The fall of petroleum
civilization - natural gas
Natural gas has become the fastest growing of
all fossil fuels, representing an increasing share of global energy use-nearly
24 percent of the worlds energy consumption, according to the Worldwatch
With less than five percent of the worlds
population, the United States is responsible for a large share of the worlds
fossil fuel burden, accounting for 26 percent of global oil use, 25 percent of
coal consumption, and 27 percent of natural gas use. (Worldwatch
Rising amounts of pollutants in natural gas supplies is a recent
phenomenon. Find out why by reading Natural
gas quality raises concerns
Also, a new book: High
Noon for Natural Gas, by Julian Darley of the Post Carbon Institute.
Eating Fossil Fuels, by Dale Allen
Pfeiffer (From The Wilderness Publications) looks into fertilizers from natural
gas. The author points out that the U.S. food system uses 10 times as much
energy as it offers in terms of the food calories. He learned much from
The Fertilizer Institute, and passes his alarming findings at the bottom
of this page.
See what Alan Greenspan's Congressional
testimony on natural gas
liquids was about.
The North American natural gas "cliff"
More than 275 North American gas-fired
electrical generation plants are planned to begin operations through 2006, up
from 158 a year ago, which would increase gas consumption by more than 8.5 tcf!
Unlike oil, natural gas cannot easily be shipped
by sea. It must be liquefied prior to shipment, and then shipped in specially
designed refrigerated ships destined for specially equipped ports, and then
re-gasified for distribution -- at an estimated 15 to 30 percent energy loss.
Moreover, natural gas cannot be easily stored like oil or coal.
Campbell says that gas production is better
described as a "plateau" followed by a "cliff" due to the
high mobility and recovery of gas. Under declining pressure, oil declines slowly
as it moves through the porespace of the rocks, but the decline of gas is a
cliff -- not a slope. The gas market gives no warning of the cliff because it is
no more expensive to produce the last cubic foot than the first. North American
production is at or near (< 10 years) its "cliff" now:
"North American natural gas has no excess capacity. It
disappeared several years ago. What we do have is extremely aggressive decline
rates in almost every key production basin making it harder each season to keep
current production flat.
"The electricity business has also run out of almost all
existing generating capacity, whether this capacity is a coal-fired plant, a
nuclear plant or a dam. The electricity business has already responded to this
shortage. Orders for a massive number of natural gas-fired plants have already
been placed. But these new gas plants require an unbelievable amount of natural
gas. [The] supply is simply not there." [ ENERGY IN THE NEW ECONOMY: The
Limits to Growth, Matt Simmons; http://www.simmonsco-intl.com
When Canada signed NAFTA, it ceded
total control of its oil and gas reserves. Canada currently makes up about 13%
of the USA gas supply. Canada is running out of gas too:
"Outwardly the production projections of the NEB, EUB and GESI are
confusing and even contradictory. But they really carry the same message: the
limits of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) are being recognized. We
could gradually increase consumption of the basin's reserves over the next
decade and accept sharply falling supply thereafter (the NEB result). We can
rapidly increase consumption through drilling quick, short lived deliverability
wells and live with an early rapid supply decline (the EUB result). Or, we could
redirect more activity to larger reserve plays that require greater lead times
and thereby accept an earlier, but gradual supply decline (the GESI
Mexican gas production reached a
plateau in 1998 and has had a downward slope of around 2% ever since. http://dieoff.com/mexgas.gif.
Administration figures showed that volumes coming to the US from Mexico fell
from a total of more than 54 bcf in 1999 to just 4.71 bcf for the first 4 months
of 2000 and then to nothing. Mexican domestic demand for gas no longer allowed
for exports" http://cnniw.yellowbrix.com
Campbell says it is not practical
to make up the North American shortfall in gas by shipping it in from the Middle
East (shortage of LNG facilities, tankers, and energy loss). However, the
construction of a new gas line to Alaska and the Canadian arctic where there
probably are large untapped deposits could temporarily mitigate the North
American gas cliff.
Energy analyst Stephen B Andrews
"According to the Oil & Gas Journal (8/21/00), there were 114 existing
LNG tankers on January 2000. Only 8 vessels were available for spot-market
trade...that is, weren't locked in to long-term trading agreements.
"The 28 LNG tankers now on order and being built will increase the LNG
fleet's capacity by close to 1/3. An additional 52 vessels would be required
between 2005 and 2010. Combined, the total increase would be an 87% rise in LNG
shipping capacity. Most of those on order today are locked into long-term
"Today, the world trade in LNG is apparently about 125 billion cubic meters
-- which would make it around 5% of world natural gas consumption (using BP's
Statistical Review of World Energy for the total sum). LNG trade is forecast to
increase by 35% by 2005. If all of that increase were directed to North America,
it wouldn't come close to covering our projected increased consumption.
"As luck would have it, Asia has already spoken for that upcoming increase
in new LNG. 'The potential for LNG imports in India and China is enormous,'
"In the face of projected rapidly growing demand for natural gas in the
electricity generation sector, plus relatively flat production in recent times
and on the near-term horizon, I wouldn't count on LNG saving North America's
On October 17, 2000 (Reuters),
a top BP Amoco official admitted that there was a "dire need" for gas
from both Alaska and northern Canada. Forecasts show gas demand could outstrip
supplies from traditional sources by as much as 4 billion cubic feet a day
within a decade! -- http://dieoff.com/nagas.htm
NEW CANADIAN NAT GAS STUDY SHOWS
CANADA IS RUNNING ON EMPTY
Study says Canadian gas additions will come from
By the OGJ Online
HOUSTON, Sept. 12 -- Canada had 233 tcf of
nominally marketable conventional natural gas resources as of the end of 1998 --
a 40-year supply at that year's rate of production.
However, those resources will never be fully tapped, said the Canadian Gas
Potential Committee in a 4-year study...
While Canadians have long looked to the North and to Canada's offshore basins
for large new supplies, our study indicates that Canada's frontiers will simply
supplement the nation's core production from Western Canada...
by Dale Allen Pfeiffer
October 3 , 2003 -- Some months ago, concerned by a Paris statement made
by Professor Kenneth Deffeyes of Princeton regarding his concern about the
impact of Peak Oil and Gas on fertilizer production, I tasked For The Wilderness's
Contributing Editor for Energy, Dale Allen Pfeiffer to start looking into what
natural gas shortages would do to fertilizer production costs. His investigation
led him to look at the totality of food production in the US.
Because the US and Canada feed much of the world, the answers
have global implications. What follows is most certainly the single most
frightening article I have ever read and certainly the most alarming piece that
FTW has ever published. Even as we have seen CNN, Britain's Independent and
Jane's Defence Weekly acknowledge the reality of Peak Oil and Gas within the
last week, acknowledging that world oil and gas reserves are as much as 80% less
than predicted, we are also seeing how little real thinking has been devoted to
the host of crises certain to follow; at least in terms of publicly accessible
This article is so serious in its implications that I have
taken the unusual step of underlining 26 of its key findings. I did that with
the intent that the reader treat each underlined passage as a separate and
incredibly important fact. Each one of these facts should be read and digested
separately to assimilate its importance. I found myself reading one fact and
then getting up and walking away until I could come back and (un)comfortably
read to the next.
All told, Dale Allen Pfeiffer's research and reporting
confirms the worst of FTW's suspicions about the consequences of Peak Oil and it
poses serious questions about what to do next. Not the least of these is why, in
a presidential election year, none of the candidates has even acknowledged the
problem. Thus far, it is clear that solutions for these questions, perhaps the
most important ones facing mankind, will by necessity be found by private
individuals and communities, independently of outside or governmental help.
Whether the real search for answers comes now, or as the crisis becomes
unavoidable, depends solely on us.
It is also abundantly clear that fresh water, its acquisition
and delivery, is a crisis that is upon us now as certainly as is Peak Oil and
Gas. Here are just of few of the report's key findings:
1. In the United States, 400 gallons of oil equivalents are expended annually to
feed each American (as of data provided in 1994).7 Agricultural energy
consumption is broken down as follows: · 31% for the manufacture of inorganic
fertilizer (excluding feedstock) · 19% for the operation of field machinery ·
16% for transportation · 13% for irrigation · 08% for raising livestock (not
including livestock feed) · 05% for crop drying · 05% for pesticide production
· 08% miscellaneous.
2. To give the reader an idea of the energy intensiveness of modern agriculture,
production of one kilogram of nitrogen for fertilizer requires the energy
equivalent of from 1.4 to 1.8 liters of diesel fuel. This is not considering the
natural gas feedstock. According to The Fertilizer Institute (http://www.tfi.org),
in the year from June 30, 2001 until June 30, 2002 the United States used
12,009,300 short tons of nitrogen fertilizer. Using the low figure of 1.4 liters
diesel equivalent per kilogram of nitrogen, this equates to the energy content
of 15.3 billion liters of diesel fuel, or 96.2 million barrels.
3. Between 1945 and 1994, energy input to agriculture increased 4-fold while
crop yields only increased 3-fold. Since then, energy input has continued to
increase without a corresponding increase in crop yield. We have reached the
point of marginal returns. Yet, due to soil degradation, increased demands of
pest management and increasing energy costs for irrigation (all of which is
examined below), modern agriculture must continue increasing its energy
expenditures simply to maintain current crop yields.
4. The U.S. food system consumes ten times more energy than it produces in food
energy. This disparity is made possible by nonrenewable fossil fuel
5. Unfortunately, if you remove fossil fuels from the equation, the daily diet
will require 111 hours of endosomatic labor per capita; that is, the current
U.S. daily diet would require nearly three weeks of labor per capita to
Michael C. Ruppert
October 3, 2003
quality raises concerns
Levels of impurities leave federal regulators questioning safety
April 30, 2004
It used to be that natural gas producers would strip out traces of
propane and butane before piping the desired fuel primarily methane
to power plants and utilities. The impurities were actually worth
more than the natural gas itself, so collecting them gave producers a
nice side business.
But today, with gas supplies tight and valued at twice their historical
average, many producers want to pump as much as they can impurities
included. The result is a fuel cocktail that many power plants and home
appliances werent designed to handle, presenting a number of safety,
environmental and reliability concerns.
Industry officials frustrated by the increasingly inconsistent quality
of natural gas have warned federal regulators about potentially
dangerous levels of carbon monoxide emissions in homes, increased
pollution from power plants and needless wear and tear on gas turbines
and home appliances.
With as much as a third of the natural gas from the lower 48 states no
longer processed to remove propane, butane and other liquid
hydrocarbons, it can lead to a number of consequences all of
which are bad, according to Keith Barnett, vice president of
fundamental analysis at American Electric Power Inc., one of the largest
producers of electricity.
In New York, the utility KeySpan Energy was forced to shut down a plant
several times in 2003 after receiving unprocessed fuel that differed
significantly from what the plant was originally designed to
handle, according to a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory
Several industry officials said it is too soon to know just how
widespread and severe the problems may be. However, around the country
power producers and utilities are facing higher maintenance costs and
have, at times, been forced to cut off service to clean equipment.
Yet other industry officials were more cautious in their analysis,
stressing the need for more research into the potential safety and
While the problems associated with inconsistent fuel quality have been
known for decades, they are more relevant now as the industry tries to
keep up with rising natural gas demand.
In the past, suppliers had an economic incentive to strip out most
impurities from the methane, creating a relatively uniform product from
year to year. But in recent years, it has made more financial sense for
suppliers to leave them mixed in the gas stream, boosting overall volume
and revenue by about 5 percent, as well as eliminating the need for
expensive processing plants.
Trouble is, a natural gas stream with a heavier concentration of liquid
hydrocarbons can damage equipment that isnt properly calibrated ahead
Without these adjustments, the wet unprocessed gas, which burns
hotter, could also cause power plants to unintentionally spew more
pollutants than they are allowed to under laws set by the Environmental
Protection Agency, Barnett said.
Another trend drawing attention to the chemical characteristics of the
nations natural gas supply is the increase of liquid natural gas
being imported to make up for declining domestic production. Much of
that fuel, shipped to the United States in refrigerated tankers from as
far away as Qatar and Nigeria, burns hotter, just like the wet
gas, and thus has the potential to cause similar problems.
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