Yup, nothing like the best qualified for the job:
Energy Secretary¬†Steven Chu¬†may be a Nobel laureate Ph.D. in physics, but his first forays into energy policy suggest he’s a neophyte when it comes to the ways of Washington.
At a forum with reporters on Thursday, the head of the department that has traditionally taken the lead on global oil-market policy, was asked what message the¬†Obama¬†administration had for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries at its meeting next month.
“I’m not the administration,” the Cabinet secretary replied. “I will be speaking and learning more about this in order to figure out what the U.S. position should be and what the president’s position is.”
Chu, who is still without a deputy, said he feels “like I’ve been dumped into the deep end of the pool” on oil policy.
He may be a Nobel laureate, but it is obvious that he isn’t at all prepared for the job of Energy Secretary. How, given his obvious lack of knowledge about oil, can he put a comprehensive energy plan together for the US? Well, he wasn’t brought in to consider oil – he’s going to be the “green guy”. Oil, coal and other Neanderthal energy sources aren’t really something he’s concerned himself with. But now, he is the man.
Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, huh? Knowing all of that certainly reassures you that his priorities are going to be what is best for the US and not best for the agenda, doesn’t it?
Unproven science is apparently going to drive an administrative (instead of legislative) push to regulate carbon dioxide. In the middle of a “crisis” which President Obama calls the worst since the 1930s, the EPA is apparently going to drastically raise the cost to do business in critical sectors:
The¬†Environmental Protection Agency¬†is expected to act for the first time to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that scientists blame for the warming of the planet, according to top Obama administration officials.
The decision, which most likely would play out in stages over a period of months, would have a profound impact on transportation, manufacturing costs and how utilities generate power. It could accelerate the progress of energy and¬†climate change¬†legislation in Congress and form a basis for the United States‚Äô negotiating position at¬†United Nations¬†climate talks set for December in Copenhagen.
Note that none of the “change” appears to be good for the US or its consumers. Instead, we’re likely to see it put even further stress on families on the margin and drive more layoffs and higher unemployment. ¬†But the world will love us, or at least the UN.
I don’t think there’s any question at the moment as to whether Obama is going to govern as a centrist or liberal, is there?
As most of you know I took a short trip to beautiful Bakersfield California a couple of weeks ago at the behest of the American Petroleum Institute (who paid for the trip) to tour Chevron’s Kern River Basin oil fields. Here’s a short intro video by API that will get you into the game.
Jeff Hatlin, the guy describing most of the facilities and the area, was a fabulous tour guide. And the rest of the staff there (Jim Swartz, David Boroughs, Carla Musser, Ray Thavarajah, Kevin Kimber, Kelly Lucas and Omer Saleem) took a day out of their busy schedules to acquaint 4 bloggers with a huge asset that has been producing oil for over 100 years. My thanks to all of them.
As you might imagine, the “easy oil” days of yore are long over. As Jane Van Ryan, the narrator of the video, notes, the area was first discovered because oil was literally seeping out of the ground. No more. The oil produced at Kern River is what is known in the industry as “heavy oil”. That means the viscosity is very high. For many years in the early days, its viscosity limited its use to asphalt and roofing tar.
That presents an interesting set of problems when you talk about recovery. You’re trying to pump some pretty thick stuff out of the ground and, as you can imagine, that takes a whole bunch of energy. And the oil doesn’t sit in pools, but is distributed throughout the sand layers. So it seems¬†obvious that the way to address the problem is to find a way to lower the viscosity of the oil and cause it to flow before trying to recover it.¬† As you might imagine, that’s not as easy as it sounds. The way Chevron has addressed those needs is through steam flooding and new drilling techniques such as horizontal drilling.
You saw Jeff Hatlin talk about how that steam is generated (and you got to see the steam generators in the video) and injected into the ground. In the 20 square miles of the Kern River Basin facility, there are approximately 770 steam injection wells helping the 8,700 production wells bring up the oil from depths of over 1,000 feet. What the steam injection wells have allowed Chevron to do is move the field from its primary production days, when only 5-10% of the oil was being recovered, to a production percentage between 50 to 80% with steam flooding. This enhanced recovery technique has helped Chevron keep the field at an 80,000 bpd production rate when, without it, it would be producing very little oil at all.
Another technique which allows more efficient recovery is the 3D modeling that you saw Dale Beeson talking about.¬† The model in the video has 155 million cells, each 50′ x 50′ x 2′.¬† That’s a massive amount of information stored, updated and accessible to the Chevron staff as they plan their next wells.¬† Much of the data for this model is gathered through 660 “observation wells” drilled strategically over the vast property.¬† Temperature and fluid saturation are monitored allowing for efficient heat management and the location of the richest oil deposits. It is through the integration of that information plus the nearly 1,000,000 data points gathered through out the field on any given day by other means, that Chevron meets its goal of reducing its production decline in the Kern River Basin to 1% a year.
A final technique introduced into the Kern River field in 2006 is horizontal drilling. The 3D modeling helps Chevron exactly pinpoint layers of oil producing sand and using advanced drilling techniques, precisely place the horizontal well in that sand layer. To give you an idea of the efficiency difference, a typical vertical well will produce about 3 bpd of oil. A horizontal well will produce about 100 bpd.
Given all of that, however, there was something else I learned that just blew my mind. While they’re producing that 80,000 bpd of oil, they’re also pumping up 555,000 bpd of water. In fact they joke about really being a water production facility which produces oil as a by-product. That’s more true than you might imagine.
But it also means they must process a half a million barrels of water a day, separate the oil from it and do something with the remaining water. This is where it gets interesting. You heard Jane mention they process and purify some of it through walnut shell filters for agricultural use. In fact, they have about 272,000 bpd in excess that they send through that process and then is sold to California for use in growing all those luscious veggies Californians are so wild about. My guess is that most of California has no idea that’s the case. That avocado you’re enjoying may have been produced with water from Chevron’s Kern River Basin field.
So what do they do with the remaining 231,000 bpd of the water they pump up?¬† They make steam.¬† Lots and lots of steam.¬† And that brings us to something else of which I’m pretty sure the average Californian isn’t aware.¬† Part of that steam powers up to 20% of the California electrical grid.¬†¬† It’s called ‘cogeneration’, and Chevron has actually built steam powered electrical plants on the field which are plugged into the California power grid and provide on-demand electricity.¬† They use the waste steam generated in the steam injection process to power these plants.¬† Clean energy and highly efficient clean production.
That’s what had me saying “wow” at the end of the trip.¬† Two critical commodities to California – electricity and water, produced as¬† by-product of a third critical product, oil.¬† And all three are produced in a efficient, environmentally friendly way.
If I were Chevron, I’d be telling this story everywhere I could.¬† It’s not quite the resource-raping, greed-is-king “Big Oil” caricature the media and many of our politicians are fond of painting, is it?
It sounds innocuous enough – at least in the broad language used below. I’m talking about Sen. Boxer’s promised push to move “global warming” legislation through Congress within weeks (or, per Boxer, no later than the end of the year):
Boxer’s principles for global warming legislation aim for a law that would:
– set “certain and enforceable” short and long-term emissions targets;
– ensure state and local entities keep working to address global warming;
– establish a market-based system that cuts carbon emissions;
– use revenues from this carbon market to help consumers make the transition to clean energy and invest in new technology and efficiency measures;
– ensure a level global playing field with incentives for polluting countries to give their share to the international effort to curb climate change.
These goals won quick applause from environmental and conservation groups, including the National Wildlife Federation, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Environment America and Environmental Defense Fund.
Well of course those groups applauded the list. They’ve been beating the AGW drum for years. And it occurs to me that one of the reasons Boxer is working so hard to move this into the legislative hopper as quickly as possible because the skeptic’s voices are becoming increasingly heard.
Like anything else, there’s a window for legislation and I think Boxer sees that window starting to close. The information countering the AGW nonsense is starting to build momentum. Boxer understands that at some point there will be a tipping point. Already polls have flipped and for the first time more believe the climate change we’re undergoing is the result of natural cycles and not man-made emissions.
If that gap continues to widen, and I believe it will, plus the cost to do what Boxer and the Democrats want to do is given more visibility, the opportunity to pass such legislation will wane (just as we see support for the present stimulus bill withering as more and more information about it becomes available).
Boxer and the Democrats hope to strike while the iron is hot – no pun intended.
Hope and change.