Can Government Make a Disaster From Nothing at All?

IHS Global Insight of Massachusetts under a contract from the American Petroleum Institute has rolled out its report about the consequences of a Federal takeover of the regulations from states overseeing the oil and gas well finishing process called “hydraulic fracturing.”

Before we start, hydraulic fracturing is packing water, some solvents, and strong sand and special chemicals into the rocks thousands of feet down so that oil and gas can flow back out.  It’s a kind of miniature, slow motion cracking of the rocks much further out from the little well hole.  One could also call it an explosion, but it takes hours, running into days to build up the pressure, to get some cracking and pack the sand into the fissures.  It turns a little hole into solid rock into a hole in lots of little rocks.

It’s just critical to keep this technology in use and further development.

Hydraulic fracturing has a 50 year history beginning with quite simple pressure buildups to today’s highly sophisticated multi directional wells in rocks that only a half decade or so ago were considered hopeless repositories of petroleum.  Today, using hydraulic fracturing a well or even a set of wells can release huge quantities of natural gas.  This can easily be seen in the natural gas price at the home meter to fertilizer for food and investments in even more production.  In the coming months more technology is coming and is being blended with technology that looks into the earth to guide where more effort should be applied.

All that, the potential and the world’s lowest prices of natural gas for Americans are at risk from a disaster of rearranging (and adding) regulations.  The Federal proposal is so bad that the amazing situation of business preferring a single regulatory framework over 50 regulations from the states is not preferable.  Yup, government can make a disaster from nothing at all, which isn’t amazing at all.

The matter is a fully Democrat sponsored attempt to place regulations of the Safe Drinking Water Act thousands of feet down below any source of water for human use.  The bills, a House version and the Senate versions are very similar, which cautions one to realize this is a concerted attempt to subvert the existing framework of petroleum operations and regulations into a whole new field of bureaucratic interference.

Just to make things worse, the Feds propose not to unify regulations; they want to ADD a Federal layer.  IHS Global Insight’s study, “Measuring the Economics and Energy Impacts of Proposals to Regulate Hydraulic Fracturing,” predicts the number of new U.S. wells drilled would plummet 20.5 percent in the first five-year period.  That would potentially reduce natural gas production by about 10 percent from 2008 levels by 2014, a mere 5 years out.

Remember the last marginal buyer’s impact on prices?  Carving off 10% of supply isn’t going to be cheap for heating homes, running business and industry or generating electricity.  Someone is passing put stupidal capsules in D.C.

There are problems, to be sure. In the fight last month the Ground Water Protection Council released a study that finding regulation of oil and gas field activities, including hydraulic fracturing, is best accomplished at the state level where regional and local conditions are best understood and where state regulators are on hand to conduct inspections and oversee specific operations like well construction, testing and plugging.

The Ground Water study is an excellent piece to grasp what’s been going on and raises the issue about why the Feds are digging here for more power anyway.  The history and background discussed go far to understand the process and that a few states are behind.

Is it serious?  If you live over a leaking well it is, but those aren’t so common as many would have us believe.  What is an issue is the control and enforcement of the law on the books.  Some states do lack enough oversight.  Arguments over who is to pay for control and cleanup is usually in the domain of lawyers consuming time and often more money than the clean up.  Drives people nuts, understandably, but is more regulation and economic costs the answers to the problems?

Today in the U.S., where over 95 percent of wells are routinely treated using fracturing, the impact of eliminating hydraulic fracturing on production would be “permanent and severe,” the IHS report notes.  The production slippage would be significant.  Part of the new regulations is to restrict the types of materials used to fracture rock.  You and I both know better than to think any Congressperson(s) can better decide what’s appropriate to use.  But IHS has figured that the proposed regulations would impact gas production falling 4.4 trillion cubic feet or 22 percent, while oil production could slip 400,000 barrels per day or 8 percent.  These are major numbers, tearing out more than the marginal buyers, driving prices to unpredictable new highs.

API President Jack Gerard said, “More than one million wells have been completed using this technology. Unnecessary regulation of this practice would only hurt the nation’s energy security and threaten our economy.”  That’s public relations nicety comment.

In raw numbers the study found elimination of the use of hydraulic fracturing would be catastrophic to the development of American natural gas and oil, with a 79 percent drop in well completions, resulting in a 45 percent reduction in natural gas production and a 17 percent reduction in oil production by 2014.  Those are real American jobs.

Everyone world wide would be affected.  Today the U.S. is a very small importer of natural gas.  The proposed bill would certainly change that forcing the U.S. into the world natural gas market in a big way.  No one, other than some special interests, injured parties frustrated at state responsiveness and a raft of natural gas exporters stands to gain.  And the last ones to benefit would be the injured Americans, anyway.  Just imagine the resentment of the world at the U.S closing in even more production.  This is a way past being a stupid proposal.

But in the end the IHS report is a model, but it’s formed up from real numbers from a solid historical database asking trends from the elimination of components.  Not a particularly complex or difficult problem. “When 95% of current wells could not be drilled the impact would be” isn’t real hard to grasp.  Debating over even double digit errors still leaves the economy in a huge disaster.

The geothermal folks better wake up on this too.  Hydraulic fracturing is going to become important in the geothermal field soon.

So I have to ask myself, what are the side effects from stupidal capsules? Sleeping better, better vigor and health, ah, making more money?  There’s a motive in there begging for a journalist’s investigation.  It won’t happen, it’s too incredible to believe to start with, but it is a proposed bill.  Yup, government can make a disaster from nothing at all.  Just pass around some campaign money and stupidal capsules.

Here is the original: New Energy and Fuel

A New Way to Drill For Geothermal Energy

Potter Drilling has launched the next phase of research into their technique for drilling to hot rock for geothermal heat energy.  With financial backing from Google getting the science past early work using air, Potter has crossed the development threshold to draw more funding.

The new drilling technique that uses superheated steam instead of air is being tested this year.  The technique relies on superheated steam to drill through the hard crystalline rocks that contain geothermal heat. The method for generating the superheated steam was developed by Oxford Catalysts, based in the UK. Dave Wardle, business development director for Instant Steam technology at Oxford Catalysts, said current drilling techniques are laborious and use rotating drill bits to cut through the rock.  “With crystalline rock you wear out the drill bits very fast,’ he said. ‘This new technology provides a chemical way of cutting rock at reasonably fast speed. There are no moving parts.”

The system works with a catalyst developed by Oxford Catalysts and a special drilling tool designed by Potter Drilling. The “Instant Steam” catalyst is contained inside the drill head, which is attached to a flexible coiled pipe. Wardle explained that when peroxide and methanol are piped into the catalyst bed, the catalyst carries out a combustion reaction and produces 800º C steam.  That’s hot.

When the steam contacts the rock surfaces it causes the rock crystalline grains to expand. As the grains expand, micro-fractures occur in the rock and small particles, called spalls, are ejected.  According to Oxford Catalysts Potter Drilling is not the first company to use spallation drilling technology.  Using air, spallation drilling was used commercially between the 1940s and 1960s for ore mining and was adapted to geothermal drilling by the US Department of Energy in the 1970s.  Air spallation drilling demonstrated impressive drilling performance, producing 8 inch to 12 inch boreholes to depths of 1,100 feet at rates faster than 50 feet per hour in solid granite.

The Potter drilling process starts by applying a high-intensity fluid stream to a rock surface to expand the crystalline grains within the rock. When the grains expand, micro-fractures occur in the rock and small particles called spalls are ejected. The process is accelerated by several factors including inherent stress in the rock formation.

Potter Drilling Process Steps.  Click image for the largest view.Potter Drilling Process Steps. Click image for the largest view.

Using steam and fluids allows much deeper drilling, with Potter expecting to get to as much as 30,000 feet, a depth that would allow exploiting geothermal extraction across much of the U.S.

Using fluids and heat pose three other advantages.  The borehole is much more stable, the rock particles and chips can be carried out from extreme depths, and adding the heat greatly improves the early work using air in faster drilling speeds.

Potter and its financial backers believe this technology could be the key to furthering power generation from geothermal energy, which currently only generates 10,000MW around the world.  It’s sure to turn heads in the petroleum and deep rock mining world as well.

Going for geothermal heat in the absence of hot subsurface water as is most common now, is being called engineered geothermal systems or “EGS.”  Potter’s point is this is different to other forms of geothermal power because EGS power plants can be developed anywhere that hot impermeable rock exists below ground.  But you have to bring your own water.  I might suggest that water or gases could be used to move the heat from depth, especially if the water is lost downhole.

Stuart Haszeldine, an expert from Edinburgh University’s School of Geosciences offers that many consider geothermal energy a renewable source and electricity produced from it would have a relatively low carbon footprint, saying, “The carbon cost is the drilling of the hole, but these holes last for many decades.”

Haszeldine expects that electricity produced from geothermal energy plants have the potential to be on a similar cost level to coal-fired power plants.

The EGS concept, originally know as Hot Dry Rock, was pioneered and patented in the early 1970s at Los Alamos National Laboratory by Potter Drilling cofounder Bob Potter and his coworkers.  EGS is one of the few sources of renewable energy with the promise of solving the increasing global demand for energy while addressing climate-change issues—and doing so for a price that is competitive with coal. The graphic that follows is from the Potter page explaining EGS with a Flashplayer and a small video from Google explaining the potential of EGS.

Engineered Geothermal System Diagram From Potter Drilling.  CLick image for a larger view.Engineered Geothermal System Diagram From Potter Drilling. CLick image for a larger view.

The EGS being man-made may be developed anywhere that hot impermeable rock exists.  That opens up a great deal of territory to low cost heat energy extraction.  Worthy of note is that the drilling issue and the technologies downhole are the matters of interest.  Binary systems for withdrawing the heat are in operation now with development work under way for more and better types of systems.  The electrical generation would be standard, with models chosen by energy availability.

Geothermal remains a slowly developing field, but is getting pushed by smart private investors such as Google who is funding Potter.  The geothermal resource is huge, a relatively simple concept to explain and lacks the sexiness of much of the technology that is in development for alternative energy sources.  Its also energy extraction, not a fuel so can go straight to grid so allowing more electrification.  Its also should be quite low cost an important matter for getting and keeping the economy moving and growing.

This is a good field.  It lacks the sexiness, but when the full details are known, it should be the “cash cow” investors dream about.  Thanks, Google.  Go Potter go!

Original post: New Energy and Fuel

Heat Pump Refrigerant Leak Detection Devices


No doubt, my most frustrating service issue has been locating refrigerant leaks. And I’ll be the first to admit it was due to my own ignorance, from simply not doing a little research. I started out with a cold sensor technology electronic detector, bought a second cold sensor electronic detector and eventually concluded electronic detectors were pretty much worthless, at least for my desires and needs.

Next , I let someone talk me into the ultrasonic detector method. I never found the first leak using it. In fact, I couldn’t find a leak in my truck tire with the thing…so much for ultrasonics.

When I discovered the fluorescent dyes, I thought my leak search headaches were over. And to a certain extent, locating some leaks did prove to be much easier. So long as the black light would shine on the leak area, and it was reasonably dark around the suspect area, and the dye was actually coming out of the leak, I was in pretty good shape. But then there’s the waiting period between injecting the dye, and actually seeing it exit the puncture…and the mess…and all the paraphernalia required to actually locate a leak…

At some point I walked into my favorite wholesale house and told the manager, “Today is the day I buy my last leak detector…if it doesn’t do what I need it to do, I’m just gonna’ slit my wrists, and let my wife collect the insurance…” I bought another electronic detector with heated sensor technology…I had done a little research. That turned out to be one of the finer moments in my service career. It worked so well and was so reliable, I didn’t believe it for a while. But once I finally gained some confidence with the tool, my leak search issues were mostly a thing of the past. I can find most leaks now about as fast as I can access the equipment…especially those pesky indoor coils. Add to the detector’s capabilities my knowing where to look, and my batting average is close to 1000. The biggest problem I’ve had recently was a 410A leak that didn’t want to sniff out well.

Before I get too many people overly irritated with my conclusions, let’s back up a minute or two and pay some due respect to the aforementioned devices and methods. I’m sure there is some useful purpose for electronic detectors that use cold sensor technology. I just don’t believe it’s the residential sector. They will indeed detect refrigerant…but they also detect other stuff, so you never know for sure if the alarm is refrigerant or some other unknown something.

The ultrasonics are revered by some folks, who claim good success in finding leaks. I’m not gonna’ call those same folks liars.

The dyes are absolutely an option for some situations. If for whatever reasons you need to pinpoint the location of a leak, that’s the way to go, unless you want to try the bubble solutions.

But for me, most of the time, I just want to know if a coil is leaking, or an accumulator, or a service valve, or a liquid line filter or whatever. If the coil is leaking, I’ll replace the coil…if the accumulator is leaking, I’ll replace the accumulator.

Most of the repairable leak sources are visible via oil deposits. The electronic detector will usually get you in the general vicinity, and the oil, along with some bubble solution will show you the target.

Author: Wayne Shirley HVAC Tips

Cracking Vegetable Oil Into Gasoline

TU Delft in the Netherlands and Universidad Rey Juan Carlos of Spain researchers have a concept developed for the efficient catalytic cracking of unsaturated vegetable oil to greatly increase the production of gasoline and light olefins such as propane and butane. The scientists’ paper on their work was published in the journal ChemSusChem on Aug 4th 2008.

The team seems to have a novel take on the catalysts metallic structure.  By incorporating nickel onto a base commercial fluid catalytic cracking process (FCC) called equilibrium catalyst or ECat and co-feeding hydrogen into the reaction system under realistic FCC operations (525 °C, 1.1 atm), the team found that gasoline production increased 32% relative to the standard ECat. That is a massive improvement in gasoline molecule production worthy of some serious note.

Fluid Catalyst Cracking Vegetable Oil to Gasoline. Adding nickel and co-feeding H2 increased gasoline yield 32% relative to a conventional catalyst.

Contrasting to that the scientists learned that incorporating platinum with our without co-feeding hydrogen, was detrimental both to oil conversion and molecule selectivity.  This information closes a door to the very expensive platinum component often thought to be the highest form of metallic catalyst performance.  The scientists are quoted saying in a conclusion a “judicious choice of metal” is vital for performance during vegetable oil cracking.

The matter remains about coming up with hydrogen for the unit.  As adding hydrogen is a common process in most oil refineries using usually a steam process the technology is readily available.  The authors say in the study:

“This approach can be very promising and economical by utilizing recycle system for in-situ hydrogen produced to eliminate the hydrogen requirement from other sources. This concept can also lead to another potential application: co-processing of vegetable oils together with heavier petroleum feedstocks that contain metal, especially nickel, contaminants.”

“In that case, the great advantage is that metal incorporation onto the base FCC catalyst is not required while at the same time gasoline production from the vegetable oil fraction can be enhanced by exploiting the metal deposits present in the petroleum feedstock. These findings may certainly stimulate interest for directing future research in the rational design of new FCC catalysts for the production of biofuels.”

The paper has an interesting introduction that alternative fuel people might want to keep in mind.  There are several main ways to convert biomass to renewable fuels.  The list isn’t comprehensive but does get the main efforts into a short list.
·    Bioalcohols such as ethanol from the fermentation of sugars;
·    Transesterification of plant-based oils or animal fats to biodiesel;
·    Hydrotreatment of vegetable oils to renewable (“green”) diesel;
·    Pyrolysis of biomass to bio-oil, and its upgrading;
·    Gasification of biomass via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis via syngas; and
·    Catalytic cracking of vegetable oils to gasoline, diesel and light olefins similar to the standard FCC process in refineries.

The authors note that, “Depending on the feedstock type, some of the above-mentioned processes are already commercially available, but except for the FCC of vegetable oils, only the fermentation process is directly designed for gasoline (replacement) production. In addition, some of the processes above are still under development because they are very energy- and capital-intensive.”

The advantage for the new FCC process is pointed out by saying, “Thus, catalytic cracking of biomass (e.g., vegetable oils) is the only process that is able to directly produce gasoline, along with diesel and light olefins components. Furthermore, the compatibility of vegetable oil processing with the existing infrastructure of the standard FCC process makes this process much more economically feasible than other methods.”

The point being made hinges on the fact that FCC is a process with extensive support now for the oil refining business including materials and parts, experienced operators and a fully developed market.

The questions lie in the cost of operation – does feeding an FCC using vegetable oil run at higher or lower cost compared to crude and can vegetable oil source at or below the price of crude oil?  At about $2.00 per gallon for crude many vegetable oils could profitably get to an FCC for conversion and marketing.

Fluid Catalytic Cracking is a technology that many thought peaked in development several times over the past decades, but FCC just keeps on giving.  The Europeans have made a significant contribution expanding the use of FCC and there should be a high probability the new catalysts might see commercial use.

Go here to see the original: New Energy and Fuel