Saturday, November 19, 2016

President Trump and the Future of American Oil

Much to the delight of millions, and the utter dismay of millions more, Donald J. Trump is the President-elect of the United States.  The likely implications for many areas of the country's economy require much exploration. 

As my two regular readers have noted, Sowell's Law Blog has favorite themes, including Global Warming (it is a non-issue), Nuclear Power (they are all uneconomic and unsafe), Energy Supplies (renewables are growing fast), Fresh Water (too much in many places, not enough in others), Legal Issues (science, technology, First Amendment, engineering, energy, and many others).  There are others, of course.   President Trump already has announced policies that will impact many of these. 

This article discusses one of the important areas of a Trump presidency: the use of a huge oil discovery in West Texas, the Wolfcamp shale oil, and domestic and foreign policy.  

(A big note up front:  Wolfcamp oil was discovered decades ago.  The technology for economically extracting the oil is fairly recent, with precision directional drilling (PDD) and hydraulic fracturing.   In fact, in 2013 an excellent article appeared in Oil and Gas Journal.  This means that President Obama must have known of the huge oil reserves at Wolfcamp, and did nothing with that information.) see link to OGJ article "Wolfcamp shale graduates to 'world class' play"

The oil in Wolfcamp is estimated at 20 billion to 50 billion barrels.   USGS announced last week that 20 billion barrels of oil exist in the "new" Wolfcamp reservoir.  

President-elect Trump has stated that he will have more drilling and production of domestic oil, part of his plan to make the US energy-independent.   He also requires Mexico to stop illegal immigration and for Mexico to build a border wall on its northern border.   The Wolfcamp oil has a role in each of these.  

The US imports less oil now than in years past, with approximately 8 million BPD at present compared to 11 million BPD in 2005.  (US EIA weekly petroleum status report).   Total crude runs to refineries today is approximately double that, at 16.1 million BPD.   However, the recent imports from Middle Eastern countries were approximately 2 million BPD.   Mexico provides approximately 0.6 million BPD.  

It would not be difficult to stop imports from the Middle East, and produce that oil from Wolfcamp.  That would require 2 million BPD of Wolfcamp production above and beyond its present production.   The Wolfcamp oil would flow for more than 50 years at that rate.   However, stopping imports from Middle East region would have a significant impact on the world energy market.  The first result would be a large drop in crude oil price.   Oil producing nations would be most unhappy, if not furious.  Russia would be one of the furious ones.   However, oil importing nations would be very happy, if not ecstatic.  Those countries would include Japan, South Korea, China, India, Italy, France, and (soon) UK.  

As to Mexico, it would not be difficult to stop imports of Mexican oil (600,000 BPD as above) and use Wolfcamp oil instead.   The impact on Mexico's economy would be severe, potentially resulting in economic collapse and chaos.   President Trump could very easily require Mexico to build a wall in exchange for continued oil imports.  

The implications are numerous for having a huge oil reserve that the US could easily exploit.  Furthermore, the Wolfcamp oil is not the only such oil field in the US.  

These are very interesting times in which we live.   Very interesting. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sun's Impact on Clouds via Cosmic Rays

NASA has an interesting article on, see link, which is copied and shown below.   

Key statement:  "Our latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of more than 12% since 2015.  Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return."

"Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere

: Sept. 29 2016 // Next Flight: Oct. 1, 2016
Sept. 20, 2016: Readers, thank you for your patience while we continue to develop this new section of We've been working to streamline our data reduction, allowing us to post results from balloon flights much more rapidly, and we have developed a new data product, shown here:
This plot displays radiation measurements not only in the stratosphere, but also at aviation altitudes. Dose rates are expressed as multiples of sea level. For instance, we see that boarding a plane that flies at 25,000 feet exposes passengers to dose rates ~10x higher than sea level. At 40,000 feet, the multiplier is closer to 50x. These measurements are made by our usual cosmic ray payload as it passes through aviation altitudes en route to the stratosphere over California.

What is this all about? Approximately once a week, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly space weather balloons to the stratosphere over California. These balloons are equipped with radiation sensors that detect cosmic rays, a surprisingly "down to Earth" form of space weather. Cosmic rays can seed cloudstrigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Furthermore, there are studies ( #1#2#3#4) linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in the general population. Our latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of more than 12% since 2015:

Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return. (bold added) Another reason could be the weakening of Earth's magnetic field, which helps protect us from deep-space radiation.

The radiation sensors onboard our helium balloons detect X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.

The data points in the graph above correspond to the peak of the Reneger-Pfotzer maximum, which lies about 67,000 feet above central California. When cosmic rays crash into Earth's atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that is most intense at the entrance to the stratosphere. Physicists Eric Reneger and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today."

Sowell comments:

The mainstream climate community, especially the IPCC, claims that man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) is responsible for the average climate warming over the past 100 years.  Especially, they make that claim for the last 25 years of the 20th century, from 1975 to 2000.  Since 2000, however, the warming has stopped, a feature that is known as "The Pause."    What is known now, from experiments in the CERN cloud chamber, is that cosmic rays do in fact cause clouds to form, and the sun's magnetic field weakens as the sunspot numbers decrease.  

Given the much weaker sunspot cycle presently, cycle 24, it is no surprise then that the Earth is cooling as more cosmic rays strike the atmosphere and produce more clouds.   It does not take much more cloud cover to change the precarious balance between slight warming and cooling.  

The data from above shows a 12 percent radiation increase in only 18 months.  

This is one to watch. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Nuclear Plants Unreliable In A Hurricane - St. Lucie Shut Down

Subtitle:  St. Lucie Nuclear Plant Unreliable in a Hurricane

The recent flap in Australia that saw the state of South Australia suffer a grid blackout due to high winds prompted a storm of controversy over whether or not wind power, a renewable energy source, was to blame.   Of course, many of the anti-renewable crowd advocated for more nuclear power plants, saying they are reliable where wind power is not.    The irony is that here, half a world away in Florida, hurricane Matthew forced the St. Lucie nuclear power plant to shut down.   The story was given as: 

"St. Lucie Power Plant shut down because of Hurricane Matthew" --  see link to story 10/7/2016. 

From the article: "Federal rules require nuclear plants to be shut down at least one hour before hurricane winds hit the site, spokesman Peter Robbins said. FPL closed the Hutchinson Island plant at 11:15 a.m. and will reopen it after the category 4 storm is over. Its reopening might be delayed if access roads are blocked because rules require an evacuation route for a power plant to remain open, he said."   (note: FPL is Florida Power and Light; the St. Lucie nuclear plant is located on Hutchinson Island just south of Vero Beach, Florida)

For background, Hurricane Matthew was a category 4 that traveled northward as it remained offshore but brushed the entire eastern seaboard of Florida from October 5 through October 8, 2016.  Hurricane winds are sustained wind of 75 miles per hour or greater.   Wind speeds reported by the National Weather Service at Vero Beach, just 10 miles north of the St. Lucie nuclear plant, showed maximum sustained winds of 49 miles per hour at 3:53 a.m. on October 7, 2016.  Winds gradually increased to that point, then decreased steadily after.  Wind gusts were higher, as expected, with the highest at 74 miles per hour. 

It is also noteworthy that Florida reported more than 1 million customers lost power due to hurricane Matthew's winds.   Those were most likely the low-voltage lines, and not the high-voltage backbone of the grid.   This is crucial because an offline nuclear power plant consumes a great deal of electricity to run cooling systems and other critical systems to prevent a meltdown.   St. Lucie also has, by law, backup generation capability to supply power for a few hours when the grid cannot.  

The controversy over wind power continues.    It is clear, though, that nuclear power plants are not quite as reliable as the nuclear cheerleaders claim.    In this case, no one could know if Hurricane Matthew would veer westward and bring 74-mph and greater winds across St. Lucie nuclear plant.   As it turned out, no hurricane winds hit the nuclear plant.   Still, shutting it down as a precaution was the correct thing to do.   Nuclear plants pose a sufficient danger that it is much better to shut one down in a calm and orderly manner than to have a crash shutdown in the midst of a hurricane.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Renewable Energy Saves California from Grid Blackouts

Subtitle: Record-Setting Solar Power Reduces Natural Gas Demand

The peak summer heat is now ended in Southern California, indeed, a winter storm warning was issued for the central Sierra Nevada mountains.  One short and fairly mild heat wave occurred last weekend, with temperatures measured at Los Angeles (USC Campus)  reaching 104 degrees F for one day.  (see adjacent Figure 1).   The orange oval shows the period in which heat waves typically occur, this year only twice did temperatures break 100 degrees F.   The major conclusion is that zero blackouts occurred, because renewable power from solar PV, solar thermal, and wind turbines produced electricity at rates up to 10,000 MW throughout the summer. 

Figure 1  -  2016 year-to-date temperatures
at Los Angeles, California
As is well-known, officials have concern that grid instabilities or blackouts would occur this summer during heat waves, because the natural gas storage supply is much reduced due to the Aliso Canyon storage facility being out of operation.  

However, solar power and wind power need no natural gas, and provided power routinely through the summer.   Solar PV actually broke records for power production.    

The California grid has many efficient, combined-cycle gas turbine power plants with quick response capability to adjust their output when solar or wind output changes suddenly.    The state also imports some power from adjacent states, notably nuclear power from Arizona, hydroelectric from Nevada (Hoover Dam), and both wind and hydroelectric from Washington.    It is notable that long-distance transmission lines are required to ship the power into California.  It is also noteworthy that the adjacent states have surplus power to sell to California and do so profitably. 

Now that Fall and Winter are here or looming, the gas shortage continues due to Aliso Canyon's problems.   However, wind power increases in those seasons, which offsets the declining solar power production.    Next year will have even more solar power production as California installs even more PV power plants.   The state's renewable energy plan requires approximately 3,000 MW of renewables installed each year.  Almost all of that will be solar PV, since wind locations are essentially built out, and solar thermal has much worse economics. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Improved Solar Cell with Doubled Efficiency

It seems the breakthroughs just keep coming on the energy front, with this week's announcement "Columbia Chemists Find Key to Manufacturing More Efficient Solar Cells".  Columbia Professor of Chemistry Xiaoyang Zhu and his team developed a solar cell using Hybrid Organic Inorganic Perovskites (HOIPs). Their results were reported in the prestigious journal Science.  see link

The HOIP cell has 22 percent efficiency, but scientists see much higher possibilities with this material.  Efficiencies in the mid-40 percent range are expected. 

The material also has a lower cost of production compared to silicon wafers. 

This, too, is one to watch. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

CO2 Capture That Produces Electricity

Cornell Researchers Develop Process for CO2 Capture That Produces Electricity

Paper:  “The O2-assisted Al/CO2 electrochemical cell: A system for CO2 capture/conversion and electric power generation”, published in Science Advances.  Science Advances  20 Jul 2016: Vol. 2, no. 7, e1600968,  DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600968  
see link to the paper. 

Cornell University Prof. Lynden Archer, chemical and biomolecular engineering, the James A. Friend Family Distinguished Professor of Engineering, and Wajdi Al Sadat, graduate student, have created a cell which can use carbon dioxide and aluminum to produce electricity via electrochemical reactions.

The warmist-alarmists continue to claim that carbon dioxide capture and removal from the atmosphere is vital to preventing runaway global warming and a host of civilization-ending catastrophes.  They conveniently ignore the facts of zero warming occurring in the past 18 years, even with their manipulated temperature measurements.  

But, enterprising engineers work on processes to capture carbon dioxide, CO2.  Some processes require energy input to create the chemical reactants, such as sodium hydroxide that is used in the Skyonic company's patented SkyMine process.   This development by Archer and Al Sadat actually produces electricity while capturing CO2.  

The paper's abstract:


Economical and efficient carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration technologies are a requirement for successful implementation of global action plans to reduce carbon emissions and to mitigate climate change. These technologies are also essential for longer-term use of fossil fuels while reducing the associated carbon footprint. We demonstrate an O2-assisted Al/CO2 electrochemical cell as a new approach to sequester CO2 emissions and, at the same time, to generate substantial amounts of electrical energy. We report on the fundamental principles that guide operations of these cells using multiple intrusive electrochemical and physical analytical methods, including chronopotentiometry, cyclic voltammetry, direct analysis in real-time mass spectrometry, energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and coupled thermogravimetric analysis–Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. On this basis, we demonstrate that an electrochemical cell that uses metallic aluminum as anode and a carbon dioxide/oxygen gas mixture as the active material in the cathode provides a path toward electrochemical generation of a valuable (C2) species and electrical energy. Specifically, we show that the cell first reduces O2 at the cathode to form superoxide intermediates. Chemical reaction of the superoxide with CO2 sequesters the CO2 in the form of aluminum oxalate, Al2(C2O4)3, as the dominant product. On the basis of an analysis of the overall CO2 footprint, which considers emissions associated with the production of the aluminum anode and the CO2 captured/abated by the Al/CO2-O2 electrochemical cell, we conclude that the proposed process offers an important strategy for net reduction of CO2 emissions."

This is one to watch. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hinkley Point C Nuclear Plant Approved - For Now

UK has given approval to build the controversial, and very costly, twin-reactor nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C in the southwest of England. 

The plant is reported to cost $24 billion US, which will quickly escalate to more than $32 billion.  That brings the cost per kW to $10,000, and this in an era with very low interest rates for financing costs, and very low inflation for escalation. 

Proponents are claiming the plant will last for 60 years, but there is reason to doubt it will ever run at all.  The thick steel in the reactor heads has questionable toughness and may not be approved by regulators. 

 Stay tuned, sports fans.  The fiasco at Hinkley Point C is just beginning.   This blog will chronicle the sad, sorry saga.    Those will include, without doubt, cost over-runs, delays in construction, squabbling between designer, owner, builder, and regulators. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.