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The U.S. Energy-Independence Fantasty, Part II: Supply

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In Part I, readers were confronted with some of the mythology surrounding the made-for-propaganda fantasy of “U.S. energy independence.” It primarily dealt with the demand-side of the energy consumption equation.

The basic dynamic of our oil-dependent economies was presented: for industrialized economies to grow there must be growth in oil consumption. What this means is that the steadily shrinking U.S. demand which has allowed the U.S. to somewhat narrow its gigantic oil-deficit has come at the cost of the U.S. economy continuing to shrink – irrespective of what is claimed in absurd, official statistics.

Presumably no rational American is interested in achieving “energy independence” at the cost of the continued disintegration of the U.S. economy, and what that implies: even more-massive unemployment, and even further deterioration in what is already a 50%+ collapse in the U.S. standard of living.

This brings us to the colossal oil-deficit itself. The propaganda machine regularly trumpets the news that U.S. oil production has now “risen all the way” to an estimated 7 million barrels a day (after ending 2012 at 6.5 mbpd). Yes, “risen” all the way to the same level of production as what the U.S. produced 20 years ago.

Does this mean the U.S. oil-deficit is ‘only’ as bad as it was 20 years ago? Of course not. Twenty years ago, U.S. oil imports had just climbed higher than U.S. oil production for the first time in history (i.e. it produced about half as much oil as it used).

Today, even after the collapse in U.S. oil demand it remains well above 18 million barrels per day (as of the end of 2012). This puts the U.S. oil-deficit at well above 11 mbpd – an oil-deficit more than 50% larger than 20 years ago. So in some perverse “Back To The Future” moment; the propaganda machine is urging Americans to celebrate the fact that the U.S. oil-deficit is more than 50% worse than it was a generation ago.

Actually, things are much worse than that. Twenty years ago, Big Oil still produced oil relatively efficiently; meaning that in producing a barrel of oil it only consumed a small fraction of that barrel in the process (as explained via the research/presentation of energy expert, Chris Martenson). Today, in producing its oil from “non-conventional” sources (like shale oil); Big Oil consumes more than half of every barrel of oil it produces.

As noted in Part I; this represents a 98% plunge in efficiency from when we first began producing oil at a large scale (and supplies were abundant). While Big Oil engages in environmental destruction/devastation on an ever more-appalling scale; its net harvest of oil from this raping-and-pillaging has collapsed. Let’s crunch the numbers.

With an oil-deficit which still exceeds 11 mbpd; the U.S. oil-deficit is larger than the total consumption of the world’s second largest economy: China. Given that the shale-oil industry consumes more than half of all the oil it produces; what would it take to close the 11+ mbpd deficit (keeping demand constant)?

U.S. oil production would need to increase by approximately 23 mpbd; or in other words it would have to more than quadruple from present production levels, all the way up to 30 million barrels per day. Let’s put this into context.

Currently Saudi Arabia is the world’s leading oil-producer at roughly 9.3 mbpd. Thus to achieve “energy independence” the U.S. wouldn’t simply have to equal the output of Saudi Arabia; it would have to more than triple it.

However, the energy-independence Zealots never let anything like “facts” get in the way of their claims. Indeed, they now simply make-up numbers. Witness the brand-new claim that U.S. oil production has now “topped” its total imports.

 

It’s producing 7 mbpd. It’s importing over 11 mbpd (as of the end of 2012). But now, supposedly, the first number is larger than the second?

The dramatic shift in where the world’s biggest oil consumer gets its crude came 10 months earlier than had been projected by the Energy Information Administration, as domestic output hit a 21-year high of 7.177 million barrels per day on increased flows from shale-oil fields.

At the same time, U.S. crude-oil imports dropped 15.1% from February 2012, to 7.27 million barrels a day, the lowest level since March 1996.

This is nothing less than extraordinary. Almost certainly this is nothing more than a one-month blip in the flow of oil imports. To imply that U.S. demand for the entire year will remain 15% lower than one year ago implies a level of economic collapse never witnessed in our modern, industrialized economies.

One has to suspect, however, that the EIA is being duplicitous in its reporting of U.S. oil imports. What evidence do I have to support this allegation. To start with, we still have the EIA claiming that 7.177 (production) is a larger number than 7.27 (imports). Any government entity which will openly/knowingly make perverse statements of “fact” certainly cannot be trusted with respect to its presentation of any data.

U.S. oil demand ended 2012 at 18.56 mbpd (according to the EIA itself). Yet now we’re told that demand has collapsed down to approximately 14.4 mbpd (production + imports)? This drop of more than 4 mbpd represents a plunge in demand of well over 20% in less than six months. To put this into context, this would represent a much, much steeper rate of decline in oil demand than what occurred in Greece at the worst of its economic collapse following the Crash of ’08.

Certainly Americans must hope that the most-recent U.S. “oil consumption” numbers are just more, deceptive propaganda…or else prepare for their own riots in the streets.

So let’s assume (for the moment) that U.S. oil production must rise to triple the output of Saudi Arabia for the energy-independence fantasy to become reality. Since the Zealots are quite content to make-up numbers; undoubtedly one (or more) of them will claim that there is enough (shale) oil to achieve such a fantasy.

But there certainly isn’t enough water.

Big Oil likes to toss out the number that shale-oil producers ‘only’ (already) consume roughly 1% of the total water supply of Texas  – the #1 shale-oil producer. This may not seem like a lot to many people, until one understands that the U.S. has zero excess water-supply over the long term. Indeed, the water-crisis lying directly ahead of the U.S. will likely soon be more severe than its oil-shortage problems.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) just released a new report on the accelerating collapse of the U.S. water-table – i.e. its underground aquifers. What separates desert from fertile, habitable land? Nothing but adequate underground aquifers. Without the ability to extract water regularly/continuously from the water table; the only land which will remain green is that which is closely adjacent to open sources of fresh water.

Yes, water can be piped/shipped, which itself consumes considerable energy. However, U.S. States are already fighting all-out “turf wars” over who has the rights/ownership of various segments of this fresh-water supply; and none of them will react in a cooperative manner to any attempt to pipe-out vast quantities of that supply to fend-off emerging U.S. desert.

Note that the “collapse” reported by the USGS conveniently only supplies data up to the end of 2008, before the shale-oil industry had ramped-up its own water-gluttony. Understand that while the insatiably thirsty shale-oil industry ‘only’ consumes roughly 1% of the water-supply that locally, where it’s drilling it frequently accounts for as much as 20% to 30% of consumption.

Defenders of shale-oil production will point out that “water-less” technology is now being developed. What Big Oil is refusing to divulge is how much more energy (i.e. oil) this form of shale-oil production will require. In other words, while it may be possible to extract this oil without turning the U.S. into the new Sahara; the price is likely a further substantial decline in the vanishing Energy Surplus.

How many millions of barrels of oil will the U.S. oil industry have to produce to achieve “energy independence” without massive quantities of water? Forty million barrels per day? Fifty million barrels per day? At what point are even the energy-independence Zealots forced to acknowledge that “seeking a cure” (energy-independence) is far worse than the disease – the U.S. oil-import addiction?

As of the end of 2008; the U.S. was facing a dramatic water-crisis in its near future. If the shale-oil water-guzzlers aren’t prevented from severely accelerating U.S. water-depletion; then the United States will literally be “the next Saudi Arabia”. And just like in Saudi Arabia; the only ones to benefit from this “oil boom” will be the oil-sheikhs – i.e. Big Oil itself.

U.S. energy-independence is only a “dream” for the oil industry itself. For anyone wanting to live in the United States, it is nothing less than an ultimate nightmare: representing a mixture of economic collapse, environmental destruction, and the literal desertification of the United States itself.

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Jeff Nielson
...
written by Jeff Nielson, May 27, 2013
I understand your comments in this article except for the water usage. Granted in the past shale oil projects, where shale was mined and the oil extracted in a process plant, water was a huge required resource. Currently, shale oil is produced from the formation in-situ and pumped to the surface. Shale has high porosity, void space between grains of rock, to store oil, but permeability, ability for flow within the rock is very low. Low permeability is why convention oil field practices were not yielding economic production rates from shale formations. The “new” technology, horizontal drilling in combination with hydraulic fracturing, essentially add surface area for flow into the wellbore increasing flow rate to economic levels. New is in quotes because hydraulic fracturing was patented by Stanolind Oil and Gas in the late forties, thus it is hardly new. Once shale oil enters the pump in the wellbore, production operations from that point are the same as conventional production. Drilling the lateral and hydraulically fracturing additional wellbore length in the pay zone do require incremental water, but all water consumption is during well construction whereas mined shale required water for every barrel extracted from the rock over the project life. I know much less about the oil sand of Canada, but it is my understanding that water plays a large role in its production over project life.

To my way of thinking, addressing water consumption with respect to energy production needs to be pointed at corn based ethanol. How much water is consumed irrigating crops to produce a gallon of ethanol which has less energy content per gallon than gasoline. How does water consumption for ethanol compare to current shale oil production on an energy equivalent bases? The US government is mandating higher mileage standards which seems to be favorably received by the public, but left unstated is the fuel they mandate has less energy density, depressing miles per gallon. Lower energy density fuels also means a tax increase as more fuel needs to be purchased for the same energy but the tax per gallon is not compensated commensurately. The unintended consequences of this is more pressure on the aquifers for irrigation water and higher food prices. If the government fully stated the issues, would the public be receiving the policy changes favorably? We can speculate, but we really cannot know the answer to that question.



Sandybeachdave, you've given me a lot to bite-off on one comment (lol), but let me try to be succinct.

First, I acknowledge that in no way am I an "oil expert"; so I'm not going to offer analysis/conclusions on how shale-oil SHOULD be produced. What I can report is that where it IS being produced in the U.S. (such as Texas) that water-usage is a BIG issue.

Yes (as I noted myself) water-less technology DOES exist, but I couldn't find any evidence of widespread usage of such technologies in the U.S. My SUSPICION is that it's much cheaper to use water AND reduces total oil CONSUMPTION than via water-less methods.

In short (at the moment at least); the U.S. shale-oil industry appears to have an even more extravagant attitude toward water-usage to produce its oil than its (vast) oil-usage.

Conversely, I'm in 100% agreement with you on every aspect of insanity with respect to U.S. ethanol production. Subsidizing ethanol production (heavily) in order to strongly ENCOURAGE the production of the world's least-efficient bio fuel? Insanity.

I hadn't previously considered all the (precious) WATER being wasted in this process; but you've certainly provided one more reason for people (inside and outside the U.S.) to despise U.S. ethanol production. smilies/wink.gif
Sandybeachdave
...
written by Sandybeachdave, May 27, 2013
I understand your comments in this article except for the water usage. Granted in the past shale oil projects, where shale was mined and the oil extracted in a process plant, water was a huge required resource. Currently, shale oil is produced from the formation in-situ and pumped to the surface. Shale has high porosity, void space between grains of rock, to store oil, but permeability, ability for flow within the rock is very low. Low permeability is why convention oil field practices were not yielding economic production rates from shale formations. The “new” technology, horizontal drilling in combination with hydraulic fracturing, essentially add surface area for flow into the wellbore increasing flow rate to economic levels. New is in quotes because hydraulic fracturing was patented by Stanolind Oil and Gas in the late forties, thus it is hardly new. Once shale oil enters the pump in the wellbore, production operations from that point are the same as conventional production. Drilling the lateral and hydraulically fracturing additional wellbore length in the pay zone do require incremental water, but all water consumption is during well construction whereas mined shale required water for every barrel extracted from the rock over the project life. I know much less about the oil sand of Canada, but it is my understanding that water plays a large role in its production over project life.

To my way of thinking, addressing water consumption with respect to energy production needs to be pointed at corn based ethanol. How much water is consumed irrigating crops to produce a gallon of ethanol which has less energy content per gallon than gasoline. How does water consumption for ethanol compare to current shale oil production on an energy equivalent bases? The US government is mandating higher mileage standards which seems to be favorably received by the public, but left unstated is the fuel they mandate has less energy density, depressing miles per gallon. Lower energy density fuels also means a tax increase as more fuel needs to be purchased for the same energy but the tax per gallon is not compensated commensurately. The unintended consequences of this is more pressure on the aquifers for irrigation water and higher food prices. If the government fully stated the issues, would the public be receiving the policy changes favorably? We can speculate, but we really cannot know the answer to that question.
Jeff Nielson
...
written by Jeff Nielson, May 23, 2013
Jeff: those of us who follow you regularly already are aware of the disinformation and outright propaganda emanating from USG orifices (usually the rear one) especially with regards to economic "feel good" numbers. The real key to your post are the comments on water, which will be the next great factor in enslavement and global genocide. I find it interesting that the BUSH family has invested heavily in millions of acres in South America that contain one of the world's largest fresh water aquifers.



I'm not sure how comfortable I am with this little "mind-reading" routine you've got going here, Apberusdisvet... smilies/cheesy.gif smilies/cheesy.gif

Yes, the moment you dismiss the oil hyperbole, what leaps out at you is the pending water-crisis facing the U.S. I can tell you that ESPECIALLY as a Canadian (in a land of relatively abundant water) that I get nervous every time I think about this issue (lol).

That anxiety is only multiplied as long as Traitor Harper is at the helm. In fact, my next commentary was already slated to be on Canada's OIL-giveaway to the U.S...
apberusdisvet
...
written by apberusdisvet, May 23, 2013
Jeff: those of us who follow you regularly already are aware of the disinformation and outright propaganda emanating from USG orifices (usually the rear one) especially with regards to economic "feel good" numbers. The real key to your post are the comments on water, which will be the next great factor in enslavement and global genocide. I find it interesting that the BUSH family has invested heavily in millions of acres in South America that contain one of the world's largest fresh water aquifers.

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