TMI, Chernobyl, Challenger and Deep Horizon

19 May

Whenever a tragedy occurs all involved either directly or on the periphery wants to point fingers.  This post has been prompted by another on a Ham’s page that sought to lay it off  on previous administrations and make it political. Rest assured this isn’t political. It is human. In the case of Deep Horizon it is both producers and consumers conspiring to make a mess. Let me explain.

To understand energy one merely needs to understand BTU’s. British Thermal Units. How many calories of heat it takes to raise a bit of water one degree. The units don’t matter here but you get the picture. Any discussion of energy outside of BTU’s is superfluous and not based in science. Its a way to confuse readers and speakers and obfuscate the information. When you understand the BTU you will understand the concept of various grades of energy. High BTU coal, High BTU oil and not so high BTU kinds of energy. High energy good oil has more BTU’s than low quality coal or oil. This brings us to EROEI. Energy Return on Energy Invested. How many BTU’s does it take to get energy resources out of the ground and what do those resources yield in BTU’s? In the old days one could poke a straw in the ground and up would bubble high quality oil. Lots of BTU’s. Not very many BTU’s expended. All of that is gone. We have harvested it. So human kind wander farther and farther into the world to get the “Stuff”. Now most of the developed stuff is coming offshore and deeper under water. Like miles deep. Now we are bumping into unknown territory and pushing knowledge. Working at the extreme ends of what we humans know how to do. But you still want your car to go and you want your Wheaties in the morning so we keep pushing. Whenever humans are involved crap happens. Deep Horizon happened because humans were involved working under duress and weather it be economic pressure or production pressure or just carelessness humans did it, not politics.

Many years ago when I was trying to get my arms around consumption I kept running into scale issues. What exactly does 84 million barrels of oil look like anyway? I came up with an analog which helps me. Man burns roughly 84 million barrels of oil per day. Every 24 hours we consume approximately 3.7 Super Domes full of oil. That was in 2005. It is more now but not much more.

Peak Oil does not mean we are running out of oil. It means we have reached the limit of maximum production in the worlds oil supply. It is currently thought to be around 87 million BBls of oil per day or our current rate of production. The reason for this is that as you find new fields to exploit the older fields are declining in production. You end up with a mixture of new vs old and cheap vs expensive and sweet vs sour and you find out it isnt an easy business to make money in.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on May 19, 2010 in Stuff


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