Hot Air And Handouts  

Posted by Big Gav

Enviromission (would be builders of the fabled Solar Tower in Victoria) are once again on the hunt for cash to try and get this thing up and running. While I quite like the idea it really does look like a money pit for investors - and I'd rather people didn't associate green energy projects with failed white elephants.

After four years and 17 capital raisings, Enviromission is trying to grab an $80 million Federal Government handout to keep alive its dream of building a giant hot-air powered tower in the Riverina. The company boasted to the Herald three years ago that it would have its plans to build a one-kilometre high solar-heated, air-powered tower at a "bankable stage" in 2003.

Enviromission announced yesterday that securing a slice of the $500 million federal Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund was its "dominant strategic priority". The scheme will help subsidise projects that deliver large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The company recently scaled back its plans for the solar tower, which will now be about 400 metres high. Yesterday it announced plans to partner with Baulderstone Hornibrook to "provide project design" and to "support the project's business case". The tower will cost an estimated $250 million to build, as opposed to the original $1 billion for the larger edifice.

Mr Thompson-Jones said he foresaw no problems building the giant tower, which will be surrounded by hundreds of heat-gathering panels.

Enginner-Poet's "Triumph of exurbia" post, which considers the idea that exurbanites may be better off than regular urbanites under a post-peak collapse scenario, got him a mention on WorldChanging. I don't think this concept makes much sense here with modern outer suburban design managing to combine huge houses with block sizes only just large enough to fit the building and the carport and driveway. If "exurbia" is defined as large lots well past the suburban sprawl then I guess it makes sense - but this doesn't cover a big portion of the population.

Saudi Arabia is saying that it won't (or can't) be the crude oil supplier of last resort any longer.
"There has been a decision on the part of Saudi Arabia to signal to the world that they will no longer be the supplier of last resort," Goldwyn said. "They now say that consuming nations need to look at alternative energies and conservation and not look at Saudi Arabia to make up for the growth in demand."

A shortage of equipment (and high prices for it) also seem to be contributing to this stance.
Oilfield suppliers and manufacturers contacted by Oil&Gas Middle East have confirmed fears about massive shortages of rigs and other equipment in the region. Former Saudi Aramco official, Sadad Al Husseini raised the issue last month, saying that a crunch in supplies could delay efforts by Saudi Arabia to raise crude output.

Husseini, former vice president of Saudi Aramco and more recently a harsh critic of Saudi oil policy, also said Saudi Arabia may fall behind its schedule to raise output capacity by 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2009 due to shortages of oil rigs and equipment.

This is not the first time that the suppliers’ crunch has thrown a spanner into the works of the Middle East oil industry. Qatar, one of the fastest growing economies in the Middle East and a chief producer of gas, announced in May that the country was not undertaking any upstream projects for a few years, owing to the overheating of the market, where in some cases the operating oil companies had to invest in the suppliers’ infrastructure to ensure timely delivery of stocks.

“Every new increment is going to be more expensive and complex and yield smaller amounts,” Husseini told Reuters. “And you will have to replace easy production and large capacity declines with much more difficult production,” he said.

He said that the shortage of supplies could leave state-oil firm Aramco two-to-three years behind its plan to lift capacity to 12.5 million from 11 million bpd now.

Woodside has announced that it has found customers for gas from its planned Pluto development (I'm sure that was a hard sales job).
Woodside Petroleum Limited announced it has agreed key commercial terms with North Asian customers for the supply of liquefied natural gas from its 100%-owned Pluto gas field in Western Australia. The terms cover combined sales of between 3.5 and 4 million tonnes of LNG a year for 15 years from the end of 2010, with an option to extend for a further five years.

There are reports that Australia is finally about to settle its dispute with East Timor over Timor Sea oil and gas (9 months after our glorious foregn minister said it had happened). This has been a plus for Woodside on the markets as punters anticipate developments in the area in question. Woodside has also sold off its Blacktip field offshore the Northern Territory and its stake in Hardman Resources (which is a partner in their Mauritanian developments).

Rigzone also has a review from the NOAA of the "Record 2005 Hurricane Season, More Overactive Seasons to Come".

The Financial Review had a report on the weekend about a new biodiesel manufacturer that is floating on the stockmarket this month called "Australian Biodeisel Group".
ABG was founded in 2001 with the objective of developing its own biodiesel production technology. This technology was initially developed and tested via a small batch scale plant capable of producing approximately one million litres of its continuous transesterification process ('CTP') technology.

Subsequent to its successful development program, ABG commenced the construction of its full-scale 40 million litre per annum continuous flow plant at Berkeley Vale on the New South Wales central coast. This facility is now complete and currently operating at 75% of nameplate capacity. It is expected that this plant will be operating at 100% capacity by July 2006. This plant is one of the largest (in terms of output) biodiesel plants now constructed in Australia.

ABG's second production facility, a 160 million litre per annum plant, will be located at Narangba, Queensland. All the required development and environmental regulatory approvals to enable construction have been granted in relation to this production facility. It is forecast that this facility will be commissioned in the second quarter of 2006.

There has been more bellicosity between China and Japan about east China sea oil and gas fields.

Ali Bakhtiari is saying we have passed the peak oil point and have now moved into a phase he calls "Transition 1".
In my humble opinion, we should now have reached 'Peak Oil'. So, it is high time to close this critical chapter in the history of international oil industry and bid the mighty 'Peak' farewell... At present, global oil output fluctuates around 82 mb/d as some institutions try vainly to push 2005 statistics towards 83 and 84 mb/d (as they always do). But they will be obliged to backtrack as 'actual' oil supplies fail to follow their 'paper' ones.

So that, in the 'Peak Oil' aftermath, we are about to enter what I call 'Transition One' [T1] --- a rather bizarre phase akin to a vague 'no-man's-land' between still adequate oil supplies and the clear realization that demand has definitely left supply behind. I see the tragic '2004 Tsunami' and the heart-breaking '2005 Katrina and Rita' as the precursors signs to 'T1'. This fresh phase might come to burst on the global stage during the coming winter 2005-2006 --- maybe taking large swaths of the public by surprise...

Iran was in the news again yesterday, with an article called "Iran plans reactor in restive oil state" appearing briefly on the AAP feed before being stuffed firmly down the memory hole. If you look in the next day or so on Yahoo you'll still see the headline, but the link itself now points to an article about Benjamin Netanyahu threatening all sorts of fire and brimstone (this seemed to happen to the copies I could find on Google News, though the ABC had a similar but shorter version here).

Anyway - the original text is below - it is moderately interesting but doesn't really seem worthy of being vanished (I didn't know Iran had native uranium reserves and the stuff about Khuzestan does seem to indicate it may be the flashpoint - as the likes of Seymour Hersh, Scott Ritter and Wayne Madsen have predicted - should push come to shove one day - possibly in March when the oil bourse is due to go live).
Iran's cabinet has decided to build a new nuclear power station in the restive southwestern oil province of Khuzestan, state television says. Washington accuses Tehran of seeking to produce nuclear fuel for use in warheads whereas Tehran insists its atomic scientists are only striving to meet booming domestic demand for electricity. "The cabinet in its meeting this afternoon agreed to construct an atomic power station in Khuzestan using local technology," a state television report said.

The report gave no indication of when Iran would start work on this reactor. Iran has almost completed its first nuclear power station at the Gulf port of Bushehr, an $800 million investment contract built with Russian help. Tehran hopes the 1,000 MW project will go online in late 2006.

The Islamic Republic has pledged to build more power stations. Some officials say Iran seeks 6,000 MW from atomic reactors by 2020, while others say the country simply wants 20 nuclear power stations. Iran insists it has the right to develop the uranium it mines in its central deserts for use in these power stations. But many countries are putting pressure on Tehran to enrich its uranium in Russia, thereby guaranteeing that it will only be enriched to the low level needed for power stations and not to the higher weapons-grade.

Khuzestan is home to the biggest oilfields of the world's fourth biggest crude producer. The province is also home to most of Iran's Arab minority who complain of discrimination from non-Arab Iranians. Iran's Arab south has simmered with ethnic unrest since April, when five people died in anti-government protests. These were sparked by rumours that the government was considering re-locating more non-Arabs to Khuzestan to water down Arab influence there.

Seven people were killed in a bombing in June and six more in a blast in October. Some minor oil facilities were bombed in September. Arabs make up about 3 per cent of Iran's population of some 68 million.

Reuters has some notes on the Iranian oil industry (via Energy Bulletin) that would support the idea that they may have a need for nuclear power (assuming they don't go heavily into renewables instead) as their oil production capacity declines. While I've got few doubts they want nuclear weapons as well as nuclear power, perhaps the EU group negotiating with them could suggest assisting a massive solar power development program as a carrot for abandoning their nuclear power (or uranium enrichment) plans.
Iran's oil industry is not just in the doldrums, it is sinking.

The world's fourth biggest crude producer has not had an oil minister since August, meaning output loss continues unabated, new production deals have no hope of getting signed and Tehran's voice in OPEC is barely a whisper. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has failed to get three of his close allies appointed to the most prestigious job in Iran's cabinet -- vetoed by parliamentarians who are angered at not being consulted about this linchpin post.

"This limbo in the oil ministry is definitely causing us a lot of trouble and the longer it goes on, the more serious it becomes," said Mohammad Mehdi Jabbarzadeh, a lawmaker on Iran's budget commission. Ahmadinejad is due to nominate a fourth candidate on Sunday.

Last week, moments after parliament rejected Ahmadinejad's third candidate, Mohsen Tasalloti, lawmaker Kazem Jalali neatly summed up the malaise. "The current situation weakens our stance in OPEC and will diminish our chances of co-operation with foreign companies because it indicates instability," he said.

In his address to lawmakers before their vote, Tasalloti addressed the fundamental problem Iran must solve: the Islamic Republic is losing more than 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) of its output capacity each year.

Strangely enough after I wrote that bit I came across this post on WorldChanging about "Renewable Energy as a Human Right", which makes a similar point.
The Renewable Energy Proliferation Protocol: Among the proposals emerging from the World Renewable Energy Assembly is an addition to the existing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Article IV. The NPT currently calls on nuclear nations to supply technical aid to non-nuclear states for the development of nuclear energy. The proposed addition would call on signatory nations to fulfill this obligation through the provision of renewable energy technologies instead, thereby further reducing the possibility of nuclear weapon proliferation.

The NPT currently seems to be one of those international treaties considered by some nations to be "quaint;" adding a line suggesting that nations give renewable energy technologies rather than nuclear power tech strikes me as very much a window-dressing idea.

However, I was intrigued by the concept of a stand-alone Renewable Energy Proliferation Protocol (not addressed in the WREA discussion, as far as I can tell). Many international treaties fall into the "don't do this" category -- don't emit cholorfluorocarbons, don't dump waste in the oceans, don't pass out nukes to your buddies, etc.. The treaties that call on signatory nations to do something positive or pro-active are less visible, but arguably more fundamentally important -- the standardization of telecommunication protocols, the hotline agreements, the "open skies" treaty, and so forth. (For a full list of treaties the United States is signatory to, see this page at the US Department of State -- commenters, please feel free to add links to similar pages for other countries.)

Imagine a Renewable Energy Proliferation Treaty (REPT) that required the signatory nations to provide renewable energy technologies to other nations. The underlying mechanism could take a number of forms, from structured markets to out-and-out obligations. The version most likely to generate support would be one that provided rewards for proliferation; unfortunately, the most reasonable rewards are credits against CO2 emission limits, which drops us back into the Kyoto scenario.

Arguably, the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Treaty is something of a Renewable Energy Proliferation agreement. This makes me wonder: how would the CDM have worked if it applied to all other countries, not just developing nations? Transfer the renewable systems and tech to any other country, and you can choose between getting financial rewards or REPT credits. Better still, imagine if you could get credits against non-carbon costs for renewable proliferation -- how long would it take the US to pay down its foreign debt by transferring renewable energy systems?

To close, here's one of those weird tales from Russia - which may have a global warming angle, though the story is a bit murky.
Squirrels have bitten to death a stray dog which was barking at them in a Russian park, local media report.

Passers-by were too late to stop the attack by the black squirrels in a village in the far east, which reportedly lasted about a minute. They are said to have scampered off at the sight of humans, some carrying pieces of flesh.

A pine cone shortage may have led the squirrels to seek other food sources, although scientists are sceptical. The attack was reported in parkland in the centre of Lazo, a village in the Maritime Territory, and was witnessed by three local people.

Mikhail Tiyunov, a scientist in the region, said it was the first he had ever heard of such an attack. While squirrels without sources of protein might attack birds' nests, he said, the idea of them chewing a dog to death was "absurd". "If it really happened, things must be pretty bad in our forests," he added. Komosmolskaya Pravda notes that in a previous incident this autumn chipmunks terrorised cats in a part of the territory.

A Lazo man who called himself only Mikhalich said there had been "no pine cones at all" in the local forests this year. "The little beasts are agitated because they have nothing to eat," he added.


The Tower of Power folks are babes in the wood compared to the fusion/ITER crowd who have now been on handouts for half a century. When the elusive breakthrough is a question of scale rather than bug fixes it makes it hard to judge. We want the spectacular ideas to work but it seems like at the end of the day we're always left with windmills and boiled up vegies.

What has happened to Cooper Basin hot rocks?

You've got to start somewhere I guess - after all, it took the ITER folks 50 years to get where they are :-)

As for the hot rocks guys, Geodynamics have been pretty quiet in recent months. Progress so far seems to be :

1. The Habanero experiment was successful and they got steam through the system (albeit with quite a few drilling problems along the way).
2. They did a capital raising to get hold of funds to build a prototype power station, which they are still working on.

Company announcements are at :

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