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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 5, 2008 3:43 PM. The previous post in this blog was A response from City Hall. The next post in this blog is New Seasons to take over Daily Grind space. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Slouching back toward nuclear

With energy prices suddenly dragging the country down in a major way, the proponents of "safe, clean, cheap" nuclear power are no doubt gearing up for a big campaign to get back into action. The timing seems right -- by January, we'll even have a President who can pronounce it.

On the plant construction side, it appears there are some serious federal subsidies in the works. On the waste dump side, the push is still on to get a "repository" open underground in Nevada, despite staunch opposition in that state and many questions that have been raised about the safety of such a facility.

Many of us who are old enough to remember this and this are not too keen on the prospect of a nuke comeback. But between the global warming crisis and the meteoric rise in the price of oil (with no end in sight), it has an aura of inevitability about it.

Comments (34)

A new nuclear plant has something like a levelized cost in the 20 to 30 cent per Kwh range according to figures reported in the Wall Street Journal a while back. The cost of a new natural gas plant has a cost in the 10 to 20 cent range based on today's historically high natural gas prices. I reviewed an Oregon Public Utilities Commission report regarding the public purpose tax which shows up on our PGE bills. The report indicated a levelized cost for small wind and solar in the range of 70 cents per Kwh or greater. The amount of solar added in a two year period was less than one-half an average Megawatt (aMw) in a state with demand over 8,000 aMw. The lead technician at the Northwest Power and Conservation Council was quoted in the Oregonian as saying solar is nothing more than "window dressing."

What is quite incredible is the going price of wholesale power this past week was a mere 7 tenths of one cent per Kwh because of the high water flows on the Columbia feeding those beautiful dams, downstream from all the region's melting snows.

Seems like building one more nuclear plant in the region, for a total of two with the existing Hanford project, could take care of electricity demand growth minus conservation for the next 5 to 10 years. Things may get a little off kilter if the trend towards electric plug-in vehicles does materialize. But there's a blessing in this trend in that plug-ins could soak up the cheap spring-time hydro power instead of sending it south to California at a gas war like price. Moreover, the big wind power farms become more practical if there is a way to store the power when the wind is blowing but electricity demand low. These plug-ins have the prospect of dropping our gasoline consumption in half and with it perceived carbon dioxide pollution.

Add a Nuc, keep building the big wind farms, replace windows and insulate, maybe build a couple of natural gas plants in case of drought and the Northwest should keep electricity prices in check, in the 10 to 20 cent per Kwh range on average, for the next decade or so without a whole lot of extra externalities.

Yeah - I certainly remember Chernobyl and Three-mile island, but there is better technology available than utilized in those plants. The U.S. Navy has been operating safe nuclear reactors for a long time now.

Chernobyl is irrelevant since we have NEVER built our plants the way they did. If Three-mile scares you so much, don't go to the dentist, it's more dangerous than that ever was.

So much about nuclear has changed that all you "old farts" need to do some new research. Hell, if France can get 70% of their energy from the stuff, why shouldn't we?

Ah yes, Obama is gifted with a silver tongue and with that perhaps able to convince the public as to why its better for us to buy our electrical power from Mexican Nukes powered with Iranian fuel.

http://men.style.com/gq/features/full?id=content_6424

Fairly long article on nuclear energy from GQ, March 2008

Hey, guys...

Don't trample strongly held misconceptions - they're strongly held - with an open mind, of course.

Like the furor over "exploding" LNG, there's more to it than facts (like the relative danger of LNG v. gasoline and its vapors.

We really DO all live in a yellow submarine.

May the glow be with you.

we have NEVER built our plants the way they did.

Guess you've never seen Hanford.

BTW, if you're going to be obnoxious, you won't be here long... son.

I thought sleepy ted's idea of ethanol was going to set us free from the arab oil addiction. With corn and wind power (no, hydro is NOT renewable) we should be fat and happy. Ted, you have some "splaining to do!"

Global warming in nothing a good nuclear winter can't cure.

we have NEVER built our plants the way they did.

Jack Bog:Guess you've never seen Hanford.

I believe he's referring to the fact that no power reactor in the US (even at Hanford) has been operated without a large concrete containment building surrounding the reactor. Chernobyl, on the other hand, was built with essentially a sheet metal roof.

Yeah, the idea of nuclear is an interesting one... Check out the current issue of Wired - in which they argue that if you believe global warming is a crisis of apolcalyptic proportions, then nuclear is the way to go.

Plug-in hybrids have the potential to drop our atmospheric carbon output in dramatic fashion -- but our current electrical network simply can't produce enough power. There's a lot of energy being produced in those inefficient gasoline-burning engines.

I'm as worried about nuclear as the next enviro, but given a choice between going nuclear and roasting the planet... well... that's an easy one, I think. Especially if a renewed commitment to nuclear means new research into safer ways to handle the waste (or reduce it in the first place.)

Nuclear material is used in many hospitals for disinfection of biohazards. Encase a similar cesium reactor in my house foundation. Train and license a whole new category of service technicians. Disconnect me from the grid. It can be done.

Pebble-bed reactors are the "new thing."

http://web.mit.edu/pebble-bed/papers1_files/PBReactors.pdf

Jack, if I remember the whole Chernobyl disaster coverage right there was only 1 other plant in the world with the same design as it though I don't remember where it is located.

If you've ever read the report on 3 mile island (not sure it is accesible to the public since the one I read was labeled confidential). It was almost a comedy of errors. The whole damn thing could of been stopped by one person but instead it was human error compounded on top of human error.

Plant designs have been vastly improved over the last 30 years and are much safer now. Then if we do like France and only license a couple of designs to be used across the country they'll be a lot cheaper to build. As far as waste goes, reprocessing helps lower the waste but yeah, we need to stick the other stuff in the ground somewhere. That's a sticky issue.

Anyway, according to this recent article http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080606/ap_on_bi_ge/japan_iea_climate_change. The world needs to be building 32 new nuclear plants a year, 17,000 wind units between 2010-2050 along with carbon capture for coal/gas plants to halve emissions.

Chernobyl was a graphite-moderated reactor modeled after a reactor at Hanford. The original Hanford reactors were every bit as dangerous as Chernobyl.

I am well aware that commercial plants are a lot safer than that now, at least on paper. The question is what absolute level of safety we require.

reprocessing helps lower the waste

No, it does not remove the dangerous radiation at all. It extracts plutonium, which can be used as fuel, and if done properly it turns the really dangerous stuff into a glass-like rod. But those rods are no safer than spent fuel rods when they come out of the reactor core, and so reprocessing does very little for safety.

One thing reprocessing does do is make it possible to get nuclear bomb-suitable materials out of the spent fuel. I'm not sure we want to advance that technology too far.

Nuclear waste is dangerous for tens of thousands of years. If you think we're capable of dealing with that in a responsible way, I suggest you take a look at the underside of the Sellwood Bridge sometime.

I'm on board with more nuclear, but before we spend too much time talking about France's high use of nuclear power, we need to keep one thing in mind. Nuclear plants must be run nearly wide open all the time. You can't throttle them back at night, when electrical demand is low. France handles that by selling power at night to the other European countries. Because it's low demand, they sell it for very low prices. Then during the day, they actually import electricity from some of those same countries, at a much higher rate.

We don't have the option here in the States of selling a massive amount of excess electricty at night - Canada and Mexico don't have the density of Europe. So that's an issue that's important and needs to be figured out before we bring a major number of new nuke plants online.

On another subject, I'm worried about our transmission infrastructure as well... I think we need some massive investments there.

Jack, as I said waste is a sticky issue but one I think we need to deal with instead of not building nuclear plants. We have an ever increasing electrical demand in this country that needs to be met. There are technologies in the works that might alleviate that coming down the pipes but are still years away from commercial use. What power generation method do you like?

Larry K, I'm not familiar with civilian nuclear plant designs but I am with military plants. You can modulate reactor power and don't need to run them wide open all the time.

Nuclear power is *not* what it was in 1985.

Also, Chernobyl was caused by no less than three brain-dead mistakes, all happening simultaneously. Chernobyl was caused by massive ineptitude and irresponsibility. Let me explain:

Chernobyl was a horrible design to start with. It required power to SCRAM the reactor - move the control rods back into the reactor vessel to bring the fissile mass back to sub-criticality. A power loss would prevent you from being able to shut the thing down. Guess what happens when you lose coolant? The turbine stops turning, and you lose power. Design Oops #1.

Also, when things go really bad in the nuclear systems of yore, you end up with over-pressurization, and usually a steam explosion. This is what the containment dome you see on EVERY powerhouse outside of the two RBMK reactors Russia built. These things are three feet of steel-reinforced concrete that you could smash a small jet into and they wouldn't be compromised. Guess what? Chernobyl had a steam explosion. Design Oops #2.

Then, we move to the circumstances of the problem: there was an experiment scheduled for the night of the disaster. They were powering down the reactor for the experiment when another power plant went offline, and the Kiev grid operator asked them to keep the power level where it was to deal with the evening peak time. This caused a buildup of Xenon-135 in the reactor, which "poisons" fission reactions with insufficient neutron flux. Therefore, to maintain power output, they had to pull out the control rods further.

Unaware of the poisoning, they continued on with what should have been a small reduction in power, but was a massive one. They incorrectly diagnosed the issue as a faulty regulator, and pulled the control rods out past what was allowable in their own safety standards. They then started their experiment, which involved shutting down the turbines (which also drive the water pumps).

Water is used as a "moderator" in a pressurized water reactor - it slows down neutrons and prevents a runaway reaction. When water stops flowing at the required rate, neutrons start bouncing. The reactor quickly ran away from them because the control rods were beyond safe position, they had no coolant, no moderator, and when the neutron flux rose, the Xe-135 was no longer mitigating the reaction. Oops #3 - they just caused an ecological nightmare.

And here's the worst part - the control rods have graphite tips. Graphite doesn't act as a moderator, but it displaces the coolant water (which does) as they are being inserted. So, even as they are frantically trying to shut the reactor down (20 seconds or so to fully insert the automatic control rods), they are actually speeding up the reaction. Also, graphite supports combustion at high temperatures, such as those experienced during a runaway uranium critical mass. Oops #4.

At this point, the reactor is putting out about 30 GW of thermal energy - about 10 times the designed thermal load. The fuel rods began to crack, and they blocked the control rods from being able to get fully inserted. Oops #5 - Game over. Now you have a runaway reaction, with the fuel elements melting and pooling at the bottom of the vessel, as well as every molecule of water being turned into steam, inside of a pressure vessel.

These conditions cannot happen in any NRC-licensed reactor design. All NRC-licensed designs require power to keep the control rods *out* of the reactor. A power loss causes them to slam down into the core, shutting it down. The NRC requires containment domes. US reactor operators don't conduct brain-dead experiments on production reactors - that's what the research reactors around the nation such as the ones at OSU and Linfield are for, or the DoE facilities. Also, the new breed of reactors being produced by GE and Westinghouse are "meltdown proof" in that physics just wouldn't allow for a catastrophe of this nature.

As far as waste goes, we could be reprocessing most of it and loading it right back into the reactors, if it weren't for an executive order from Jimmy Carter preventing it. Plutonium and Thorium burn just as nicely in a reactor as Uranium does. This would reduce the longevity of the waste from tens of thousands of years to a couple hundred; as well as reducing the volume of waste by about 90%.

I've gone long-winded enough as it is, but for topics of further reading, take a look at the following:

Pebble-bed reactors
CANDU reactors
Breeder reactors
Mixed-oxide fuel
liquid sodium reactors
nuclear waste reprocessing

A lot of the problems with nuclear power are already solved, except for one: the willingness of the public to get past the specters of the past.

Good point, Darrin, I never considered how Naval ship nuclear plants must need to be modulated. I'd be curious as to your thoughts (and MachineShedFred's) about this article:

http://www.urban-renaissance.org/urbanren/index.cfm?DSP=content&ContentID=18379

A big problem nuclear power has right now is public relations. Nuke proponents lied to the public about all sorts of issues for the better part of three decades. Until everyone who remembers the lies is dead, it's going to be a hard sell.

There was and still is plenty of mis-information being pumped out by the anti nuke groups. Even one of the founders of Greenpeace (no longer a member) has come out and said we had it wrong about nuclear power.

Public perception is the problem and as such the public needs to be educated on the issue instead propagandized like they are.

Just this week I watched the new 30 Days program in which Morgan Spurlock becomes a coal miner in West Virginia. He talks a lot about how we're going to run out of coal eventually, and repeatedly says we have no alternatives to supply half the country with electricity.

I kept thinking "what about nuclear power?" Coal is very dangerous; miners die, they get black lung, burning coal has its problems. Has anybody done a comparison between the two power sources?

The dangers are not limited to the reactors and disposal of radioactive wastes. There are also a lot of problems associated wtih uranium mines and mills, including environmental degradation.

See, eg, www.wise-uranium.org/umopusa.html or just start Googling.

That's a bad argument Grumpy, each and every energy source we have has drawbacks.
-Strip mines for coal devastate the land then burning the coal causes smog and puts mercury in the environment.
-Dams kill salmon and provide feeding grounds for seals.
-Some are claiming that the flickering from windmill blades cause problems from people.
-Arguments are already being built to try and stop tidal generators being put in place. I've heard it will impact whale migrations, fish breeding grounds, birds somehow, etc...

Each and every thing we do impacts the environment somehow. The trick is figuring out how to minimize that impact while still being able to use the resources.

Each and every thing we do impacts the environment somehow. The trick is figuring out how to minimize that impact while still being able to use the resources.
jk: Or, as some radical greens suggest, get rid of the industrial society. Or just get rid of man altogether.

Thanks
JK

The ONLY answer to nuclear power:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hr2TFLlA3jA

Chernobylite is cool. So are three eyed goats.

I'm not sure why the original post mentions the price of oil. Almost nobody uses fuel oil to generate electricity in the US. Duh!

The global-warming part is spot-on, though -- and I would bet a lot more people die every year mining coal than have died from any kind of nuclear accident.

Yeah, nuclear-powered electricity generation only has a 'P.R. problem' -- rightwing know-nothings is the only splinter faction doing all the P.R.!!

The public has long since recognized rightwinger words =equals= LIARS words.

Atomic Economics -- Fifty years ago the pushers of the "Peaceful Atom"---including Lewis Strauss, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission---promised electricity that would be "too cheap to meter." The pledge has turned into the biggest lie in U.S. financial history. Far from being cheap or reliable, nuclear power plants have drained the American economy of hundreds of billions of dollars. That money could have financed green power sources that would have avoided the global warming crisis and freed the US from dependence on foreign energy sources.

Tell us again the one about Iraq bristling with WMDs. No, on second thought, don't talk, just listen.

The reason you rightwing rubes are not going to get to see pukey nukey flukery, is because you can't do it. It turns out it IS 'rocket science' and you have so badly trashed the public education system, and bashed and gagged and tortured scientific facts and real scientists (9 out of 10 of whom know evolution is factual truth, don't 'believe in' 'God', and themselves practice living good-quality moral standards ... make that, 99 out of 100), until, nowadays, none of you neanderthals knows HOW to design and build a nuclear-powered electricity generating plant.

Y'all shoulda heard LIARS Larson one day (in 2008) explaining how a nuclear reactor makes electricity -- "it's like a spark plug works and zzzzap, there's the electricity." Oh, I thought I was gonna bust a gut before I could stop laughing.

And, the nuke advocacy comments (above) don't add much beyond what LIARS 'believes in'. For one thing, Chernobyl is not the signal failure. Add Three-Mile Island, which was not that much radiation release, per se, only it was upwind from New York City-ers and that's the wrong group -- and a big important group -- to disenchant, scaring the bejeebers out of. Add Indian Point reactor: Shut down, last I heard. Add Plymouth Pilgrim: Shut down? Add Vermont's one (I forget the name) that Vermont-ers are shutting down. Add that Californian one (Huntington Beach?) built on an earthquake fault: Shut down. Add the Bechtel(?) one in Ohio that inspection caught at the last minute before the containment lid corroded through: Shut down. Add Hanford: Shut down. Add Trojan: Shut down. Add the WPPSS -- whooops! that the Wall Street phony Bond 'backers' shot down with fraud and embezzlement before it ever got opened up to be shut down.

The public majority has got a lot of complaining to do. And all the complaints are about the rightwing Republican LIARS and miscreants, even thieves.

When you do not know the workings of some development of science, you cannot contribute any thoughty wisdom in the discussion of policy for its application and deployment. See Einstein, who understood nuclear physics: humanist, Democrat. See Oppenheimer, ubermanager of scientists, who could not do the science, himself: rightwing fop, Republican.

Consider, for instance, the smartest Republican I know of: my Dad. A man who witnessed in his lifetime the invention of the airplane, the refrigerator, radio broadcasting, rocketry, jet propulsion, radar, atomic energy, the laser, and landing on the moon, let's say for a quick sketch. In it all, the one he credited with having the most beneficial effect in his personal life, and of most improving his quality of life and most extending his longevity, was the invention of the refrigerator. (For example, refrigeration kept the plasma viable for his heart surgery.) So, once upon a time I was visiting home between semesters at college, sitting with Dad chatting away an afternoon in that awkward, mostly silent, social gap in our loving regard for each other. (Earlier, on seeing my 'long hair,' him: "Do you have to squat to piss, too?") And after one pause, he looked at me and started in slowly and said: "You're a college-educated know-it-all now, there's something I've always wanted to know, tell me this: As I understand it, a jet engine works by compressing the air on intake and then the exhaust 'pushing off' on the air behind it; so how does a rocket work out in space when there is no air to 'push off' of?" He said this to me. I stared at him, and tears ran down my cheeks, and I just wept. I couldn't believe he asked me anything. I hardly knew he cared what I thought. Mainly, I think, he didn't like paying taxes for something (NASA) he didn't understand the workings of, lest and for fear that "some politician was pulling a fast one" on him. And I tried, dear lordy I tried, to explain how rocket propulsion works -- 'it's like when you inflate a balloon and let it go, it moves in the direction of the unreciprocated pressure, which is the direction opposite the open nozzle where the pressure is escaping and is zero.' Lordy I tried; an hour, and more, and the warm sunlight lengthening across the living room, and I tried some more, drawing illustrations, waving my hands, talking combustion temperature and expansion pressure of gasses and equal-and-opposite-reaction and everything I could think of in the commonest familiar terms I could say it being faithful to the facts of the phenomenon ... and nothing, it never 'got through.' It never got through. And Dad was very smart.

People lost the sense of understanding what was going on in the world and how things worked, with the invention of radio broadcasting. It 'came through walls.' 'Wireless.' It was indistinguishable from magic. Then came atomic energy, the A-bomb, and 'splitting the atom'. Ri-i-i-ight. What's a 'atom'?

Big BOOM magic. Got a complaint in your life? a beef with the world? hey, just invoke the 'Big BOOM magic'. Problem solved.

And once people 'lost it' and there was no sensibility (of extant events) held in common among us, no shared 'common sense,' then all socio-political intercourse became bluff and pretense and posing and image -- 'sure, I understand what's going on: I understand that you (or 'they') don't understand what's going on' -- and then the straightest-faced LIARS became the most accomplished (being elected) politicians.

The only remedy for our EartHell today that I know of, is education.

Sh!t, you shoulda heard Rob 'LIARS clone' Kremer (today) saying there is "One-point-two TRIllion barrels of oil proven reserves in South Dakota," talking to an Energy Science consultant in Denmark, who said, "How much?" Kremer: "1.2 Trillion barrels." Dane, in disbelief: "If that number was a true fact, the whole world would know." Kremer: "Of course it's true, the Wall Street Journal printed it last month." The LIARS-type blindly does not see the obvious fool that he is. One trillion barrels is more than the total of ALL known oil reserves on the planet (~ 750 billion barrels) plus the consensus 'most-probable' forecast of ALL the undiscovered oil expected to become known (~ 250 billion barrels. 750 Giga-barrels and 250 Gbbl are optimistic 'estimates' likely overstated; and even the wildest of the wild -- the 'official' USGovt number-out-of-thin-air, with NO informed-expert 'opinion' concurring, is only about double, 2.5 trillion barrels, proven plus forecasted to become proven.) So here's Kremer with "1.2 trillion barrels in South Dakota, the WSJ said so!" and so plainly, simplemindedly, what's-a-trillion,-give-or-take, ignorant. The Dane's tone of voice dropped the dimwit rightwingy wacko into the goofball bin.

Think a second: With spy satellites scanning every square INCH of, and beneath, the surface of Earth, it ain't like there's someplace 'they' haven't looked, there is no 'big patch' of oil 'they' overlooked. And anywhere there's enough to make a buck going getting it, gawdamn you know the Congress doesn't exist which can't be bribed to look the other way, and no voting bloc of 'environmentalists' if it was all the people in the world is going to stop the Big Oilhog greed to go get it. If it exists, 'they' know it and are on it. That's how come there's even a number for it: 1 trillion barrels remaining. The reason 'they' aren't building more refineries is because there is no more to refine. If you in your living room listening to the LIARS on the radio, together know more than 'they' do, and all the 'oil experts' are stupider than you and the voice on the radio, then how come 'they' got all the big bucks and all you got is squat? (By the way, Big Oil 'they' pays LIARS on the radio to say what 'they' say to say, in case 'you' didn't know that already.)

As for nuclear powered electricity generation: ain't gonna happen. Mainly, nobody's gonna build it. Even if they could, the people who know how, (scientists) probably wouldn't, just out of spite against rightist totalitarian demands. But that's moot, since the fact is nuke electricity generation could not be built. Just another one of those impossibilities in the physical world which folks in fantasy bubbles don't realize exists.

Scientific 'breakthrough' is NOT coming to save us this time. Even if science could, (but it can't), anyone who knew enough to know how to, is not fool enough to go ahead and try it.

If you know how to build a nuke plant making electricity you can sell enough of to recoup your costs and make some Big Bucks of profit, why you just go right ahead. And if you don't know, then don't fault anyone else who don't know either. If Kremer knows where there's oil in South Dakota, he should go stick a pipe in it and get rich. Hate science, hate education, hate liberals, hate the public, whatever -- his hatetalk means squat if he can't walk the walk.

Tenskwatawa - we don't need to understand how it works. We will hire Pakistani and Iranian engineers to design and operate the plants.

Nuclear plants must be run nearly wide open all the time. You can't throttle them back at night, when electrical demand is low.

Which is actually why nuclear power makes reasonable sense as a replacement for the internal combustion engine (by charging plug-in hybrids over night.)

Santa-sleigh power also makes 'reasonable sense' as a replacement for the internal combustion engine -- and it is less fantastical since reindeer actually exist and gene-splicing might grow them wings.

---
Wow. Thanks Jon. A perfect riposte set-up for my purposes: to flatten a strawman. Link 1 goes to a Feb.13 article of hyperventilation saying that in March, USGS is reporting the Bakken oil deposits, that it is 200 Billion barrels, that present US reserves is 20 Billion barrels. And that maybe 500 Billion barrels is recoverable. That Marathon Oil is investing $1.5 billion. Link 2 goes to last week's South Dakota vote on a refinery in Union County, (that was approved), that Hyperion would invest $10 billion to be operational in 2012, that 400,000 barrels a day would be refined -- none of it from Bakken wells, all of it imported (pipeline) from Canada -- the hard-to-crack thick tar from oil shale and sands, and that South Dakota would provide 6 to 10 million gallons per day of pristine water which would be returned to the river with 'not very much' contamination in it yet not potable.

And, here is more information (summarized) about the oil in the Bakken bubble. The short summary of this summary is that, normally, about 2% of 'technically recoverable' oil is 'actually' or 'economically recovered' eventually -- so the purported 200 billion barrels might eventually produce 4 billion total barrels to be refined, across the next 20 or 30 years. US domestic consumption is 7.6 billion barrels per year, at today's current sucking rate. Putting a pencil to it, if there is a trillion barrels on Earth, and we do murder humankind's other 7 billion and have it all for the remaining quarter-billion MasterRacist Americans in the accustomed style, perhaps oil lasts for 140 more years in the future -- the length of time past since the Titusville, PA, production enriched the first oil baron, who bequeathed an endowment to his daughter, who married Mark Twain, who stood opposed to an American sociological complex in militaristic religiosity industry.

Nuclear powered electricity generation is much more complicated, difficult, murderous, and futile.

In the good areas of the Bakken, with higher porosity and lots of fracture permeability, the recovery might range as high as 5% to possibly 15%. Typically only a few areas, or "sweet spots," will have recovery this high. Outside the sweet spots, recoveries are likely to be much lower; ... probably be less than 5% of the oil in place, and in some areas less than 1%. Some of the recent articles have suggested a Bakken recovery as high as 50%, but that is highly doubtful in my view.

The discussion above now gives us a context with which to understand the recently released USGS estimate. So far, only a two-page summary of findings was released. We do not have access yet to the detailed report that backs up the summary, but we can make a number of inferences ....

The USGS summary indicates that their estimates are "undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources of the Bakken Formation in the United States." The term "undiscovered" suggests that the currently known reserves have been excluded from their totals. "Technically recoverable" has not been defined in the USGS summary; we will need to wait for the detailed report to find out their definition. ... The USGS estimated reserves probabilistically .... Using the mean value as a representative number for the distribution, the USGS estimate that there are 3,649 million barrels [3.6 billion] of technically recoverable oil in the entire US Bakken accumulation.

Ok, so now we have an estimate of undiscovered reserves. How does that compare to known or discovered reserves? Our estimate is that the Bakken has produced about 111 million barrels so far in North Dakota and Montana. Although it's a rough guesstimate, we could say that perhaps 3 times to 5 times the produced volume constitutes "discovered resources." ... Using the round numbers of 300 to 500 million barrels of oil discovered resources, we can then say that the mean USGS undiscovered resources are 7 to 12 times the size of the already discovered resources.

Will Bakken ever produce as much as 4.1 billion barrels (= 3,649+500 million barrels), the amount suggested by the USGS estimate? It seems very unlikely. Production so far has been 111 million barrels. ... Is total production of 500 million barrels likely? It's difficult to say. The USGS estimate is vastly higher than this, so much less likely.

If we could actually produce 3.6 billion barrels of undiscovered oil forecast at the P50 level by USGS, how much would this equate to? The US uses about 7.6 billion barrels of oil products a year, according to EIA data. This is equivalent to just under six month's US oil use, spread over a very long period, probably 20 years or more. If total production amounts to only 500 million barrels, as I have suggested, this would equate to about 23 days worth of United States oil usage, spread over many, many years.

Bakken production is trending upward and should continue for some time. The October 2007 production of 75,000 BOPD equates to 27 million barrels per year, a substantial amount by most measures for the US onshore sector. This only amounts to about 0.4% of US consumption .... Drilling activity in the Bakken continues at a frenetic pace. It's difficult to predict how long the upward trend in production will continue. Over the long term, economics will play a significant role in determining how much production will be expanded.

----------
Clean Break -- Bakken no energy panacea, Tyler Hamilton, Apr 14, 2008 -- © Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2008

Those who deny that peak oil is a near-term problem can be so predictable. Hours after the U.S. Geological Survey released its study Thursday showing that the Bakken oil formation has up to 4.3 billion barrels of "technically recoverable oil," the emails started trickling in.

There's plenty of oil out there.

We just have to keep looking.

Peak oil is a scam.

The U.S. government's press release did look impressive, mind you. The Bakken Formation, a 40,000 square kilometre territory reaching into Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Montana, and North Dakota, showed a "25-fold increase in the amount of oil that can be recovered," at least compared to 1995 estimates.

A 25-fold increase? That's huge – or so it sounds. But then you start comparing numbers. Assuming all 4.3 billion barrels could be retrieved, it would represent nine months of oil consumption in the United States.

Canada's oil sands hold about 177 billion barrels, and Saudi Arabia has an estimated 250 billion barrels, if you can believe the numbers.

Tenskwatawa The short summary of this summary is that, normally, about 2% of 'technically recoverable' oil is 'actually' or 'economically recovered' eventually
JK: Yeah, but the key is “'economically recovered” and today the economics favor recovery at much higher rates than in the past, at lower prices. And technology gets better year by year.

Of course this all ignores coal to oil conversion which is economical at a much lower levels than today’s prices.

Expect prices to drift to a cost ceiling established by:
1) coal to oil conversion
2) extraction of previous un-economic oil.

Remember, at some cost, we can make oil out of thin air by pulling C out of CO2 and H out of water vapor. Do a little chemical magic and we get hydrocarbons. (Liquids at about C5H10 and above.) Requires power, probably from nukes - but, as much as some extreme greens want us in poverty, we will eventually do what it takes to get cheap energy because affordable energy is the foundation of a high standard of living. It provides a comfortable temperatures, low cost goods, low cost freedom of movement. Note to the anti-mobility crowd: the ability to travel a long distances to a job is the ability to live where you want without having to take a lower paying job and the ability of an employer to get the best employee at a reasonable cost. (It is simply amazing how many planners and elected officials DON’T HAVE A CLUE ABOUT THIS)

It is not about peak oil, it is about supply vs. demand and the price where they match.

BTW, here is a nice article on the extremist greens among us: All responsible citizens are ‘environmentalists’, but that is no reason to yield to mass delusions. canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/1272

Thanks
JK


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