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Comments by Michael Berndtson Subscribe

On Dominion's Natural Gas Gamble Looks Risky for Ratepayers

This is interesting. US is producing a lot natural gas right now. However, on a proved reserves basis, US has about 6 percent of the world's total. Most of the natural gas sits below Middle East countries and Eurasian countries like Russia. Like about 70 percent of the total world's supply is under those counties. At current production and 2014 proved reserves, US has roughly 10 years of supply. We've tapped most of the sweet spots in shale and convensional reserves have flattened out.

The real reason for LNG push right now is to make money on trading. Natural gas isn't traded on the world's market as in a gas phase for obvious reasons. I've noticed that the world's largest commodity trading houses in Switerland and elsewhere are gearing up big time for LNG trading. With all this processing and shipping coming down the pike and the fact that power plants are burning natural gas liquids with dry gas, I'm wondering if there all that much CO2 emissions reduction anymore.

The author is right. Natural gas price will go up. And if we keep production numbers up to sell it as LNG, we will be importing just as much LNG in the near future.

Natural gas is being used more and more for electricity as the author stated. If power plant emissions regulation doesn't go through, coal will come back and chiefly due to cost. The entire EPA ruling is being argued in court right now. Assuming wind and solar isn't deployed fast enough before the natural gas bridge goes out.

On the environmental side. Oil and gas have successfully worked around that issue. I'd say with help from "third-way" enviromentalists who backed the natural gas push over the past 10 years or so. This would be the usual green groups. Environmental concerns are sadly after the fact. Instead of protection to minimize pollution, we'll be looking mostly at remediation. As I said, most of the shale plays are already in progress. EPA has dragged it's feet long enough to avoid oversight. Most of the states are pro fracking accept New York. There's not much Marcellus shale under New York to mean much anyway.

Note: the natural gas consumption and reserves data is located in under world data.

April 18, 2015    View Comment    

On Fly-By: What the Latest Aerial Study of Methane Emissions Tells Us

I'm going to assume fugitive methane emissions are a function of what's being pulled out of the well field (oil versus liquids). For instance, a field that produces more liquids probably has higher fugative emissions than a field that produces more gas. Bakken in ND is a liquids rich shale/tight rock and is well known to have delibrate (let alone fugitive) emissions via venting and flaring. Upwards of 30 percent of the gas pulled out of a well is vented and flared. Marcellus has traditionally been a gas shale. It is becoming more of a gas liquids and gas shale as production continues. Utah's Uinta is more oil than gas. Arkansas and Colorado fields are a mix. Texas shale fields range from gas near Dallas and gas liquids and liquids near Eagle Ford. I'm not surprised fugitive emissions percentages range from 0.2 to 20 percent.

These emissions studies seem to have not been well thought out. Like a study premise pulled from mechanistic to systematic - with little knowledge of the system.


February 28, 2015    View Comment    

On IPCC Sides With Roger Pielke, Jr.

This post is nothing more than sales and marketing for the think tank Breakthrough Institute. A lot of bullets with citations doesn't make it anything more than that. It's logrolling. Logrolling, to my suprise, is nicely defined in wikipedia:

Logrolling is the trading of favors, or quid pro quo, such as vote trading by legislative members to obtain passage of actions of interest to each legislative member.[1] In an academic context, theNuttall Encyclopedia describes logrolling as "mutual praise by authors of each other's work." In organizational analysis, it refers to a practice in which different organizations promote each other's agendas, each in the expectation that the other will reciprocate.

Here's a simile: Q: Breakthrough Institute is to Silicon Valley libertarianism as Heartland Institute is to? A: Cicero, Illinois strongarm corporatism.  

April 3, 2014    View Comment    

On Australia's Big Fat Solar Energy Policy Failure Exposed

I'm a little confused. It looks like I'm in good company. Many in Australia are as well on this issue. Does much of this have to do with public utilities turning into private sector corporations over the past 20 years or so? It just seems this transition from centralized generation to distributed PV solar would have been much easier under a regulated utility setting. Basically a decapitalization process, i.e. the don't need capital for a new power plant because customers can generate their own power with roof PV.  Ever since electricity suppliers have become corporations, who want to make a profit off of customers who don't have options, they use regulators and politcians to fight their fight against end users. That would be anyone other than those working for or invested in the centralized corporate electricity supplier.

March 28, 2014    View Comment    

On It Just Doesn't Add Up: Why I Think Not Building Keystone XL Will Leave a Billion Barrels of Bitumen in the Ground

I think Goldman forgot some prospective and proposed pipeline capacity to move tar sands. Goldman Sachs kind of lost some cashet to us nonfinancial types after the 2008 financial crisis.

Frac tracker has a nice map on proposed pipelines for North America Oil and Gas:

There is two proposed lines going north from Alberta: one called the Mackenzie Northwest Canadian Pipeline and another called Alliance, WestCoast, Alaska Highway Pipeline. These would take tar sands up to the Arctic Ocean, assuming it melts more. 

Enbridge Mainline already has cross boarder capacity of 2.5 million bpd. This line splits at northern Wisconsin. One line goes to Chicago and another leg goes to Detroit.

The refining capacity cited in the post for ultra heavy crude is low. Chicagoland and northern Midwest refining capacity, after upgrades, is already approaching 1 million bpd, now that BP Whiting is up. Gulf coast refineries are all pretty much done with heavy crude upgrades.

I don't dissagree with your premise. It's just that takeaway capacity may not be the entire issue. It may be in situ mining production limitiations - unless Canada wants to turn the Boreal Forest into a giant surface tar pit to achieve those projected production goals. Eitherway burning this heavy crude isn't cool.


March 25, 2014    View Comment    

On Monitoring Atmospheric Carbon [VIDEO]

Outstanding. The vidio clip was short, informative, and stated the end results. Most importantly, it didn't dumb anything down or add silliness. Like an ADHD friendly screaming voice over by a cartoon character named "carby" the carbon dioxide molecule.

March 18, 2014    View Comment    

On Gas Inventories Reach 11-Year Low

If the author doesn't get around to answer your question, I'll give it a try.

Natural gas after transmission and before end user delivery, traditionally gets stored. Similar in concept to how well water is stored. It's pumped up into elevated towers, where it can more easily be supplied at pressure and capacity for users.

One of the most typical gas storage methods is to inject it into the ground. This is hopefully after natural gas processing, of course, where the NGLs, sulfur compounds, mercury and misc stuff has been removed. Natural gas gets pumped or injected into porous rock formations in areas not too far from the city gate. For instance, suppliers will inject excess gas during the spring, summer and fall months into the subsurface. Even in old coal seams sometimes. When winter comes and gas is needed for heating, the distributer opens the valve for delivery to end users.

Gas delivery straight from production wells has to be processed before transmission and delivery. Sometimes after processing, nat gas goes straight to the end user for electricity generation, high volume industrial operation, and LNG processing without storage.


March 18, 2014    View Comment    

On Gas Inventories Reach 11-Year Low

Going into the this winter, it looks like nobody saw the polar vortex coming (and coming and coming and coming). Here's the 2013/2014 winter outlook by the National Gas Supply Association:

From the executive summary: (economy, weather, demand, storage all predicted to be routine)

"Our expectation for level price pressure is based on supply and demand factors that appear remarkably similar to last winter. Indeed this winter’s Outlook marks the first time in 13 consecutive years of NGSA Winter Outlooks that each of the five major supply and demand factors is forecasted to place flat pressure on natural gas prices, all because the conditions so closely mirror last winter."

Just looking at my gas usage (Chicago area), 2013/2014 Dec/Jan/Feb/Mar was up roughly 25 percent for heating degree days compared to the previous year. 


March 17, 2014    View Comment    

On High Renewable Energy Costs Damage the German Economy

Nathan, That's really not true and kind of an outdated perception. Think of technical consulting and engineering firms like PR and advertising agencies. The head of these agencies usually have experience germane to its service, be it account people or creative.

Corporate engineering departments like rocket manufacturers, software companies and electric auto manufacturers (the companies of the leaders you cited) are becoming smaller and more marketing focussed. Even concept design and feasibility is becoming increasingly contracted out. Not just everything after 30 percent design, where details use to be designed and engineered by contractors.

Successfull corporations that want to keep most work in house, don't have too many layers of communicators and send its engineers to charm school.

Most technical consulting, engineering, construction and manufacturing support is being done through contractors these days. Corporate engineering departments have become or are becoming engineering management. A really good example is oil and gas companies and utiltities. Most major oil and large utilities contract out almost all its engineering after initial desire. The head of those contractors are usually engineers, scientists or someone that really knows the nuts and bolts of the activity or product. They have to bring in clients to justify higher salaries above engineering grade.

For instance, Shell contracts out R&D, exploration, production, transmission, refining and marketing of oil and oil products. AMEC for technical consulting. Schlumberger for exploration. Halliburtan for drilling and production. Bechtel for production and refining. WorleyParsons for refining modification and routine operations. All of these examples include technical consulting and engineering. Everyone of the employees of these contractors are trained to be client focussed (i.e. salesmen). How much selling they're doing depends on what they doing. Sometimes it's 1% or the time. Other times it's 99%.


February 15, 2014    View Comment    

On High Renewable Energy Costs Damage the German Economy

I'm truly impressed with your accomplishments. I'll give you the internet equivalent of an at-a-boy.

So are you saying that Germany's energy plan is not economically feasible and should be reversed or changed? Is there a lesson to be learned here in the US? I don't need a reference from an esteemed journal or a quote from a learned individual. 

I'm really confused on this issue. You may be communicating well over my head. So its me. Maybe send in a PR rep or someone that writes really slowly and with small words. Depending on which news source I read, it appears that German enviros and greens don't like it. Nuclear and old fashion utilities don't like it. Fossil fuel hates it. Other Eurpean Countries don't So who likes it? Folks who went off the grid with PV roof top solar? 

Another reference from Amory Lovins - the dude from Rocky Mountain Institute. Funny story. I saw him speak at an AIChE meeting over 20 years ago. He handled the slings and arrows from retired petroleum refining engineers really well. They actually parleyed the argument into a great discussion on hydrogen safety for a future hydrogen economy. Anyway, Lovins is positive on Germany's renewables push. Obviously.

February 13, 2014    View Comment    

On High Renewable Energy Costs Damage the German Economy

Then you're not writing on Germany's energy policy as a professional, but as a retiree. I'll assume then that all your investments are in utilities and publically traded providers of centralized electricity generation. To hold your nut.

Anyway, what is the take away of your analysis? Are you warning others of the pitfalls of Germany's renewables push? Should we stop with wind and solar in the US? 

Since you're retired and it's too late to discuss an engineer's role in communication, this may be for others. An engineer basically takes an idea and puts it into action. An engineer has to be able to communicate to others that may not as knowledgeable or fully engaged in the engineering process. This could be investors, constructors, operators, electricity rate payers or the public at large. If an engineer can't convince others that a plan is or isn't feasible and the right or wrong solution to the problem, then he/she is not an engineer. A scientist or a dude with engineering degrees, maybe, but not an engineer.

All ideas don't need PR pushes and salesmen. Good engineers do 80/20 sales/technical.

I believe the purpose of the Energy Collective blog is to communicate technical ideas to those that aren't technical. A blog post that submarines an entire country's energy plan in the title, plops down some numbers and cut and pastes some citations, isn't an effective way to communicate.  For what it's worth, don't hunt in packs with other blog posters in the comments section, it comes off weak and small. 


February 13, 2014    View Comment    

On High Renewable Energy Costs Damage the German Economy

You say the work stands as is, because of your professional status. Who is paying you? That is a reasonable question to ask. Another reasonable question would be, why should I trust your work? Der Spiegel and Fox Business are doing a putsch on Germany's energy plan. So that alone gives many pause.

February 12, 2014    View Comment