Friday, February 25, 2011

One Reason Why "Peak Oil Doom" Is No Cause for Panic

The Group's technology makes viable the distributed production of fuels from gas biomass, coal and waste. Microchannel processing is emerging at a time of the discovery and development of vast shale gas reserves in North America, increasing focus on the utilization of stranded and associated gas and the emergence of biomass-to-liquids (BTL) and waste-to-liquids (WTL) as a viable option for the sustainable supply of transportation fuel in the decades ahead. In addition, the growing political, geological and environmental complexity of oil exploration and production has focussed attention on the monetization of associated and stranded gas reserves and cessation of flaring, for which distributed GTL is suited, the company says. _GCC
What you see in the image above is a Velocys / Oxford Catalysts microchannel gas to liquids technology. It is an award-winning technology which promises to turn at least 1 billion boe worth of wasted flared natural gas into valuable liquid fuels, each year. Probably considerably more.

The same technology can turn biomass, coal, or any carbonaceous material or waste into valuable liquid fuels. Better yet, Oxford Catalysts is making progress in turning itself from a research group into a commercial company.
The Oxford Catalysts Group has raised £21 million (US$34 million) before expenses from the conditional placing of 26,250,000 new shares, which will be used to accelerate its ongoing transition from a research and development organization to a commercial product company. In particular, additional staff will be hired to support its commercial and manufacturing operation, the Group’s supply chain capabilities will be bolstered and investments will made in development and testing infrastructure.

This is the latest step in the Oxford Catalysts Group’s drive to commercialize its technology for the production of synthetic fuels from conventional fossil fuels and renewable sources such as biowaste, primarily through its microchannel process technology platform which is able to accelerate chemical reactions by 10- to 1000-fold. As a result, microchannel Fischer Tropsch (FT) processes can operate economically when producing just 500 barrels per day of oil equivalent (boe) from a wide variety of carbon-containing wastes, while achieving greater productivities than for conventional FT reactors (earlier post). _GCC

An extra billion boe per year from otherwise-flared natural gas is nothing to sneeze at. Neither is the potential for on-site gtl, btl, and ctl which small portable microchannel-FT units would provide. The rules for fuels are about to change. Peak oil panic will then go the way of the dinosaurs and Y2K willies.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Massive Entitlement Spending Growth Prevents a Better Future

Images via MJPerry
The US government is stuck in the entitlement racket -- the "votes for cash" scam. By channeling more and more private sector income through government redistribution channels, more private citizens are becoming dependent upon government incomes -- and forgetting how to take care of themselves.
This wholesale shift to government dependency might be okay if it were sustainable. But as anyone who follows international and national economic news should know by now, the entire pyramid scheme is not sustainable. But it is very addictive.

The end result of this massive, exponential growth in government entitlement spending, will be very ugly. Try not to get engulfed by the growing clash between an ever more grasping government, and the people who have to pay the bills and do the productive work. If you get caught in the middle, you may not survive the aftermath.

Images via MJPerry

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sniffing Out Ancient and Future Oil


Most crude oil comes from ancient marine organisms which bloomed, died, sank, and were covered by sediment to transform under conditions of heat and pressure into petroleum. The organisms required sunshine, CO2, and nutrients -- plus sedimentary cover. These conditions were best met in tropical seas which received nutrient-rich outflows from either rivers or rich sea currents and upwellings.

But rivers supply both nutrients and sediment, so it makes sense to look to areas which were offshore from ancient river deltas. Above, you can see the main rivers of the modern world.

But the continents of the Earth were not always in their current relationship to each other. 250 mya the continents were situated close together in a formation now referred to as Pangaea. The geology of the landmasses of that time were somewhat different, meaning that different rivers flowed into different seas.
This movement of the continents in relation to each other is caused by plate tectonics, a dynamic phenomenon which is largely controlled by actions at the bottom of the seas.

The graphic above is meant to illustrate possible sites for "abiotic oil" deposits, but if you look carefully at the oceans, you can find seafloor ridges which are ground zero for the motion of the continents. New seafloor -- as molten lava which cools and solidifies in contact with seawater -- is pushed upward from beneath the ocean crust, causing a spreading of the ocean crust outward. Eventually the ocean crust is pushed into contact with thicker continental crust, where it subducts -- dives downward into the mantle. This subduction is associated with volcano formation, and other geologic changes, such as slow movement of the continental plates.

This "dance of the continents" is likely to bring the land masses together again in the future, over and over again in different formations. This is important in relation to where very old oil deposits are likely to be found, and where large future deposits of oil are likely to be formed in their turn.

For example, why is oil often found in deserts and arctic wastes?
Oil and gas result mostly from the rapid burial of dead microorganisms in environments where oxygen is so scarce that they do not decompose. This lack of oxygen enables them to maintain their hydrogen-carbon bonds, a necessary ingredient for the production of oil and gas. Newly developing ocean basins, formed by plate tectonics and continental rifting, provide just the right conditions for rapid burial in anoxic waters. Rivers rapidly fill these basins with sediments carrying abundant organic remains. Because the basins have constricted water circulation, they also have lower oxygen levels than the open ocean. For instance, the Gulf of California, an ocean basin in development, is making new oil and gas in real time today. The Gulf of Mexico is also a great example of new oil and gas formation in a restricted circulation environment (see image at right above).

The same plate tectonics that provides the locations and conditions for anoxic burial is also responsible for the geologic paths that these sedimentary basins subsequently take. Continental drift, subduction and collision with other continents provide the movement from swamps, river deltas and mild climates--where most organics are deposited--to the poles and deserts, where they have ended up today by coincidence. In fact, the Libyan Sahara Desert contains unmistakable glacial scars and Antarctica has extensive coal deposits--and very likely abundant oil and gas--that establish that their plates were once at the other ends of the earth (see image at right). _SciAm
Similar detective work may lead prospectors to rich petroleum deposits lying between Norway, Iceland, and Greenland. By the same logic applied to more recent timelines, oil and gas in the South China Sea is likely to be discovered.

As the SciAm article above explains, when a river flows into a limited basin -- such as the Gulf of Mexico -- oil and gas formation are most likely to occur due to rapid sedimentation. But thanks to plate tectonics and shifting continents and river-beds, many areas where rivers once flowed into limited basins have become something completely different, today.

It is no challenge to find oil where crude is already seeping to the surface. That was the case in the early days of oil discovery in the US, the Persian Gulf, and Central Asia. But to find the oil of ancient seas -- that is a challenge. Particularly since that is where most of the world's oil awaits.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Final Frontiersman of ANWR: A Week in the Life

Heimo Korth is "The Final Frontiersman." He and his wife Edna are the last legal full time residents of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They move between three cabins every year, so as not to deplete the game as they trap and hunt for a living.

The book linked above is quite good, written by a cousin of Heimo's who lived with the family for several months and dug deeply into the couple's lives, and those of their daughters.

Living in the Arctic is not for the weak of heart, or for faux environmentalists such as those who occupy highly-paid lobbying positions for Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and the rest of the dieoff.orgy gang.

Living in such a rugged environment is proof of a residual toughness living in at least a portion of western men. In case of catastrophe, most westerners could not cope without their supermarkets, convenience stores, and ATMs.

If you are curious what a north country pioneer's life might be like, check out the 52 minute video about the Korths above.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Lifehacker's Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Supercharge Your Brain

Lifehacker Top 10 is a service of for people who are in a hurry and want to jump to the heart of the matter quickly. Today's Lifehacker Top 10 deals with ways of building your brainpower.

Some methods seem like common sense -- good nutrition and exercise -- but others are less obvious. Make Lifehacker a regular stop on your daily internet tour.
Here is the link to the original Lifehacker article excerpted below:
Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your BrainWhile we're always using our brains, we're not necessarily doing much to keep them in good shape. Here are the top ten sites and tools to train your brain and exercise your mental muscles.

10. Sudoku

Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain

By now you're probably familiar with Sudoku, but just in case it's a number puzzle game with the objective of filling up a grid of numbers. Check out these instructions to learn how to play. Most people find Sudoku a fun and addictive game, plus it can help improve your problem-solving skills (just not your overall brain health). You can play online, on your iOS device, on Facebook, Android, and pretty much any other platform you can think of.

9. Wikipedia:Random

Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain

Wikipedia:Random is simply a means of randomly stumbling on a Wikipedia article. Why is this good for your brain? You can use it to find a new topic to learn about every day. Qwiki, a visually rich, mini Wikipedia that reads to you, is another good starting point. Learning something new every day can keep your brain healthy, so grab a random article and make it a new way to start your morning.

8. Practice Simple Math Every Day

Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain

Perhaps you remember the Mad Math Minute from grade school, where you'd need to solve as many math problems as possible in 60 seconds. While it may have seemed annoying then, it was excellent practice that you can still make use of now. While it's easy enough to create your own Mad Math Minute worksheets, since you're basically just writing out a bunch of simple math problems on a piece of paper, I found a Mad Math Minute generator for Mrs. Boguski's 5th grade class. It probably wasn't intended for mass consumption on the web, so here are some alternative printable worksheets. The bottom line is this: a minute of simple math can help get your brain in shape and make you far less reliant on a calculator.

7. Write Instead of Type (More Often)

Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain

We love our keyboards. They're much more efficient at getting words on the page than your hand, a pencil, and a notebook. Nonetheless, you can learn more effectively by writing longhand and so you may want to ditch the laptop when you're acquiring new knowledge. This happens because your brain's filtering system (the reticular activating system, or RAS) processes what you're actively focusing on at the moment. Writing triggers the RAS and lets your brain know it's time to pay attention.

6. Act Like You're Teaching

Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain

You can utilize the skills you already have more effectively by acting like you're teaching. Rather than just recalling the steps needing to complete the task at hand, pretend as though you're teaching yourself how to do it. This will help you recall the necessary information better and avoid making stupid mistakes.
Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain Photo by Renato Ganoza

5. Tell Yourself Stories

Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain

Storytelling cane be a good way to exercise your brain. First of all, it makes things easier to remember because it puts what you want to remember in a more compelling framework. It gives you a chance to focus on important details and associate emotion with what you're trying to remember. Even if you're not telling yourself a story to help retain the information, you'll still improve your memory just by telling stories in general. Storytelling has been used as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. If storytelling can help an Alzeheimer's patient improve their memory, chances are it can help you.
Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain Photo by Stacy Z

4. Lumosity

Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain

Lumosity is a webapp that provides specialized brain-training activities. You can use it for free, but premium accounts (which you can try free for five days) have a wider range of training options. All the exercises are pretty simple to understand and are fun to play. All of my initial exercises had to do with memory, likely because I selected better memory as one of my goals when I signed up. That's to say that Lumosity's exercises may vary for you based on the information you provide. When you're done, you get a rating and your goal is simply to improve with each day you practice.

3. Meditate

Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain

Nothing kills your ability to use your brain effectively, as well as your brain's overall health, like too much stress. What's a great way to reduce your stress levels? Meditation—and you don't need to do it with incense and yoga pants. Check out our guide on meditation for the rest of us for some simple ways to get started.
Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain Photo by Cornelia Kopp

2. Learn About Your Brain's Faults and Account for Them

Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain

In a previous top ten we've taken a look at ways your brain is sabotaging you and how to beat it. We've also looked at how to avoid burnout from addictive technology, how you can become a lot smarter by realizing you're not that great, how to use your natural inclination towards quitting to your advantage, how imagining eating more can lead to eating less, why it's okay that you and everyone else is an asshole, and many more. Basically, your brain does a lot of things very, very well but sucks at plenty of others. You may not be able to fix the things your brain is bad at in all cases, but at least being aware of your inherent faults can make sure you're taking advantage of your brain's full potential.

1. Exercise and Eat Well

Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain

While probably a little obvious (and something we've previously noted), I'd bet that the number of people who believe this is common knowledge is very close to the number of people who don't follow that common knowledge. If you're not exercising and eating right simply because you don't know how, well, check out this 15-minute daily workout from 1904 and structure your daily diet like a pyramid. If you're worried about spending too much money to eat healthy, there are plenty of great reader suggestions for eating health on the cheap. Anything you do to keep your brain sharp can be easily thwarted if you don't keep your body healthy. A little physical activity and a smart diet will make it much easier for you to your brain in top shape.
Top 10 Tips and Tricks to Train, Exercise, and Better Your Brain Photo by Lululemon Athletica
You have only one brain this time around. Make good use of it.