THAI proclaimed a success

A couple of bits of rather interesting news on the energy front lately.

Algeria is building out a solar energy plant in the Sahara that will be able to supply power to 4,000,000 homes. The method will be parabolic trough mirrors concentrating the energy on a fluid holding tube. This is very conventional and will be combined with a natural gas plant, obviously to even out the energy flow. The field will cover 45 football fields.

The output will also be tied into the European grid. There is plenty of room for expansion and the project is big enough to induce a drive for maximum efficiency.

Much more interesting on the oil front, is that the operators of the THAI pilot test in the Oilsands of Alberta have proclaimed it a success. It has been operating for a year now and many problems have been worked out. The method consists of running a horizontal production well along the bottom of the formation for perhaps a thousand meters and then drilling an air injection well vertically to the toe area or end of pipe. Air is injected under pressure until ignition is achieved. This creates a char front that releases the remaining oil into the production well. I have been watching this with interest for two years.

Its success opens the door for the exploitation of all the deeper oil sands without the need to burn natural gas to produce hot water or steam. And a production rate of 1000 barrels per day suggests that we can go quite deep.

Up to now, published reserves have been limited to oil available to mining and shallow SAGD prospects. We can expect the SAGD prospects to be converted to THAI prospects and a major increase in suddenly economic deeper reserves to be added.

Canada may turn out to have (a fair guess only) a trillion barrels of recoverable oil because of this technique. It will still take decades to roll out. Also there are a lot of abandoned heavy oil discoveries around the globe that can now be revisited with this technique.

We know that oil supply is getting visibly very tight and that we cannot alleviate it any longer by simply pumping faster. This means however, that at least North America can engineer a soft landing. The bad news is that most of those other global resources are in decline or at least on the edge of decline. If you want to scare yourself to death, look at the decline of North American production after the peak in 1972.

Investing full out we might be able to stand still in the current regime. Yes folks, we need to lick the algae problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment