Future Energy eNews IntegrityResearchInstitute.org Apr. 6, 2006
1) Sandia Z-Pinch Reaches 2 Billion Degrees - Vindicates www.focusfusion.org's billion degrees
2) The End of Oil - Probably the most comprehensive article on the last drops of the black stuff
3) Beyond Silicon Solar Cells - CIS and CIGS thin films revolutionize solar www.heliovolt.com/
4) GMC Gets a Suspension from the SEC - A motor and coil is not enough for free energy
5) Gravity Modification Gets a Kick Start - Two physics journal articles detail gravity experiment
6) Solar Powered Hydrogen Production - www.shec-labs.com converts landfill gas to hydrogen
Ker Than LiveScience Staff Writer http://www.space.com/php
Scientists have produced superheated gas exceeding temperatures of 2 billion degrees Kelvin, or 3.6 billion degrees Fahrenheit.
The feat was accomplished in the Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories.
"At first, we were disbelieving," said project leader Chris Deeney. "We repeated the experiment many times to make sure we had a true result."
Thermonuclear explosions are estimated to reach only tens to hundreds of millions of degrees Kelvin; other nuclear fusion experiments have achieved temperatures of about 500 million degrees Kelvin, said a spokesperson at the lab.
The Z machine is the largest X-ray generator in the world. Its designed to test materials under extreme temperatures and pressures. It works by releasing 20 million amps of electricity into a vertical array of very fine tungsten wires. The wires dissolve into a cloud of charged particles, a superheated gas called plasma.
This is hotter than the interior of our Sun, which is about 15 million degrees Kelvin, and also hotter than any previous temperature ever achieved on Earth, they say.
They don't know how they did it.
The unexpectedly hot output, if its cause were understood and harnessed, could eventually mean that smaller, less costly nuclear fusion plants would produce the same amount of energy as larger plants.
The phenomena also may explain how astrophysical entities like solar flares maintain their extreme temperatures.
The very high radiation output also creates new experimental environments to solar flares.
The new achievement temperatures of billions of degrees was obtained in part by substituting steel wires in cylindrical arrays 55 mm to 80 mm in diameter for the more typical tungsten wire arrays, approximately only 20 mm in diameter. The higher velocities achieved over these longer distances were part of the reason for the higher temperatures.
(The use of steel allowed for detailed spectroscopic measurements of these temperatures impossible to obtain with tungsten. nd never looks back), resulting in large and possibly catastrophic price increases that could make today's $60-a-barrel oil look like chump change. Unless, of course, we begin to develop substitutes for oil. Or begin to live more abstemiously. Or both. The concept of peak oil has not been widely written about. But people are talking about it now. It deserves a careful look largely because it is almost certainly correct.
I. Peak Oil
In oil-patch lingo, "peak oil" refers to the point at which a given oil reservoir reaches peak production, after which it yields steadily declining amounts, no matter how many new wells are drilled. As Robert L. Hirsch, an expert on energy issues told Congress last December, the life span of individual oil fields is measured in decades. Peak production typically occurs 10 years or so after discovery, or when the reservoir is about half full. An oil field may have large estimated reserves. But a well-managed field that has reached its peak (as most American fields have) has also reached a point of no return, no matter how much new technology is applied. And what's happening in individual fields will be reflected on a global scale, because world production is by definition the sum of its individual parts.
When will oil peak? At least one maverick geologist says it already has. Others say 10 years from now. A few actually say never. The latest official projections from the Energy Information Administration put the peak at 2037, or 2047 depending, of course, on how much of the stuff is out there and how fast we intend to use it up. But even that relatively late date does not give us much time to adjust to a world without cheap, abundant oil.
II. Hubbertians vs. Cornucopians
Let's start with the true pessimists, proudly known as Hubbertians after the legendary Shell Oil Company geophysicist, M. King Hubbert. In the 1950's, Mr. Hubbert collected a wealth of historical data on oil discoveries and production, developed some complex mathematical formulas, and produced a bell-shaped curve showing that the rate at which oil could be extracted from wells in the United States would peak around 1970 and then begin to decline. Though perhaps not the most popular guy at Shell headquarters, he turned out to be right. U.S. oil extraction peaked at about 9 million barrels a day in 1970, and is now below 6 million a day. His basic methodology has been used ever since.
Various economists and geologists have applied the Hubbert technique to the world oil supply. Among the more readable and entertaining of Mr. Hubbert's disciples is another Shell alumnus, Kenneth S. Deffeyes, who is now a professor emeritus at Princeton. Mr. Deffeyes holds that nature's original oil bequest amounted to about two trillion barrels, of which nearly half has already been consumed. Armed with Mr. Hubbert's bell curve, and incorporating all sorts of up-to-date data, Mr. Deffeyes concludes with playful certainty that the apocalypse is not only upon us but has in fact occurred. "I nominate Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 2005, as World Oil Peak Day," he says at the outset of his latest Hubbert-related book, "Beyond Oil: The View From Hubbert's Peak." "There is a reason for selecting Thanksgiving. We can pause and give thanks for the years from 1901 to 2005 when abundant oil and natural gas fueled enormous changes in our society. At the same time, we have to face up to reality: World oil production is going to decline, at first slowly, and then more rapidly."
Other prognosticators Mr. Deffeyes dismisses them as "cornucopians" paint a much cheerier picture. The most authoritative of these is not one person but 40 the number of geologists and physicists the U.S. Geological Survey assigned to carry out the most comprehensive study ever conducted of the oil resources outside the United States. The study was done between 1995 and 2000. When combined with the results of an earlier survey of U.S. resources, it suggested that earth's original oil endowment was 3 trillion barrels, not 2 trillion as supposed by Mr. Hubbert and his followers. It also suggested that the remaining inventory was more than twice Mr. Hubbert's 2. 3 trillion barrels, consisting (in very round figures) of 900 billion in proven reserves, 700 billion in "reserve growth" (additional barrels that can be retrieved through advanced technology) and 700 billion in "undiscovered" reserves, meaning oil the USGS experts think we can find given what we know about geological formations. These figures, admittedly speculative, are undeniably more upbeat than anything the Hubbertians have to offer (Mr. Deffeyes, for instance, puts the "undiscovered reserves" figure at 100 billion barrels, max). And, of course, these rosier official calculations yield a much later oil peak 2037, assuming a steady annual increase of 2 percent in worldwide demand, and maybe later, if another mammoth oilfield kicks in somewhere on earth. No reason yet to abandon the family S.U.V.
Or is there? Think about it: the year 2037 is a mere half-generation away. Despite their differences, neither Mr. Hubbert's disciples nor the optimists showed the least interest in doing a straight-line calculation to figure out when earth will yield its last drop of oil (a calculation easily done, by the way dividing USGS's 2.3 trillion by today's average annual consumption of 30-plus billion gives us about 80 years until the fat lady sings). But that's not the important date. The important date is the point at which demand zips past supply.
In the past several years, the gap between demand and supply, once considerable, has steadily narrowed, and today is almost in balance. Oil at $60 a barrel oil may be one manifestation. Another is the worried looks on the faces of people who fret about national security. In early 2005, for instance, the National Commission on Energy Policy and another group called Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE) convened a bunch of Washington heavyweights at a symposium called, alarmingly, Oil ShockWave, and asked them to imagine what it would take to drive oil prices into the stratosphere and send shockwaves reverberating through America and the rest of the western world.
It wouldn't take much a terrorist attack on Alaska's Port of Valdez would reduce global oil supply by 900,000 barrels a day; unrest in Nigeria, 600,000 barrels; an attack on Saudi Arabia processing facilities at Haradh, 250,000. Throw in an unseasonable cold snap across the Northern Hemisphere, boosting demand by 800,000 barrels, and before long you're staring at a net shortfall of almost 3 million barrels, or about 4 per cent of normal daily supply. This, in turn, is enough to drive oil prices from about $60 to $161 a barrel. The cost of fuel at the pump indeed, the cost of most petrochemical-based products rises dramatically. The U.S. economy slides into recession. Millions are thrown out of work. More broadly, the quintessentially American lifestyle two-car suburban families commuting endlessly to office, school and mall suddenly becomes unsustainable. But what the peak oil experts are saying is that we don't need terrorists