Snowstorm is Hitting East Coast of America

This winter was predicted as the coldest winter ever because of global warming1~3. Snowstorms have hit Europe4, and Asia5, even the Oceania which is on another hot hemisphere6. Now the snowstorm is approaching to east coast of America7. Weather “pros” announced a blizzard warning for New York City from early Sunday morning till 6PM on Monday, with a forecast of 11 to 16 inches of snow and strong winds that will make visibility to near zero at times8. Government prepared salt for this snowstorm, and transportation administrative shut off the railway and cancelled hundreds of flights already8.

Fig. 1 Snow Began Hitting on the Grass

Fig. 2 Snow at 11AM on Dec. 26, 2010

Fig. 3 Snow at 6PM on Dec. 26, 2010

Fig. 4 Blizzard Around My Apt At 6PM on Dec. 26, 2010

Fig. 5 Footprint of Mine on Accumulated Snow at 6PM on Dec. 26, 2010

Fig. 6 Accumulated Snow at 10PM on Dec. 27th, 2010

Fig. 7 Channel through Snow Pile that Near the Window

Initially weather.com showed the snow would begin at 6AM, actually I checked the outside at 11:15 (15 minutes after the corrected time) and found there was snow on the ground9. I took several pictures of the snow for memory. I guess that is the first time for me to witness the very beginning of a snow. I still remember the white Christmas on the Junior High School English textbook. Three years ago, I went to see my cousin in Boston. To be honest, I love New England so much. As you know, the trees, the lake, and the snow, since I had to help my cousin to dig a driveway for my brother-in-law. Last night I sent a message to my cousin to express that I miss them very much, also the time that her daughters and I played with snow.

Fig. 8 Local Weather Report on 2010 December 26(www.weather.com)

References:

1. THE COLDEST WINTER FOR 100 YEARS – SO WHERE ARE THE GRITTERS.

2. Another Record Breaking Winter, What Happened to Global Warming?

3. It’s official, coldest winter in 130 years in Ireland.

4. Europe Is Off To A Flying Start.

5. La Niña, Strong St. Baby Girl (in Chinese, “拉尼娜”:“强壮的圣女婴”).

6. Australia Summer Marked By Snow, Heavy Flooding (VIDEO).

7. Snow storm bears down on Mid-Atlantic, Northeast.

8. Blizzard Warning for New York as Storm Heads Up East Coast.

9. Blizzard Warning for Richmond (staten Is.), NY.

Shale Gas

When we talk about shale gas, we need to know what is shale gas. Simply speaking, shale gas refers to the natural gas produced from shale, sedimentary rocks of laminated structure formed by the deposition of successive layers of clay1, 2. The shale looks like the pages of a book, very thin (formed by compaction) and brittle (due to its composition of clay). Also the porosity and permeability of shale rocks are very low, which make it difficult and uneconomical to produce natural gas locked in tight, impermeable shale1. Thus, shale gas is regarded as unconventional gas resources which also include tight gas, coal-bed methane, and gas hydrates3. With the advancement of horizontal well drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies, production of shale gas became technically and economically possible, even a hot topic in oil and gas industry, especially in United States4. Mr. Fred Julander, the president of Julander Energy, said that shale gas was the most important energy development since the discovery of oil5. Major gas shale basins exist throughout the lower-48 United States. There are at least 21 shale basins in more than 20 states6.

Fig. 1 Major US Shale Basins7

The Barnett Shale play is reportedly the most active natural gas play in the United States with as many as 182 drilling rigs at work in 20086, 8. According to the Railroad Commission of Texas’s statistic data, as of September 22, 2010, there are total of gas wells 14401 entered on RRC recrods since the discovery of Newark, East (Barnett Shale) Field on October 15, 19819. For January through July 2010, gas well gas production accumulated for 1025 Bcf, which accounts for 27% of Texas production9. Total natural gas production in North Texas’ Barnett Shale has passed a milestone level of 8 TCF10. Until January 1, 2009, as the biggest Barnett Shale producer, XTO Energy Inc.’s Well TRWD #H 2H in Tarrant County has produced 4.4 Bcf gas in 43 months11. While EOG Resources, Inc.’s Well Fowler $4H in Johnson County had a record of 8.6 MMCFGPD peak month as the biggest Barnett Shale well based on peak month daily average11. There are a total of 234 operators in the Newark, East (Barnett Shale) Field now9. In 2002, Devon Energy Production Co., L.P. Purchased Mitchell Energy & Development for $3.5 billion in cash and stock from Mr. George Mitchell, the father of the Barnett Shale, and has established itself as the leading producer from the Barnett Shale9, 12. Not only the advancement of technologies, but also the increased price and gas demand drove the development of shale gas. In another hand, the development of shale gas lower the price of natural gas13.

Now water issue has become the biggest problem despite of the economic downturn and resulting lower natural gas prices14. Hydraulic fracturing needs tremendous water to crack the formation thousands of feet under the ground, especially in the water lack area, such as Texas. For a typical horizontal well frac, it needs more than 3 million gallons water14. The potential pollution from the chemicals in the hydraulic fracturing fluids may halt the application of this technology15.

Fig. 2. Horizontal Well Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing16

References:

1. US Shale Gas Brief.

2. Shale.

3. International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2010, Chapter 5 , Natural gas market outlook, Page 187.

4. Shale Gas.

5. Kuuskraa, V.A., et al., Worldwide Gas Shales and Unconventional Gas: A Status Report.

6. Andrews, A., et al., Unconventional Gas Shales, Development, Technology, and Policy Issues.

7. What You Need To Know About Shale Gas Investing and the Pros and Cons of Fracking.

8. RigData Rig Stats.

9. Newark, East (Barnett Shale) Statistics Updated: 09/23/10.

10. Barnett Shale natural gas field passes a milestone.

11. Powell, Jr., M.E., Recent Developments in the Barnett Shale.

12. The Father of Shale Gas.

13. As Oil Explodes, Why Natural Gas Prices Stay Low.

14. Texas Energy Sector & Barnett Shale Update.

15. Barnett Shale.

16. The Marcellus Shale: New York is the Natural Gas Industry’s New Lab Rat.

Traffic Jams, Automobiles, Oil and Gas, and Alternative Energy

Recently, the traffic jams in Beijing trouble the capital of People’s Republic of China, with intensity1. I had the experience of traffic jams in Beijing. Under such kind of dituations, the highways seemed to be a huge parking lot. Now people, including me, call Beijing as Top Jams (pronounced as shou 3 du 3 in Chinese) instead of capital (pronounced as shou 3 du 1). The traffic jams happened intenser and more frequently due to the increasing private cars, especially in the severe weather and holiday seasons2, 3. The monster traffic jam in mid-August make the capital seem to be a huge parking lot4, 5. Shai Oster stated that Beijing considers car limits to fight for the traffic jams in his blog6, actually the policy has been implemented for years. Starting in 2008, Beijing authorities started to limit the cars on road through having the drivers leave theirs at home once a week based on the last digit of the license plate6.. The problem is that some of the owner could buy the second car to avoid the limitation. That is not the only tradition Chinese have. Above I mentioned that the holiday seasons made the traffic jams worse. Each year, Chunyun (transportation in Spring Festivals) could move more than 2 billion people times7. This year, Beijing fell into its most severe traffic jam around mid-Autumn festival season3. According to Beijing Municipal Traffic Committee, the Beijing municipal government would invest 80 billion RMB in 2009 on transportation infrastructure construction to solve the traffic problems8. Obviously the construction has not solved the problem, yet. Actually, in my opinion, simply increasing the investment in transportation construction will never work, especially with the current urban planning and increasing cars.

The increases of private cars also push up the oil price. According to International Energy Agency outlook, the oil peak will not reach until 2035, and drives the oil price over $200 per barrel by 2035, equivalent to $113 in 2009 real dollars9. The demand by China is projected to account for 39% of rising energy demand and 57% of rising oil demand9. Kevin Clarke said that China does not have to take any lessons from America on consumption because the planet could not support the 1.3 billion people have the same standard living level as current Americans have10.The attitude is so negative that I could not agree with at all. We could not wait the day after tomorrow coming without any efforts. The alternative energy resources could solve the problem? I am highly doubting it. In fact I have some advices on how to deal with such a situation.

  1. Developing the public transportation with alternative energy resources.
  2. Limiting the private cars, especially with fossil fuel.
  3. Increasing the consumption tax on oil and gas.
  4. Lowering the gap between conventional and alternative energy prices.
  5. Improving the technology and energy efficiency
  6. Reducing the energy consumption.

References:

  1. Beijing traffic jams only growing.
  2. Beijing roads choked by 140 traffic jams in a day.
  3. Traffic Jams In Beijing Reach New Records Of Congestion.
  4. Beijing: World’s Biggest Parking Lot.
  5. China Traffic Jam Could Last Weeks.
  6. Beijing, Fighting Traffic, Considers Car Limits.
  7. Chunyun.
  8. Beiijng strives to solve traffic problems.
  9. International Energy Agency says ‘peak oil’ has hit. Crisis averted?
  10. Take the next exit: Avoid an economic traffic jam.

Applied Microbiology and Molecular Biology in Oilfield Systems

The first and second International Symposium on Applied Microbiology and Molecular Biology in Oil Systems were held in Colchester, United Kingdom from September 17-18, 2007 and Aarhus, Denmark from June 17-19, 2009, respectively. The next symposium will be held in Calgary, Alberta from June 13-15, 2011.

The first symposium was co-organized by University of Exxex and Danish Technological Institute, and the details about it could be found at International Symposium on Applied Molecular Microbiology in Oil Systems (ISMOS), especially the slides presented at the conference.

The second symposium was mainly held by the Danish Technological Institute, and the details could be found at its website, since it is temporarily not available now. Once I can access it, I will update the information here as soon as possible. Fortunately, the proceedings of the symposium has been published as Applied Microbiology and Molecular Biology in Oilfield Systems. The book was divided into five parts: 1 Introduction, Sampling and Procedures; 2 Application of Molecular Microbiological Methodsto the Oil Industry; 3 Problems Caused by Microbes to the Oil Industryand Treatment Strategies; 4 How Specific Microbial Communities Benefit the Oil Industry; 5 Fuel for the Future. The author started the book from the most probable number(MPN) technique, which is the traditional and fundamental method to count the number of microbes in media. In the second part several papers introduced the application of molecular microbiological methods to the oil industry, such as qualitative (which microbial communities are presented) and quantitative (how many microorganisms are present)analysis of microbes in the oil reservoirs. The problems (bio-corrosions and bio-fouling) caused by microbes and treatment technologies were presented in the third part. The benefits of microbes to the oil industry (upgrading the oil in processing and MEOR in E&P) were described in the following part. Finally, the applications of microbes in biofuels also were mentioned. A brief description of each method used by some of the contributing authors in this book was also attached.

The information for the next symposium could be reached at its official website. I am glad to see more progress of applied microbiology and molecular biology in oilfield.

Scientists Found Oil on the Gulf of Mexico Floor

Two months ago, I discussed two inconsistent articles about the destiny of oil plume from Well Macondo 242 in the Gulf of Mexico which were published on Science Express. In the post, I listed the ideas of the parties and did not support anyone of them. The White House claimed that the oil had gone by several oil-spill clean technologies, including the breakdown of the bacteria. Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of Oklahoma confirmed that later. Shortly before the confirmation, the results of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution failed the claim. I suspected the claim because of the quick degradation rate by the bacteria in such an environment without enough oxygen.

The latest news make people tend to believe that the oil is still in the ocean. Yesterday, it is reported that scientists found a large amount of oil accumulated at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The research ship Cape Hatteras found the oil in samples dug up from the seafloor in a 140-mile around the Deepwater Horizon well site1,2. It is highly possible that the oil came out from the Well Macondo 242.  While, oil spill environmental forensic tests are needed to fingerprint the oil, identify its source, and verify the hypothesis1~3.

References:

1. Research teams find oil on bottom of Gulf.

2. Scientists find lots of oil on gulf floor.

3. Oil Spill Environmental Forensics: Fingerprinting and Source Identification.

Modern Chemical Enhanced Oil Recovery, Theory and Practice

Yesterday, before I wrote the previous blog, I occasionally found a new book, Modern Chemical Enhanced Oil Recovery, Theory and Practice by James J. Sheng. That is the latest book about enhanced oil recovery I have ever known. I am not familiar with the author. I cannot find an introduction to him within the book. Thus, I searched his publications within OnePetro.org, which collects all the papers published on Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) journals or presented at SPE conferences. The system returned to 10 results, including 3 journal publications and 7 conference papers. To my lucky, I found a brief introduction to his education background and working experience. After having received his B.S. from University of Petroleum, China, Dr. Sheng pursued his M.S. and PhD. degree in petroleum engineering at University of Alberta. All the papers but one he published was his work with Baker Hughes, an oil service company headquartered at Houston, TX, where he worked as a research scientist. Now he is working with Total as a senior research engineer at Houston, TX. He published the last paper SPE 102659 on SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering in Jun., 2008. Within the acknowledgement of the new book, he expressed his thanks to professors from University of Texas at Austin and personnels from Total mainly. It is possible that Dr. Sheng has joint projects with the UT. I do not have a chance to study the book, yet; since I believe a two years’ efforts with more than 15 years experience in this area could turn out a practical manual with theoretical explanations to chemical EOR technologies for petroleum professionals, especially for those who are working in enhanced oil recovery. One more thing, I am glad to see that he did not put microbial enhanced oil recovery in this book. Maybe he has the similar idea as me that MEOR is independent, instead of one of the chemical EOR technologies. The table of context of this book is listed below:

Chapter 1 Introduction;

Chapter 2 Transport of Chemicals and Fractional Flow Analysis;

Chapter 3 Salinity Effect and Ion Exchange;

Chapter 4 Mobility Control Requirement in EOR Processes;

Chapter 5 Polymer Flooding;

Chapter 6 Polymer Viscoelastic Behavior and Its Effect on Field Facilities and Operations;

Chapter 7 Surfactant Flooding;

Chapter 8 Optimum Phase Type and Optimum Salinity Profile in Surfactant Flooding;

Chapter 9 Surfactant-Polymer Flooding;

Chapter 10 Alkaline Flooding;

Chapter 11 Alkaline-Polymer Flooding;

Chapter 12 Alkaline-Surfactant Flooding;

Chapter 13 Alkaline-Surfactant-Polymer Flooding.

Genetically Modified Food

Last week, I read an article “Would You Eat Genetically Altered Meat? ” by Allie Townsend via Time NewsFeed. In this article, the author discussed that a genetically modified salmon, AquAdvantage Salmon, was going to approved as a safe food product by the Food and Drug Administration, which would be the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption. This kind of salmon is based on an Atlantic salmon with a gene from the ocean pout that prevents freezing and a growth gene from the Chinook salmon. In fact, The New York Times has reported this news as “Genetically Altered Salmon Get Closer to the Table” on June 25th this year. Ms. Allie wrote the article for Time NewsFeed after reading the report “FDA Considers Approving Genetically Modified Salmon for Human Consumption” on Washington Post. Maybe because the approval is approaching, the report on Washington Post arouse much more attention recently. Also, the continuous arguments on genetically modified food (GMF) have been prompted again. The scientists who developed the salmon are trying to prove the fish is safe by eating them for years. From now on, not only the scientists working for AquaBounty, the Massachusetts-based biological company, also the FDA claim the salmon is safe. As described in Emily Sohn’s “Is Genetically Modified Salmon Safe?” on DiscoveryNews, several major scientific panels have found no sign that the salmon would harm human health in any way. While independent scientists, consumer groups and environmental organizations are concerning about both the pending decision and the process that the FDA uses to determine whether this kind of salmon is safe for human health and the environment. Rick Moonen expressed his opposite opinions on the bio-engineered salmon via “Say No to Genetically Engineered Salmon” on CNN.

In this regard, I have mixed feelings. Obviously GMF has several advantages, such as possible higher yield, quicker growth, more resistance to virus, more economical, bigger business, etc. But the potential risks to human health and the environment are concerned by myself. A couple of days ago, I discussed this issue with several friends, one of which is biologist. She is now working for a company, which is developing the virus-resistant crop by genetically engineering method. She told me that there is big difference on the GMF policy between US and EU. EU requires that the developer need to prove the GMF is completely safe, while US requires that the consumers need to prove the dangerous if a certain of GMF to be banned. Unfortunately, GMF is on the phase between the above two.

In Ms. Allie’s article, she mentioned that no word on if food suppliers, grocery stores or restaurants will be required to label genetically altered animals before they’re sold to customers. While Jenifer Goodwin, the author of “New On the Menu: Genetically Modified Salmon“, said that FDA would considered the issue that whether the genetically modified salmon is required a specific label on the package if on market during the public hearings. I am not sure which one is true, but I believe it is a good way to label the GMF, which could protect consumers’ rights to choose GMF or natural food. In addition, strict supervision is a must because the characteristics, physiology, and behavior, also the tastes of the salmon is no different from normal Atlantic salmon as Ronald L. Stotish, the company’s president and chief executive, told the Washington Post.