Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Maybe your english is better..? [image]

Study sees harmful hunt for extra oil

All the world’s extra oil supply is likely to come from expensive and environmentally damaging unconventional sources within 15 years, according to a detailed study.

This will mean increasing reliance on hard-to-develop sources of energy such as the Canadian oil sands and Venezuela’s Orinoco tar belt.

A report from Wood Mackenzie, the Edinburgh-based consultancy, calculates that the world holds 3,600bn barrels of unconventional oil and gas that need a lot of energy to extract.

So far only 8 per cent of that has begun to be developed, because the world has relied on easier sources of oil and gas.

Only 15 per cent of the 3,600bn is heavy and extra-heavy oil, with the rest being even more challenging.

The study makes clear the shift could come sooner than many people in the industry had expected, even though some major conventional oil fields will still be increasing their production in 2020. Those increases will not be enough to offset the decline at other fields.

“It becomes unclear beyond 2020 that conventional oil will be able to meet any of the demand growth,” Wood Mackenzie said. The report added that natural gas products such as liquids and condensate would also become important sources of growth.

The increasing reliance on unconventional oil will require a substantial reshaping of the energy industry.

Royal Dutch Shell and Total of Europe and ExxonMobil and Chevron, the US-based energy groups, have already begun to invest heavily in Canada and Venezuela.

Others – including Chinese energy groups – are looking at the possibility of extracting heavy oil from Madagascar.

On the gas front, Devon Energy last year spent $2.2bn (€1.7bn, £1.1bn) expanding its already sizeable position in Texas’s Barnett shale by acquiring Chief Oil and Gas. The development of such shale deposits is expected to help the US get 40 per cent of its production from unconventional sources by 2020.

But the challenge is huge, said Matthew Simmons, an industry banker who sent shock waves through the oil world when he questioned whether Saudi Arabia, the most important oil source, would be able to continue to expand production.

“The ability to extract this heavy oil in significant volumes is still non-existent,” he said in a recent speech.

“Worse, it takes vast quantities of scarce and valuable potable water and natural gas to turn unusable oil into heavy low-quality oil.”

“In a sense, this exercise is like turning gold into lead,” Mr Simmons said.

Australia bans traditional light bulbs

Australia has announced plans to ban traditional light bulbs in a move Prime Minister John Howard called a practical step toward slowing climate change.

Claiming a world first for a national government, Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said incandescent lightbulbs would be phased out by 2010 in favour of the more fuel-efficent compact fluorescent bulbs.

He said replacing the traditional coiled filament bulbs invented by Thomas Edison in the 19th century would cut Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by four million tonnes a year by 2015.

"If the whole world switches to these bulbs today, we would reduce our consumption of electricity by an amount equal to five times Australia's annual consumption of electricity," Turnbull said.

"The climate change challenge is a global one. I encourage other countries to follow Australia's lead and make the switch to more energy efficient products like compact fluorescent light bulbs."

Turnbull said the traditional light bulb's lack of efficiency was reflected in the heat it wasted when switched on.

"A normal light bulb is too hot to hold. That heat is wasted and globally represents millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that needn’t have been emitted into the atmosphere if we had used more efficient forms of lighting," he said.

"These more efficient lights, such as the compact fluorescent light bulb, use around 20 percent of the electricity to produce the same amount of light."

Conservative leader Howard, who has softened his sceptical stance on global warming as an election looms later this year and opinion polls show high voter concern on the issue, said he was a "climate change realist".

"I think some of the stuff that's around at the moment is too alarmist," he said. "But on the other hand I think the evidence is very strong that mankind has made a contribution to the warming of our globe."

Howard said households would benefit from the switch to the high-tech fluorescent bulbs.

"They'll be a bit dearer to start off with but over time they'll be less expensive and they'll last four to 10 times longer.

"We need to take practical measures in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Green groups and the opposition Labor Party welcomed the move but said the government needed to examine more meaningful ways to reduce global warming, including signing the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions.

"The major producers of greenhouse gas emissions in this country are not individuals, they're governments and business," opposition environment spokesman Peter Garrett said.

Australia is believed to be the first national government to look at banning tradtional lightbulbs, although lawmaker Lloyd Levine proposed similar legistion in the US state of California last month.

US energy policy think-tank the Rocky Mountain Institute estimates that replacing a 75-watt incandescent light bulb with a 20-watt compact fluorescent saves 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms) of carbon dioxide over the life of the bulb.

The institute said the average life of a 75-watt incandescent bulb is roughly 750 hours, while the life of an energy-efficient bulb is 10,000 hours.