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« Poisoning the well | Main | Green costs you more »
Friday
Dec302011

Helm and shale

Dieter Helm has spoken out on the effects of shale gas and that "possible positive future" that David Mackay mentioned.

 

“Unfortuntely peak oil theory is a nonsense” – said Dieter Helm – “The problem is not too little oil, gas and coal but too much of them. Prices are going up - this is totally wrong.”

Chairman of Roadmap 2050 ad hoc Advisory Group supports the idea of using gas as the fastest and most solid bridge to the decarbonized future.

“You have to ask: is there a better way of attacking the issue? Is there a way of cutting increasing coal burn quickly? Yes, there is– it`s called gas.” he said.

It`s still carbon, but of less magnitude.”

 

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Reader Comments (38)

It is good to see Dieter Helm coming out with these sensible views - perhaps our politicians who have listened to him in the past will listen again now. I remember him being one of the first to talk of crbon taxes around 20 years ago. Arguably shale gas is not just a bridge to a lower carbon future, but also a contingency as well in case the need for a decarbonised future disappears if the correlation between global temperatures and CO2 levels does not re-appear. In that case coal need no longer be demonised - and of course it is not demonised in much of the world anyway, something the UK always forgets.

Dec 30, 2011 at 9:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterjheath

Unfortuately Huhne sees shale gas purely as back-up for expensive renewables. He dosen't care about the cost to society of renewables. He has to go:

As old coal and nuclear power stations shut down, gas can provide flexible and reliable backup electricity to complement the next generation of renewable energy.

Dec 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

It's amazing how many people have bought in to the idea of a 'de-carbonised' future as being a good idea.

Many, who should know better, still keep referring to CO2 as a pollutant - it's airborne plant food.

And even some sceptics have been 'conditioned' to see 'emitters' as 'polluters'.

Dec 30, 2011 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterDougS

In May Dieter Helm saw shale supplies as a game changer.

If so it will be interesting to see how if/how it is reflected in the EU view of the Climate Conundrum - IMO a big part of the motivation for renewables was to work towards EU energy independence.

This presentation is well worth a quick scan:

http://www.dieterhelm.co.uk/sites/default/files/FLAME%20Shale%20Gas%20110511.pdf

Other relevant links here:

http://www.dieterhelm.co.uk/sites/default/files/volume_2__the_era_of_gas-2.pdf

http://www.dieterhelm.co.uk/publications

Dec 30, 2011 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

DougS

As Dieter was one of the first economists to look at CO2 emissions as an externality that would need a Pigou tax, perhaps it is not surprising that he still proposes a de-carbonised future.

Perhaps what "sceptics" need to do is simply keep pressing on the lack of correlation between CO2 levels and temperatures (however measured) - as the objective of de-carbonising was to prevent temperature rises that are not happening anyway at present. The fact that UK and EU policies do nothng to reduce CO2 emisions globally while imposing massive inefficiencies is of course also relevant.

Lets keep things simple. And simple means exploiting the massive unexpected benefit of shale gas - US wholesale gas prices down to $3/mmBTU - say 30% or less of UK prices. Can we have this please, as Dieter says. Lets resist the French/Russian/Green concorde of self interest.

Dec 30, 2011 at 10:45 AM | Unregistered Commenterjheath

not banned yet:

IMO a big part of the motivation for renewables was to work towards EU energy independence.

There's another reason, though it's not always considered polite to mention it. James Delingpole came right out with it back in May:

To the doom-mongers who hold this view, news first of the shale gas revolution and now of the methane hydrate revolution is like a slap in the face with a wet kipper. They hate it because it denies them the excuse they so badly need if they are to succeed in imposing on an unconvinced world their glorious New World Order in which an enlightened elite of experts (ie people like them) taxes, regulates and generally bosses around the rest of us in the name of "planetary responsibility."

Whether or not methane hydrates deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as shale this set the scene for my favourite paragraph from Dellers all year:

First Shale Gas; now Methane Hydrate. Sounds very much to me like there IS a God. And that He really doesn't think much of those who engage in Gaia Worship.

As I read Dieter Helm telling 'em how it is - the Middle East now an irrelevance to the United States, energy-security-wise, and all the rest - this phrase rang again in my ears. We've been given a chance. Thank You.

Dec 30, 2011 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Phillip - Dieter Helm called Huhne's certainty here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/18/energy-price-volatility-policy-fossil-fuels?

http://www.dieterhelm.co.uk/node/993

Apologies if previously discussed.

[snip]

Dec 30, 2011 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

In my opinion, shale gas could be as big (if not bigger) than north sea oil. That we are not putting every effort to exploit this resourse is incomprehensible.
I'm with Philip Bratby, Huhne has got to go.

Dec 30, 2011 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Dec 30, 2011 at 10:26 AM | DougS:


"Many, who should know better, still keep referring to CO2 as a pollutant - it's airborne plant food."

Doug, did you SAY that CO2 was 'not a GHG'? No.
Doug, did you IMPLY that CO2 was 'not a GHG'? No.

I think the Omega troll is reduced to constructing her own arguments and then arguing with herself.

Dec 30, 2011 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

For a long time now I've been trying (and failing) to convince my friends that 'Peak Oil' is not the end of the World as we know it.

As the old saying goes: The Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones.

Environmental doom-mongers, of all colours and periods, share one common intellectual failing; they extrapolate the present into the past, unchanging. The worst modern lot were the Club of Rome. They never factor technical and intellectual innovation and revolution into their models.

Dec 30, 2011 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Zed and follow-up comments removed.

Dec 30, 2011 at 12:13 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Avoiding Trolls.

Mi'lord, would it be useful to have the author's name at the top of the posting? Trolls could then be detected immediately and the reader could ignore them from the outset. This might avoid trolls being replied to so often because they had not been read in the first place.

Keep up the good work.

Dec 30, 2011 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterIdiot_Wind

Stuck-Record: "The Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones."

Another brilliant observation. Bravo! and thanks.

Dec 30, 2011 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

"Avoiding Trolls.

Mi'lord, would it be useful to have the author's name at the top of the posting? Trolls could then be detected immediately and the reader could ignore them from the outset. This might avoid trolls being replied to so often because they had not been read in the first place"

I have this little wheel on my mouse ...

Dec 30, 2011 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterFilbert Cobb

Marginally off-topic - but I was interested to see the analysis and graph recently in the WUWT blog about 'peak oil'...
Not content with it shifting forwards continually from the mid-70's by about forty years - but it has now shifted to FORTYFIVE years - AND an interesting little note in the text that oil is 'reforming' in previously exhausted strata - which tends to blow a bit of a hole in the 'it formed millions of years ago from little sea creatures' theory....

Dec 30, 2011 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

David

It seems logical to me (but not being a chemist), that if the high pressure and temperature deep in the earth can cause carbon to become diamond, then it ought to be possible for carbon and hydrogen to be turned into methane or ethane etc. Or is there no hydrogen down there? Can any chemist/geologist here enlighten us?

Dec 30, 2011 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

It is always worth repeating a fact.

The limits of fossil fuel availability are not physical but economic.

The total quantity of fossil fuels on this planet (both discovered and yet) would meet current demand levels for more than a 1,000 years. The problem of how worthwhile it is to extract them is an economic one. A combination of technological advances and the high oil price has vastly expanded the economically recoverable reserves and increased the incentive to make new discoveries of what is physically there.

We should be aware that the same frakking techniques that have vastly increased the quantity of recoverable gas are now being applied to oil in the USA. Once this is applied to the existing fields in the Middle East and elsewhere, then oil production will significantly increase. The consequence is that supply will again outstrip demand, at it will do in gas. In both areas, the biggest restraint on this happening is political.

Dec 30, 2011 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

Philip

Google *Abiotic Oil*

Dec 30, 2011 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Re: BoFa

Slow day....

Dec 30, 2011 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

ManicBeancounter

"...the biggest restraint on this happening is political."

I believe it to be not political but Neo-Luddite - one could argue of course that some NGO's press for political action because of Neo-Luddite leanings - the experience of which we encounter from time-to-time on this blog.

Dec 30, 2011 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

ssat:

A quick google at abiotic oil suggests it either exists or it doesn't exist. It's a bit controversial.

Dec 30, 2011 at 2:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Philip

One wonders if it could it be tested in a lab - pressure, ingredients, heat etc. Natural production rates must be slow or we would be swimming in the stuff but it might indicate other areas of rock formation to drill. Shale is still the eye-opener though - cheap energy and real jobs.

Dec 30, 2011 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Philip
I have heard a friend and academic I respect agree that abiotic short chain hydrocarbons such as methane are likely but that the longer chains necessary for oil require the intervention of plant life.
Ed

Dec 30, 2011 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterEddieo

“Unfortuntely peak oil theory is a nonsense” – said Dieter Helm – “The problem is not too little oil, gas and coal but too much of them. Prices are going up - this is totally wrong.”

The "economic" price of oil -- that is assuming true market pricing -- is generally given by the Wall Street mavens at between $60 and $65 per barrel. Yet it is currently near $100 in the spot market.

Why? Speculation. Here is a fairly straight-ward explanation of Contango and Backwardation.

While Wall Street may have drawn the wrath of the Occupy crowd, it is still where retired people can still supplement their pensions. I did quite nicely this year with AAPL and MCD. I stay way from gold and commodities as those are too volatile. Commodities and futures are for young people as you must keep your eye on them 24/7 and that would prevent me from reading the latest BH blog.

Dec 30, 2011 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Philip
I have heard a friend and academic I respect agree that abiotic short chain hydrocarbons such as methane are likely but that the longer chains necessary for oil require the intervention of plant life.
Ed

Most long chain hydrocarbons are made by animals as well. Just grab the spare tire around your waist to see an example.

There are plenty reports of amino acids and larger hydrocarbons found "out there". More interesting are the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in places like Titan, which may contain more hydrocarbon than Earth. Benzenoid hydrocarbons in space:

Given benzene, it doesn't take much to make just about any other hydrocarbon you may want and with out the aid of an animal or plant. Now the question of whether this stuff made it to the surface of Earth is still open.

Dec 30, 2011 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Don Pablo
Not being a chemist I wouldn't argue. But animas do get a helping hand from plants.
Anyway, what are you saying about my beautifully sculpted six pack!!
Ed

Dec 30, 2011 at 9:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterEddieo

Eddieo

You're confusing a six-pack with a Party Seven.

Dec 30, 2011 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy

"It seems logical to me (but not being a chemist), that if the high pressure and temperature deep in the earth can cause carbon to become diamond, then it ought to be possible for carbon and hydrogen to be turned into methane or ethane etc. Or is there no hydrogen down there? Can any chemist/geologist here enlighten us?"

@ Phillip

Geologist here. Conventional theory is that a commercial oil field requires a source, a migration path and a trap. The source is organic-rich sediment which has been buried deep/hot and long enough to crack it into oil. This type of sediment is typically clay-rich, with too low permeability to produce at commercial rates. You then need a pathway for the oil to ooze out of the source rock, until it collects in the trap as a viable field. All three may be the same "set" of rocks, e.g. where mudstone is intercalated with sandstone, or geographically separated.

A trap is typically sandstone or a carbonate structure (e.g. a reef). However, any rock which has porosity, permeability and a lid will serve as a trap. In rare cases, the trap comprises weathered igneous rock (e.g. granite). It is this situation (producing oil from volcanics) which has caused the abiotic oil myth to grow legs.

Maturation of organics into oil takes place as a series of distinct steps (sulphate reduction, methanogenesis etc.) all of which leave a distinct isotopic signature in the products. Maturation is a very important subject for the oil industry and the the isotope chemistry has been intensively by some very clever people for many decades. The oil we uses comes from buried organics.

@ David

The oil is less "reforming" (although it will continue to form if the source rock is still in the maturation window), as continuing to seep from the source/migration path and recharge the reservoir. All oilfields are different. YMMV.

Dec 30, 2011 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterHector Pascal

Isn't it ironic that skeptics who were thoughtful enough not to fall for the AGW scam are falling hook, line, and sinker for the shale gas scam? It may not be important to most people but I can assure you that the fact that the shale gas producers are chewing through capital and failing to make a profit on their operations is important to prudent investors. The shale gas producers will not survive with prices being as low as they are. And if they go out of business the drilling will have to fall below the rate that is required to keep production from collapsing.

Dec 31, 2011 at 3:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterVangel

Google *Abiotic Oil*

It is another scam.

Dec 31, 2011 at 3:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterVangel

Vangel
I work for a fracking company and own part of a gas well. It is already uneconomical to drill for gas in the US. My well has been shut in for two years awaiting a increase in the price of gas so they can drill into the shale. All the wells they are drilling now are oil wells(with lots of gas).

Dec 31, 2011 at 5:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavidCobb

David Cobb

I'm guessing that this will not apply in the UK because gas prices are higher here (I believe). Is that right?

Dec 31, 2011 at 8:58 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Precicely 0% of current oil and gas production is from abiotic sources.

Abiotic oil and gas is a cargo-cult fantasy.

Dec 31, 2011 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterHector Pascal

Zed and follow-up comments removed.

I see Bishop. 95% of the posters on here are firmly in the 'climate sceptic' camp - but that is not enough, and so you seek to remove all dissent.

Very balanced. What is the point of this blog if it is just a cosy club consisitng of the same people reassuring each other that they are right? That hardly seems a logical way to advance your cause.

Dec 31, 2011 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterScots Renewables

SR - zed produces nothing worthy of debate. It is only ever ad hom comments and criticisms of things that other people did not actually write. Her comments are, therefore, pointless.

Dec 31, 2011 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

@Scots Renewables

re: Zed and your statement to BH "so you seek to remove all dissent."

SR, your statement is malicious and highly inaccurate. This blog (so far as I have seen, I don't claim to read all threads) allows free and wide ranging debate so long as comments are reasonably on-topic (and even a lot of latitude for off-topic comments, which are rarely removed unless repetitive and too disruptive). The freedom of expression here is extensive but not absolute: the proprietor does occasionally act to prevent threads from being utterly derailed or destroyed.

"Zed" is a recurring trollish poster who proves (1) uninterested in genuine discussion, (2) highly off-topic and calculatingly disruptive, (3) disingenuous at every turn. I have seen threads in the process of being wrecked by "Zed" as perhaps you have not, if you see only the BH note that Zed's comments and responses to Zed have been removed.

SR, you do the host a grave injustice by casting aspersions upon his integrity and openness to debate. An apology would be warranted, if you have the kind of character which requires apology when one has unjustly insulted or attacked someone.

Dec 31, 2011 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil

Very balanced. What is the point of this blog if it is just a cosy club consisitng of the same people reassuring each other that they are right? That hardly seems a logical way to advance your cause.

Dec 31, 2011 at 4:00 PM | Scots Renewables

Try posting that comment at RealClimate and see how long it lasts.

Zed is the one exception, all other opposing posters are allowed. Zed is a troll and would be considered 'Mad as a hatter' on any board including her other haunt The Daily Mail

Dec 31, 2011 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Great Britain doen't have near the gas reserves of the US so prices should not collapse like they did here. However. with your reserves and with imports from the US gas will remain available and economicly feasible for many years to come.

Dec 31, 2011 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavidCobb

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