Friday, January 22, 2010

Superabundance of Natural Gas Provides Promise

"Every few weeks, it seems, fresh news arrives telling of impressive discoveries of oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico, an area that, until recently, was viewed as well worked over and unlikely to yield any new bonanzas. Last September brought word of a giant Gulf oil field reeled in by British Petroleum. And the latest Gulf headline-maker is a potentially major gas play offshore Louisiana that appears likely to add new trillions of cubic feet of gas to growing domestic reserves of the cleanest-burning carbon fuel. So much for worked over. The new take on the Gulf is decidedly more optimistic.

When coupled with discoveries of huge new reserves of natural gas across Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, and in Colorado and Pennsylvania and West Virginia, this latest projected Gulf find makes natural gas a truly abundant fuel for this country.

In part, gas still suffers from an old misconception, left over from the first energy crisis in the 1970s, that it is scarce and that supplies are expensive and unreliable. This notion is the result of a well-remembered battle to deregulate interstate prices for natural gas. Deregulation came, of course, and the result is the superabundance of gas the nation enjoys today.

The other trouble gas has is political — it must contend with the compelling electoral arithmetic that is coal's undisputed advantage. As we saw in the 2008 presidential campaign, the electoral votes in coal-producing states make the environmentally problematic fuel irresistible to national political candidates."

Houston Chronicle editorial


At 1/22/2010 10:05 AM, Blogger Cabodog said...

Clean burning. Abundant. Inexpensive. Domestic.

Scratching my head and wondering why I'm still burning gasoline in my vehicle.

When something doesn't make sense, there's usually manipulation (ie, politics) involved.

At 1/22/2010 10:16 AM, Anonymous Lyle said...

And to boot using gas to make electricty in a combined cycle plant is 60% efficient rather than the 35 to 40% in a coal plant. However gas does not employ the number of folks that coal does. In addition the turbine plants are fast start so since people make money today on them with small run times, they make ideal backup for wind and solar power.

At 1/22/2010 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, but this gas is considerably harder to get, meaning that $out/$ in or EROEI is declining. Gas wells that cost $50K in the 60's ($340K in current dollars) now cost at least 10x more because of the difficulty drilling the geological formations being developed.

Drilling Sideways -- A Review of Horizontal Well Technology and Its Domestic Application

From The Oil Drum

Bottom-hole pressures may be as high as 25,000 pounds per square inch, by far the highest pressures known in Gulf of Mexico wells. . . reservoir temperature is probably considerably more than 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Gas has never been produced at these temperatures and pressures, and may present engineering obstacles. . .

The Davy Jones well has cost almost $200 million so far, and development drilling is expected to cost $1.5-2.0 billion. . . The earliest estimates for first production are in 2013.

At 1/22/2010 12:17 PM, Anonymous Rand said...

Honda already sells a version of the Civic - Honda Civic GX NGV - that runs on compressed natural gas. They also have a device that compresses natural gas (from the normal distribution network) at home. The only problem is that CNG is not yet readily available like gasoline.

At 1/22/2010 12:42 PM, Anonymous Benny "Tell It LIke It Is Man" Cole said...

Cars can run on compressed gas, called CNG. There are 15 million CNG cars globally already, a proven technology.
BTW, for Dr, Perry's "markets in everything,' he should really look at
Here is a used-car dealer selling CNG cars/trucks off the lot now, for under $15k and even $10k.
We have natural gas for generations, and we are getting better and better at extracting it. Shale gas costs very likely will continue to go down.
The Oil Drum is some sort of speculator-manipulator mouthpiece, very dubious agenda.

At 1/22/2010 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What if coal can be cleaned up? Do we ignore it? Natural gas keeps going up in price despite increasing supplies. Apparently we are speculating on future demand. The situation is fluid. Maybe more coal, maybe more natural gas. Burned coal can be recyled into other products like cement, bricks, gravel. The price will ultimately decide. Let the market work. Get government out of the picture. Drill. Drill. Drill.

At 1/22/2010 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait till you see the first car fire in an NG vehicle.

Then there is this little problem of energy density.

At 1/22/2010 2:36 PM, Anonymous EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy said...

"Clean burning. Abundant. Inexpensive. Domestic.

Scratching my head and wondering why I'm still burning gasoline in my vehicle."

Roughly in order: inertia, distribution infrastructure, and energy density.

The first two can be overcome with persistence and tricks like introducing CNG in fleet vehicles first. The last one won't go away, but it is a relatively minor inconvenience that people will ignore if it saves them money.

At 1/22/2010 2:50 PM, Anonymous Benny "Tell It LIke It Is Man" Cole said...

Still waiting for that first car fire with CNG. Why?
You see, when natural gas leaks, it rises. Dissipates.
When gasoline leaks, it forms pools. Flammable pools.
About 1,500 people every year die in car fires.

Like I said, CNG is used globally.

There are two shortcomings: It takes a larger tank. Two, Reduced range.

Nothing is perfect. But CNG is clearly a good option, should we decide to reduce oil consumption. It is produced in the USA, keeping dollars home.

Unlike Dr. Perry, I would rather send my money to a LA gas man than an oil thug-state that finances terrorism.

At 1/22/2010 4:10 PM, Anonymous Rand said...

Actually, I prefer hydrogen to CNG. However, CNG would be a good interim solution. We already have a natural gas infrastructure in place. Creating an infrastructure for hydrogen will take decades, but will be beneficial for the long term.

At 1/22/2010 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, here's a neat little machine that can clean up the waste water from hydraulic fracturing (

At 1/22/2010 9:26 PM, Blogger OA said...

That website lists locations where CNG can be purchased, along with prices in GGE (gallons of gas equivalent). Looks about 50 cents to $1 less than regular unleaded.

Unless one is near home or work, the logistics is a problem. Even in Los Angeles with about 40 to 50 locations, it's a lot of planning to know where to go. I also think many of those locations only operate during regular business hours, and some don't take regular payment, they require an account with the provider.

At 1/22/2010 10:11 PM, Blogger David said...

Unless Congress passes explicit legislation targeted *against* natural gas, it's hard to see how this fuel can avoid being a winner in terms of market share for electrical generation...

1)Although cost/BTU is higher than for coal, conversion efficiency is much higher because nat gas is useable in combined-cycle turbines.

2)Nat gas plants surely have to involve less capital cost than equivalent coal-fired need for rail sidings, coal handling facilities, etc.)

3)Probably less NIMBYism to face when building a nat gas plant versus a coal plant.

4)ven if there is no cap-and-tax, utility executives will worry about it being imposed at some future date...nat gas is significantly less CO2-intensive than coal.

At 1/23/2010 12:18 AM, Anonymous Lyle said...

Actually the place for natural gas is not in the private auto fleet but in the heavy truck and delivery fleet. Most of these tend to come from depots where you can install the machinery, and/or install in some truck stops (there are a lot fewer of these than auto gas stations) and they tend to be larger operations (see at major exits off the interstate). This reduces oil demand as much as pushing autos onto gas with much less investment. Take your favorite delivery service, they could clearly run nat gas in their vehicles, since they have depots and could install the nat gas equipment there. (Likely to start in big cities with clean air problems).

At 1/23/2010 2:14 AM, Blogger Melonie said...

Really doesn't make sense to me to keep dreaming up new automobile fuel alternatives unless the fuel choices are going to be readily available at every corner station. Seems to make better sense to use the natural gas to fuel power plants which in turn charge electric cars (with improved batteries hopefully).

At 1/23/2010 5:54 PM, Anonymous EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy said...

"Seems to make better sense to use the natural gas to fuel power plants which in turn charge electric cars (with improved batteries hopefully)."

The sticking point for electric cars is (and will be for a while, at least) the combination of range and recharge time.

Even if you mostly commute well within the allowed range, you still want to drive two counties over to visit [grandma|aunt|college buddy|...] or pickup [that cool craigslist find|child from ex-spouse|...] a few times a year.

The isn't a deal breaker: if you have multiple vehicles you keep one conventional, or you can rent a conventional vehicle for those occasions. But it does form a barrier that will slow adoption.


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