Welcome to the New World of "Beyond Petroleum"

This should be interesting to watch play out:

The shakeup over shale gas — a newly available fuel that has overturned assumptions about energy, climate-change and geopolitics — has now stretched across the Atlantic to England. A drilling company backed by John Browne, the former CEO of BP, says it has discovered the gas equivalent of up to 35 billion barrels of oil. In oil, a find of 1 billion barrels is regarded as a supergiant.

That really was a good speech by Browne in 1997, though, and a catchy slogan, too.



6 Responses to “Welcome to the New World of "Beyond Petroleum"”

  1. Jarmo says:

    Link does not seem to work, here’s the text:

    Coal in the UK – 2010
    The UK consumed 51.5 million tonnes of coal in 2010, including 41.9 million tonnes in power stations.
    Coal imports to the UK were 26.5 million tonnes, a large decrease (-30.5%) on the previous year’s amount. Indigenous production increased by 1.6% to 18.2 million tonnes. (Over the year, 7.2 million tonnes was lifted from stock.)
    Almost 30% of the UK’s electricity was produced from coal (gas 46%, coal 29%, nuclear 16%, others (including renewables) 9%).
    (Source – DECC statistics)

  2. Keith Kloor says:


    Yes, perhaps And here’s the link.

    Now what will be most interesting about this development is how it will be taken. Those who belong to the natural-gas-is-the-bridge fuel school of thought will likely welcome it, especially if coal can truly be eliminated. But there is another school that think shale gas just delays the necessary transformation to zero-carbon fuels. (Plus, there are renewed debates over whether gas is all that much of a difference, in terms of the net effect on climate.

    So all in all, as the gas fever continues to go global, these debates will ratchet up even more. 

  3. jeffn says:

    Well, it depends on what the “zero-carbon fuel” will be and whether anybody truly believes AGW is an urgent problem. We’re a long way from renewables, greens will continue to delay/kill nuclear, and CCS doesn’t exist, so if the need to reduce GHGs is “urgent,” you need a bridge.
    Another thing these discoveries mean is that the “energy independence” and “energy jobs” issues just went out the window. Here is energy independence, a tax windfall and job growth in a highly profitable domestic industry. The climate concerned are now left arguing that the UK should instead ship millions in subsidies to foreign providers of largely useless windmills because….?

  4. Alexander Harvey says:

    I wouldn’t anticipate that the UK government will rush to unpick its climate change legislation. Too much depends on it. It is their only framework for financing vital infrastructure investment and unpicking it would be a PR nightmare. That said I believe that it does have provisiosns that would allow or encourage a natural gas bridge solution for some decades.
    If and until significant gas production can be confirmed it would seem politic to say little. The last thing needed would be to discourage investment in alternatives by indicating a switch to gas, only to find that the gas is not going to come onstream in meaningful amounts.
    I suspect that some or much of the UK legislation was due to delaying infrastructure descisions in hope of an international accord and simply running out of time plus an inability to finance it without major external investment sources. Investment that will eventually cost very dear at the point of consumption when the time comes. Yes that does mean that things will get worse. This is essentially a bet on future fuel prices, the bet being that they will skyrocket and worse will become releative to the much worse of staying with fossil fuels.
    This might still be a bet worth pursuing on the basis that gas supply lines flow both ways and if fossil did become the most costly then it could be exported.
    Without fresh domestic supplies of fossil fuels alternative energy whatever the cost might be all the nation could afford or obtain. With fresh supplies it is likely they would be burned domestically or exported I really cannot see them being left in the ground.
    Plentiful gas would be a bridge not just to low CO2 but to paying for low CO2 something that given the realisation that the money has gone is a bit of an issue worldwide.
    There are times when a government can see fit to stand firm and then gently give way to a groundswell of opinion. I would suggest that would be their better option to play gas extraction down but not quite rule it out.
    Building more gas fueled generation capacity is already in the UK plan, it has the nimbleness to balance the supply due to erractic sources. The intention exists to limit it to that role but the infrastructure once built is capable of doing much more.
    In the round it might not make much difference to the amount of CO2 emitted between now and 2050. It could go either way, it could however make the process more robust against civil unrest largely through making it a lot less painful. All this can be done and perhaps whilst remaining inside the current UK climate change legislative framework.

  5. Jarmo says:

    #3 KK

     “shale gas just delays the necessary transformation to zero-carbon fuels”

    In the case of Britain, David MacKay’s book studied renewables and came to the conclusion that in practice,  there is not enough renewables available in Britain to power Britain. Not with the technologies we have available today.

    Some people argue that there will be technological breakthroughs in renewables (like this rather inane Google study: http://www.google.org/energyinnovation/The_Impact_of_Clean_Energy_Innovation.pdf    
    “The analysis assumes aggressive hypothetical cost breakthroughs (BT) in clean power generation, grid storage, electric vehicle, and natural gas technologies”

    The assumptions made are rather generous (offshore wind energy cost down by 60 % in 2020, nuclear energy cost down by 40% in 2020 etc.).

    I think the numbers for Britain are clear. Building the wind turbines, nuclear power plants and the new grid to enable intermittent energy sources will take a long time. In the meanwhile, coal or gas?


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