CEEC is proud to host Dean Frankel from Lux Research, a company that evaluates emerging technologies and advises companies on how to use them to gain a competitive edge. The critical jump from lab to product is a difficult one and Dean will be sharing his experience looking at the vast array of storage technologies and how to get the promising ones over the hump. If you are working on cutting edge tech, this talk will provide a rare in depth look into the other side of the coin, giving you the insight you need to get your research out there into the real world.
CEEC Events Calendar More information on these events will be posted on upcoming newsletters and our Facebook page. Keep posted!
Thursday, 2nd of April - Dr. Joe Woo, Research Scientist at Columbia's Sustainable Engineering Lab. Energy 101 Series: A Hands-On Introduction to Solar, Wind and Storage | 5:00 pm | Mudd 750 - With all this talk about renewables and their bright future, do you actually understand the technologies?
Thursday, 9th of April - Panel Event: Powering the Future, A Portfolio of Modern Technologies | 4:30 pm | Davis Auditorium - CEEC's Spring Signature Event: This panel event will cover the different emerging energy technologies that are to play an important role in the future.
Thursday, 16th of April - David Biello, Associate Editor for Environment & Energy at Scientific American Magazine: Battle Over Solar Power, Prospects of Low Carbon Energy and Anthropocene | 6:00 pm | TBD
Oil and Gas 101: Hydraulic Fracturing and Horizontal Drilling
While hydrocarbon reserves in tight sands, shales and coalbed methane formations were discovered decades ago, only in the last ten years has it become economic to produce unconventional hydrocarbons. These geological formations may contain significant volumes of oil or gas, however they have low flow rates as a result of low reservoir permeability. Volumes of hydrocarbons do not naturally flow through the rock as a result of the pressure differential between the surface wellhead and the subsurface not being enough to overcome the barriers to flow (low permeability and low connectivity) in the reservoir rock.
Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies have developed significantly enough in the last decade that unconventional shale hydrocarbons (those requiring hydraulic fracturing stimulation to flow to surface) have become economic. After a well is drilled it is lined with steel pipe (casing) that is cemented into place, sometimes more than 2km below the surface. Before the well is perforated in the target formations (layers of rock that are expected to contain hydrocarbon), the quality of the cementation is tested to comply with company safety standards and state regulations. In a conventional well, once a formation is perforated, the hydrocarbons will flow to surface without further initial subsurface stimulation.
Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping a mixture of water, proppant (sand or ceramic beads), and chemicals (to enhance flow) into the perforations, causing the formation rock to fracture. Engineers and geologists at surface monitor the wellbore pressure carefully and stop the fluid injection after fracturing has occurred. The proppant remains in the fractures to keep them open to allow for hydrocarbon flow. The flow back of hydraulic fracking fluid is measured, sampled and reported to regulatory bodies.
There are several reasons why exploration and production companies may decide to develop fields with non-vertical wells (deviated or horizontal wells). Directional drilling (drilling at an angle other than vertical) can reach targets that cannot be reached by vertical drilling (ie. under surface locations protected for environmental or cultural reasons). Directional drilling minimizes the surface footprint of field development; instead of drilling several individual wells 500m apart, these wells can be drilled from one surface location (drilling pad) and deviate to allow sufficient spacing below the surface.
Horizontal drilling also allows producers to increase the length of the pay zone (the volume of rock that contributes hydrocarbon to a particular well). For example, if a formation (rock layer with hydrocarbon) is 20m thick, then a vertical well will have a pay zone that is 20m long. A well that is drilled horizontally through the pay zone for 1000m will have a 1000m long pay zone, resulting in significant production increase over the lifetime of the well. When this increased productivity covers the higher drilling (need to steer drill bit directionally) and hydraulic fracturing costs, then the unconventional hydrocarbon play is said to be economic. Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing can cost up to three times as much per unit length as drilling a vertical well (1).
These developments, in combination with historically high oil prices, have allowed US oil production to grow from 5.6 million barrels per day in 2010 to 9.3 million barrels a day in early 2015 (2). The recent fall in oil prices presents a major economic challenge for unconventional producers.
The Shale Boom's Economic Impact
This plunge in oil prices is a result of a number of factors, most notably the glut created by booming shale production in North America and the inaction of OPEC to maintain “the stabilization of prices in international oil markets”. The American shale industry have acted as a swing producers, and along with lower demand for oil due to slow global economy growth, have “tipped the world from a shortage of oil to a surplus” (4).
North American producers, expecting a continuation of high oil prices, have borrowed heavily to further their capital-intensive exploration endeavors. These ensure investors continued growth, as companies “prove” more hydrocarbon resource (reserves) to replace the hydrocarbons they produce. For the short term, production continues to rise. It will level off as producing wells continue to produce (primary costs are in up-front drilling costs and operational costs remain low over the lifetime of the well) and capital for drilling new wells dries up. However, production from unconventional shale wells is short lived.
Shale-oil wells have steep production declines (with production falling by 60-70% in the first year, compared to a 20% decline on an average conventional oil well in the Middle East). As producers are unable to fund the up-front capital for new drilling, existing shale-oil wells will soon result in falling production.
What remains to be seen is, how many of these producers, inevitably the most nimble and efficient ones, can continue to finance drilling at $50-$60 per barrel. The industry average of break-even prices is clustered around $65-70 per barrel (5). With Saudi Arabia currently invested in 2 million barrels a day of extra capacity (2), they could use this to keep prices low, threatening the viability of many North American shale-oil producers. The recent plunge in oil prices would inevitably lead to further rounds of innovation - newer techniques that increase efficiency and reduced drilling costs due to standardization. When price does recover, these wells can be brought online in weeks, and not months as in conventional wells.
Conduct financial analysis of U.S. and international utility scale renewable energy projects, in support of originating, developing and closing project investments and financing's.
Porsche May Expand With New Electric Car to Challenge Tesla Electric
Porsche AG may expand its growing lineup with a battery-powered vehicle to cater to demand for cleaner luxury vehicles and counter the rise of Tesla Motors Inc. “Tesla has built an exceptional car,” Porsche chief Matthias Mueller said Friday at the brand’s annual press conference in Stuttgart, Germany. “They have a very pragmatic approach and set the standard, where we have to follow up now.”
A lithium-ion battery that stores twice as much energy is a step closer to commercialization thanks to a deal with the U.K. home appliance company Dyson. The startup Sakti3 announced today that it has signed a joint development agreement with Dyson, which makes vacuum cleaners and other appliances, to incorporate its batteries into new products. The companies did not say when those products will be available, but one could be a cordless vacuum cleaner. Dyson also announced a $15 million investment in the startup.
Dirty Energy Taxes And Clean Energy Innovation Solar
I am and have long been an unabashed advocate of carbon taxes and gas taxes, but… I have a concern that not enough attention is being paid to the innovation function for clean energy. Right now clean energy prices are marching steadily downward in the form of declining solar costs, my question is: would a carbon tax slow this innovation trend?
The oil price is unlikely to reach again the record levels seen in the past few years, according to Saudi Arabia's representative at Opec. Mohammed al-Madi, Saudi's Opec governor, told an energy conference that hitting the $100 to $120-a-barrel mark again would be "difficult". Mr Madi also told the meeting in Riyadh that that his country's oil policy had no "political dimension". Saudi is Opec's biggest producer and the dominant voice with the group.