexico, told investigators that the test was “not satisfactory” and “inconclusive,” the Journal reported Wednesday.

Dupree told the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which Waxman chairs, that the tests showed uneven buildups of pressure throughout the pipe, signaling a potential influx of gas into the wellbore.

A number of unnamed sources have told HBJ in recent weeks that they suspected a surge of gas up the wellbore caused the explosion that eventually sunk the rig.

Additionally, a preliminary report from the House investigation shows “four significant problems” with the blowout preventer, including “a significant leak in a key hydraulic system,” the Journal said, citing prepared remarks to be delivered Wednesday morning at an Energy and Commerce hearing on the Gulf Oil spill.

Read more at the  Houston Business Journal:

Global Oil Reserves ‘Exaggerated by 1/3’

Upstreamonline.com, the international gas & oil newspaper, carries a report today from Oxford scientist Sir David King today that global oil reserves have been exaggerated by 33% because OPEC nations wanted to be competitive in the global market during the 1980s. Sir David asserts that global reserves should be recalculated down from 1.35 trillion barrels to around 850 billion barrels, and that we will begin to see demand outstrip supply as early as 2014.

The report adds that this overestimation has been an open secret for years. Read more here.

Cold in the Wintertime: UK Gas Shortage

Terry Macalister writes for the Guardian,

Vauxhall’s car plant at Ellesmere Port on Merseyside and British Sugar’s refineries at Bury St Edmunds and Newark are among nearly 100 factories that have had their gas cut as Britain’s energy infrastructure creaks under the strain of the great freeze.

The National Grid has told British Gas and other power firms to cut the supply to major corporate customers, in an attempt to preserve gas supply for households as the weather causes a surge in demand.

Opposition MPs said inadequate planning by the government in previous years had left the country heading towards an “energy crisis” that could only dent the UK’s fragile economic recovery.

But the government maintained last night that gas cuts were now only affecting 27 factories, and that all these had signed up to discount contracts allowing suppliers to interrupt their supplies in periods of high demand.

Energy minister Lord Hunt said: “This is a period of exceptionally high demand. The system is coping as it should. These sort of arrangements have been commercially entered into.”

Factories in the north-west of England and east Midlands are worst hit out of the 94 customers who have had gas supplies axed for the first time in up to 20 years, in some cases in a response to severe weather and creaking power infrastructure.

In the first tangible sign that fears over energy shortages are translating into supply disruption, the grid has demanded cuts to those customers who signed “interruptible” contracts.

In addition the grid issued a second “gas balancing alert” in four days – the first time it has had to issue two such warnings in quick succession. The call to customers to voluntarily reduce usage wherever possible came as the supply squeeze was made worse by production problems at Troll, a Norwegian North Sea gas field.

“There are some customers in the north-west and east Midlands who have had supplies interrupted because they are on interruptible contracts and we are facing high demand,” said a grid spokeswoman.

Well-known manufacturers at locations around the country, including the south and east of England, confirmed they were experiencing power supply problems but most asked for their names to be kept private to avoid panicking shareholders. Vauxhall and British Sugar both confirmed gas had been cut off but said production was being kept up by use of stand-by generators fired by oil.

“From 6pm on Monday British Gas asked us to stop using gas, so ever since we have used oil; and we will do that until they tell us we can start using gas,” said a spokesman for Vauxhall.

British Gas could not immediately confirm it had cut off some customers in line with grid demands, but said the problems were caused by transmission overload rather than supply shortages.

“If anything there is an oversupply of gas and certainly no shortage at this time. This [the current problem] is about moving it around the country,” said a spokesman.

read more at the Guardian

Water and Oil Deeply Connected

Steven Bodzin and Erik Schatzker write for Bloomberg,

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) — Venezuela, site of the biggest refinery complex in the Americas, may process less oil as a drought reduces power generation, said the chief executive officer of Curim Capital Advisors LLC.

“We could lose about 200,000 barrels a day in the global market, which would most likely affect heating oil, and China in particular,” Curim CEO Colin Fenton said today in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “It would affect products.”

Venezuela provides crude and heating oil to China National Petroleum Corp. to pay off an $8 billion loan. Most of the oil is shipped to Singapore and other Asian ports. China imported 68,000 barrels a day of Venezuelan heating oil in the three months ended Oct. 31, according to Chinese customs data.

read more at Bloomberg

The Trillion Dollar Bicker

LISA LERER writes for Politico,

COPENHAGEN — Reaching an international agreement to curb the dangerous impacts of global warming largely depends on the two key players at the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen  — China and the United States.

But so far, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters seem more interested in taunting than talking.

“I don’t want to say the gentleman is ignorant,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei told reporters Friday, referring to top U.S. negotiator Todd Stern. “But I think he lacked common sense or he’s extremely irresponsible.”

The minister’s zinger was prompted by comments Stern made at his first press conference here on Wednesday, when he blasted the Chinese for not doing enough to curb their carbon emissions. Stern vowed that the United States would help some developing countries pay for cutting greenhouse gases  — but not China.

“I don’t envision public funds — certainly not from the United States — going to China,” Stern said. “That’s just life and the real world.”

read more at Politico