NewEnergyNews: TODAY’S STUDY: HOW TO DO NAT GAS RIGHT

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The new challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

THANKSGIVING THURSDAY, November 27:

  • Thanksgiving Thursday-Fast Fun Facts About Thanksgiving
  • Thanksgiving Thursday-A Lesser Known Bit Of Thanksgiving History
  • Thanksgiving Thursday-A Funky History Of Thanksgiving
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: A SUPPRESSED STUDY OF OHIO NEW ENERGY JOBS
  • QUICK NEWS, November 26: WHY PEOPLE DENY CLIMATE CHANGE; THE FORCE OF SOLAR; POWER ELECTRONICS MARKETS TO BOOM
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE DOE LOAN PROGRAM PAYS OFF
  • QUICK NEWS, November 25: THE PRESIDENT’S CLIMATE CHANGER; SOLAR AND WIND BEAT COAL, GAS ON PRICE; LED LIGHTING TO DISRUPT, TRANSFORM THE INDUSTRY
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: RUNNING OUT OF GAS
  • QUICK NEWS, November 24: NEW ENERGY DOMINATES THE U.S. NEW BUILDS AGAIN; SIERRA CLUB, UNITED STEELWORKERS WANT WIND JOBS; THE ABUNDANCE OF SOLAR
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Much More Inhofe Now
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart Talks Keystone, Politics, And Jobs
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart On How Keystone Opponents May Be Caught In Their Own Trap
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-A NEW WAY TO SEE CLIMATE CHANGE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU OCEAN WIND TO CUT COSTS, KEEP GROWING
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-COST-COMPETIVE NEW ENERGY, GERMANY’S ‘GIFT TO THE WORLD’
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NEW ENERGY MATCHES COAL ON COST, CAPACITY IN TURKEY
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Monday, September 17, 2012

    TODAY’S STUDY: HOW TO DO NAT GAS RIGHT

    Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas; World Energy Outlook Special Report on Unconventional Gas

    29 May 2012 (International Energy Agency)

    Executive Summary

    Natural gas is poised to enter a golden age, but will do so only if a significant proportion of the world’s vast resources of unconventional gas – shale gas, tight gas and coal bed methane – can be developed profitably and in an environmentally acceptable manner. Advances in upstream technology have led to a surge in the production of unconventional gas in North America in recent years, holding out the prospect of further increases in production there and the emergence of a large-scale unconventional gas industry in other parts of the world, where sizeable resources are known to exist. The boost that this would give to gas supply would bring a number of benefits in the form of greater energy diversity and more secure supply in those countries that rely on imports to meet their gas needs, as well as global benefits in the form of reduced energy costs.

    Yet a bright future for unconventional gas is far from assured: numerous hurdles need to be overcome, not least the social and environmental concerns associated with its extraction. Producing unconventional gas is an intensive industrial process, generally imposing a larger environmental footprint than conventional gas development. More wells are often needed and techniques such as hydraulic fracturing are usually required to boost the flow of gas from the well. The scale of development can have major implications for local communities, land use and water resources. Serious hazards, including the potential for air pollution and for contamination of surface and groundwater, must be successfully addressed. Greenhouse-gas emissions must be minimised both at the point of production and throughout the entire natural gas supply chain. Improperly addressed, these concerns threaten to curb, if not halt, the development of unconventional resources.

    The technologies and know-how exist for unconventional gas to be produced in a way that satisfactorily meets these challenges, but a continuous drive from governments and industry to improve performance is required if public confidence is to be maintained or earned. The industry needs to commit to apply the highest practicable environmental and social standards at all stages of the development process. Governments need to devise appropriate regulatory regimes, based on sound science and high-quality data, with sufficient compliance staff and guaranteed public access to information. Although there is a range of other factors that will affect the development of unconventional gas resources, varying between different countries, our judgement is that there is a critical link between the way that governments and industry respond to these social and environmental challenges and the prospects for unconventional gas production.

    We have developed a set of “Golden Rules”, suggesting principles that can allow policymakers, regulators, operators and others to address these environmental and social impacts. We have called them Golden Rules because their application can bring a level of environmental performance and public acceptance that can maintain or earn the industry a “social licence to operate” within a given jurisdiction, paving the way for the widespread development of unconventional gas resources on a large scale, boosting overall gas supply and making the golden age of gas a reality.

    The Golden Rules underline that full transparency, measuring and monitoring of environmental impacts and engagement with local communities are critical to addressing public concerns. Careful choice of drilling sites can reduce the above-ground impacts and most effectively target the productive areas, while minimising any risk of earthquakes or of fluids passing between geological strata. Leaks from wells into aquifers can be prevented by high standards of well design, construction and integrity testing. Rigorous assessment and monitoring of water requirements (for shale and tight gas), of the quality of produced water (for coalbed methane) and of waste water for all types of unconventional gas can ensure informed and stringent decisions about water handling and disposal. Production related emissions of local pollutants and greenhouse-gas emissions can be reduced by investments to eliminate venting and flaring during the well-completion phase.

    We estimate that applying the Golden Rules could increase the overall financial cost of development a typical shale-gas well by an estimated 7%. However, for a larger development project with multiple wells, additional investment in measures to mitigate environmental impacts may be offset by lower operating costs.

    In our Golden Rules Case, we assume that the conditions are in place, including approaches to unconventional gas development consistent with the Golden Rules, to allow for a continued global expansion of gas supply from unconventional resources, with far-reaching consequences for global energy markets. Greater availability of gas has a strong moderating impact on gas prices and, as a result, global gas demand rises by more than 50% between 2010 and 2035. The increase in demand for gas is equal to the growth coming from coal, oil and nuclear combined, and ahead of the growth in renewables. The share of gas in the global energy mix reaches 25% in 2035, overtaking coal to become the second-largest primary energy source after oil.

    Production of unconventional gas, primarily shale gas, more than triples in the Golden Rules Case to 1.6 trillion cubic metres in 2035. This accounts for nearly two-thirds of incremental gas supply over the period to 2035, and the share of unconventional gas in total gas output rises from 14% today to 32% in 2035. Most of the increase comes after 2020, reflecting the time needed for new producing countries to establish a commercial industry. The largest producers of unconventional gas over the projection period are the United States, which moves ahead of Russia as the largest global natural gas producer, and China, whose large unconventional resource base allows for very rapid growth in unconventional production starting towards 2020. There are also large increases in Australia, India, Canada and Indonesia. Unconventional gas production in the European Union, led by Poland, is sufficient after 2020 to offset continued decline in conventional output.

    Global investment in unconventional production constitutes 40% of the $6.9 trillion (in year-2010 dollars) required for cumulative upstream gas investment in the Golden Rules Case. Countries that were net importers of gas in 2010 (including the United States) account for more than three-quarters of total unconventional upstream investment, gaining the wider economic benefits associated with improved energy trade balances and lower energy prices. The investment reflects the high number of wells required: output at the levels anticipated in the Golden Rules Case would require more than one million new unconventional gas wells worldwide between now and 2035, twice the total number of gas wells currently producing in the United States.

    The Golden Rules Case sees gas supply from a more diverse mix of sources of gas in most markets, suggesting growing confidence in the adequacy, reliability and affordability of natural gas. The developments having most impact on global gas markets and security are the increasing levels of unconventional gas production in China and the United States, the former because of the way that it slows the growth in Chinese import needs and the latter because it allows for gas exports from North America. These developments in tandem increase the volume of gas, particularly liquefied natural gas (LNG), looking for markets in the period after 2020, which stimulates the development of more liquid and competitive international markets. The share of Russia and countries in the Middle East in international gas trade declines in the Golden Rules Case from around 45% in 2010 to 35% in 2035, although their gas exports increase by 20% over the same period.

    In a Low Unconventional Case, we assume that – primarily because of a lack of public acceptance – only a small share of the unconventional gas resource base is accessible for development. As a result, unconventional gas production in aggregate rises only slightly above current levels by 2035. The competitive position of gas in the global fuel mix deteriorates as a result of lower availability and higher prices, and the share of gas in global energy use increases only slightly, from 21% in 2010 to 22% in 2035, remaining well behind that of coal. The volume of inter-regional trade is higher than in the Golden Rules Case and some patterns of trade are reversed, with North America requiring significant quantities of imported LNG. The Low Unconventional Case reinforces the preeminent position in global supply of the main conventional gas resource-holders.

    Energy-related CO2 emissions are 1.3% higher in the Low Unconventional Case than in the Golden Rules Case. Although the forces driving the Low Unconventional Case are led by environmental concerns, this offsets any claim that a reduction in unconventional gas output brings net environmental gains. Nonetheless, greater reliance on natural gas alone cannot realise the international goal of limiting the long-term increase in the global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Achieving this climate target will require a much more substantial shift in global energy use. Anchoring unconventional gas development in a broader energy policy framework that embraces greater improvements in energy efficiency, more concerted efforts to deploy low-carbon energy sources and broad application of new low-carbon technologies, including carbon capture and storage, would help to allay the fear that investment in unconventional gas comes at their expense.

    The Golden Rules

    Measure, disclose and engage

    Integrate engagement with local communities, residents and other stakeholders into each phase of a development starting prior to exploration; provide sufficient opportunity for comment on plans, operations and performance; listen to concerns and respond appropriately and promptly.

    Establish baselines for key environmental indicators, such as groundwater quality, prior to commencing activity, with continued monitoring during operations.

    Measure and disclose operational data on water use, on the volumes and characteristics of waste water and on methane and other air emissions, alongside full, mandatory disclosure of fracturing fluid additives and volumes.

    Minimise disruption during operations, taking a broad view of social and environmental responsibilities, and ensure that economic benefits are also felt by local communities.

    Watch where you drill

    Choose well sites so as to minimise impacts on the local community, heritage, existing land use, individual livelihoods and ecology.

    Properly survey the geology of the area to make smart decisions about where to drill and where to hydraulically fracture: assess the risk that deep faults or other geological features could generate earthquakes or permit fluids to pass between geological strata.

    Monitor to ensure that hydraulic fractures do not extend beyond the gas producing formations.

    Isolate wells and prevent leaks

    Put in place robust rules on well design, construction, cementing and integrity testing as part of a general performance standard that gas bearing formations must be completely isolated from other strata penetrated by the well, in particular freshwater aquifers.

    Consider appropriate minimum-depth limitations on hydraulic fracturing to underpin public confidence that this operation takes place only well away from the water table.

    Take action to prevent and contain surface spills and leaks from wells, and to ensure that any waste fluids and solids are disposed of properly.

    Treat water responsibly

    Reduce freshwater use by improving operational efficiency; reuse or recycle, wherever practicable, to reduce the burden on local water resources.

    Store and dispose of produced and waste water safely.

    Minimise use of chemical additives and promote the development and use of more environmentally benign alternatives.

    Eliminate venting, minimise flaring and other emissions

    Target zero venting and minimal flaring of natural gas during well completion and seek to reduce fugitive and vented greenhouse-gas emissions during the entire productive life of a well.

    Minimise air pollution from vehicles, drilling rig engines, pump engines and compressors.

    Be ready to think big

    Seek opportunities for realising the economies of scale and co-ordinated development of local infrastructure that can reduce environmental impacts.

    Take into account the cumulative and regional effects of multiple drilling, production and delivery activities on the environment, notably on water use and disposal, land use, air quality, traffic and noise.

    Ensure a consistently high level of environmental performance

    Ensure that anticipated levels of unconventional gas output are matched by commensurate resources and political backing for robust regulatory regimes at the appropriate levels, sufficient permitting and compliance staff, and reliable public information.

    Find an appropriate balance in policy-making between prescriptive regulation and performance-based regulation in order to guarantee high operational standards while also promoting innovation and technological improvement.

    Ensure that emergency response plans are robust and match the scale of risk.

    Pursue continuous improvement of regulations and operating practices.

    Recognise the case for independent evaluation and verification of environmental

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