PEAK OIL AND THE FATE OF HUMANITY Chapter 3A – Other Non-Renewable Sources of Energy By Robert Bériault
But there’s lots of oil in Canada isn’t there? For example, you have the Queen Charlotte oil fields. I’m sure the moratorium will be lifted.
You are likely correct about the moratorium. When the oil becomes rare, environmental laws will go by the wayside.
There’s about 10 billion barrels of oil and about 25 trillion cu. ft. of natural gas in the Queen Charlottes on the coast of BC… Pacific Ocean http://www.oceanindustriesbc.ca/resources
A huge find … … enough gas and oil to supply the world for 4 months*. It’ll make some folks very rich… …but it won’t delay the oil peak by more than a few weeks * http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/infosheets/natgasconsumption.htm
The Germans made gasoline from coal during WW2. What’s wrong with that?
Liquid fuels from coal • The Germans were desperate for liquid fuel to run their war machine. • When the oil decline starts we will be desperate for liquid fuel to run our economic machine • There’s little doubt that we will have to increase our reliance on coal There’s an interesting analogy here:
Advantages of coal: • Cheap • Abundant • Easy to transport • Found in most parts of the world • Can be mined with primitive methods
Advantages of coal: • It is the main source of energy used to generate electricity in many parts of the world
Liquid fuels from coal • Making liquid fuels from coal requires energy • It would take less energy to replace some of our oil-fired power plants with coal than to make gasoline from coal
Problems with coal - 1 Extremely polluting • Produces much more greenhouse gas than oil or natural gas • Acid rain • Mercury pollution • Smog • Particulate build-up • Much of the coal resource will never be mined because it contains too much sulphur • Produces much solid waste (5 – 20% of its original volume)
Problems with coal - 1 A great source of greenhouse gasses For a given amount of energy, burning of carbon-rich coal produces much more CO2 than burning oil. After peak oil we will burn a lot more coal, thereby increasing our greenhouse gas emissions. The hydrogen atoms in a hydrocarbon molecule contribute energy but not greenhouse gasses. Coal is mostly carbon.
Problems with coal - 2 Causes thousands of deaths every year Mining accidents Diseased lungs But in a world of diminishing energy sources people will be ready to pay the price.
Problems with coal - 3 Not efficient: • Oil is needed to mine coal, to transport it and to build the mining equipment • When coal is used in a power plant, only 35% of its energy is converted to electrical power Electrical energy 35% Waste heat 65% Obtained from “The Party’s Over”
COAL will continue to play a major role in electricity generation in spite of its environmental drawbacks – and in spite of the Ontario Government’s pious pledge to decommission all its coal plants. But it is unlikely to contribute to fuelling transportation. Some analysts conclude that:
Yeah, but they say that the Athabaska Tar Sands have enough oil for the whole world
Advantages of the Tar Sands • Abundant • Canadian
Problems with the Tar Sands - 1 Slow recovery: • Presently (2005) producing 1 million barrels a day • Will increase production to 2 million barrels a day by 2010 The world needs 85 million barrels a day (Jan. 2007)
Problems with the Tar Sands - 2 • It consists of very thick goo mixed with sand. • Tar doesn’t spurt out of the ground the way oil does • It has to be dug out with a shovel.
Problems with the Tar Sands - 3 The process uses natural gas TO EXTRACT ONE BARREL OF OIL, YOU NEED: • To heat up 2 tons of sand • 1000 cubic feet of natural gas • All told it takes ¼ barrel of oil-equivalent in energy
Problems with the Tar Sands - 3 • Therefore gasoline from tar sands is responsible for more greenhouse gasses than gasoline from oil wells
Problems with the Tar Sands - 3 Otherpollutants resulting from Tar Sands processing: • sulphur dioxide (SO2) • • nitrogen oxides (NOX) • • hydrogen sulphide (H2S) • • carbon monoxide (CO) • • volatile organic compounds (VOCs) • • ozone (O3) • • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) • • particulate matter (PM) • • others Canada’s Oil Sands: Opportunities and Challenges to 2015, NEB report
Problems with the Tar Sands - 4 The process uses vast quantities of fresh water • Competes with other water users such as farmers, natives, tourism, industry and municipalities.
Problems with the Tar Sands - 5 The process uses more fresh water every year Cubic kilometres of water 1998 2001 2002 Year Adapted from data from the Suncor website
Problems with the Tar Sands - 6 The process produces a lot of waste water For every barrel of oil recovered: 2 1/2 barrels of liquid waste are pumped into huge ponds. • The Syncrude pond measures 22 kilometres in circumference • It has six meters of murky water on top of a 40-meter-thick mixture of sand, silt, clay and unrecovered oil. Adapted from [ http://dieoff.com/page143.htm ]
Some analysts conclude that: Some analysts conclude that: TAR SANDS will play an essential but minor role in the world energy balance. However, it has the potential of producing all the oil Canada needs for a long time.
There’s lots of Natural Gas in the world. Won’t that save the day?
Advantages of Natural Gas • Clean burning • Produces less greenhouse gas than oil • Easy to transport through pipelines • Convenient for central heating, hot water heating • Has many petrochemical uses • Used for making nitrogenous agricultural fertilizers • Could be used in transport if only there were enough of it
Problems with Natural Gas - 1 Natural gas will peak too… maybe a decade later than oil
Problems with Natural Gas - 2 It has already peaked in North America. The Sable offshore gas deposits have turned out to be a big disappointment Photograph by Zoe Lucas http://www.greenhorsesociety.com/
Problems with Natural Gas - 3 Whereas an oil well can go on producing for decades, a gas well drains very rapidly after it’s reached peak. It’s a little like letting the air out of a balloon. United States Geological Survey
As a temporary measure for Canada and the US: The US is planning to build LNG (liquid natural gas) terminals along the coasts to unload LNG from Russia. This is a temporary measure to tide us over until Russia peaks too.
And LNG might present added problems: Because the gas is so flammable, the ships and the terminals would be tempting targets for terrorist. Would you like to live next to an LNG terminal?
Some analysts conclude that: NATURAL GAS will play less and less of a role in the North American energy balance.
We’re talking about methane hydrates, or clathrates
What methane hydrates are: • A solid consisting of gas molecules, each surrounded by a cage of water molecules • Looks very much like water ice • Holds loose sediments together in a surface layer several hundred meters thick • There are very large stores of it
Where are they? • Very deep ocean • Arctic permafrost
Problems with Gas Hydrates - 1 Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas • Processing hydrates would release methane into the atmosphere • Impacts on the environment are very poorly understood
Furthermore… There's 400 gigatons of methane locked in the frozen arctic tundra A temperature increase of merely a few degrees would cause these gases to volatilize and "burp" into the atmosphere This would further raise temperatures. Yet more methane would be released. This would result in heating the Earth further, and so on, resulting in mass extinctions. When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time”, Michael J. Benton
Problems with Gas Hydrates - 2 Very difficult to reach Located in water 2 to 3 kilometres deep Beyond any known technology
Problems with Gas Hydrates - 3 • Controversy as to how much there is – • estimates vary vastly from one research group to another
DEFINITELY! Making electricity from nuclear frees up oil used in oil-fired generating plants for other uses.
Advantages of nuclear: • Nuclear fuel is cheap • Power plants can be placed close to consumers • Produce no smog
Problems with nuclear - 1 Nuclear plants very expensive to: build maintain and decommission
Problems with nuclear - 2 • Nuclear wastes last hundreds of thousands of years. • We still haven’t devised a safe way of disposing of them • For the past 50 years we’ve been stockpiling them in pools of water • We’re still conducting research in permanent safe disposal methods
Problems with nuclear - 3 • There is a serious negative perception on the part of the public
Problems with nuclear - 4 Nuclear fuels will also peak this century