John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
  IEA change tack slightly
This is an interesting article referring to the International Energy Agency starting to resile from their prediction of peak oil being about 2030. They are arguing a case that:

“It should be noted, too, that there does not tend to be great interest in new types of resources among service and supply-sector players…they need to have ready customers for their new products and cannot easily justify developing products for a market that does not yet exist. Furthermore, private industry cannot be relied upon to invest in research on technologies that are too far from being economical.”

This economic argument ignores the issue of EROEI - Energy Returned on Energy Invested. I heard an argument once that if people eat celery the energy taken to consume the celery is more than is obtained from the celery. I never liked celery anyway so as a dieting mechanism it never attracted me.

However, EROEI always trumps the laws of economics being as it is the law of conservation of energy. Extracting oil consumes energy (the marginal return of which comes from oil and gas). The harder to extract elements consume more energy. So as the cost of extraction goes up as energy costs go up the merit of trying to extract the oil goes down.

In the big Gharwar field in Saudi Arabia seawater is being injected to get oil out. This takes energy, but there is still a massively positive energy return.

Converting from one source of energy to another is another important issue. If hydrocarbons are burnt then there is a limit (the Carnot limit) set by the laws of conservation of Entropy as to the amount of energy that can be extracted. As a rule of thumb two thirds or so gets wasted in most car engines before transmission losses. Combined Cycle Natural Gas generators can convert about 50-60% of the energy inbuilt in the gas. Additionally Combined Heat and Power systems can be used to warm up cool locations although we really should look at insulation for this.

It is these matters that human ingenuity cannot get around because they are theoretical limits (much like the reason why the patent office won't accept patents for perpetual motion engines (although perpetual motion does exist particularly at very low temperatures)). [in this instance perpetual motion is the concept of something that makes energy out of nothing]
 
Comments:
I heard an argument once that if people eat celery the energy taken to consume the celery is more than is obtained from the celery.

Apparently a myth. Although an attractive one to this overweight celery fan.

Peter
 
Snopes has it as true!
 
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