Feeds

Peak oil: postponed

What the oil companies don't tell you

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

“But the payback is extraordinarily quick. When oil is at $140 a barrel, the payback is 100 days. In terms of payback, it’s a no-brainer. Often you find that there would be bottlenecks, and you could find you spend a lot less”.

Another factor overlooked, he points out, is that Middle Eastern producers run their fields at much lower flow rates, to sustain the plateau of production for longer. Rather than plateau for five years, with a twenty year tail, the operator will sustain the plateau for ten or twenty years. This is so that effects of making geological wrong turns – drilling in the wrong place – are less catastrophic.

“Fields are very complex. If you can run things very slowly, and still make a lot of money by running a good field, it’s far better to really plan where you put your wells,” he explains.

Renewables and chemistry

So Pike thinks oil will last longer than most outsiders suppose, but doesn’t dispute that it’s a finite resource.

Long-term, I suggested, energy is probably the least of our problems – there’s so much of it about: Geothermal, fusion, and solar for example.

He agrees, but says a massive amount of international co-operation is needed. No economies are yet geared up for electricity as a direct heating source, or as automotive fuel, or for hydrogen storage.

So what, I wondered, were Pike’s bets for future energy sources?

“My own view - and it’s shared by a lot of people in chemistry - is that solar will eventually be the way ahead. Artificial photosynthesis hasn’t been cracked yet – it’s the idea you use sunlight, the CO2 in the atmosphere, and water, and you make simple molecules like alcohols that you can then burn as a fuel.”

“A lot of the science is there. . But a lot of the advances are going to be in putting things together on a grand scale which requires some very good leadership, because we’re in a position where some of these decisions are not made by individuals or individual companies. It's going to require a lot of collaboration.”

Is our children learning?

As big a problem, he suggested, was scientific ignorance – amongst politicians and the public.

“I have to admit, although the science is there, there aren’t enough people who readily appreciate the science.

“We’ve been out in the street here and discovered that two thirds of people think it’s smoke that comes out of a cooling tower. It’s steam! Only one per cent of people know what cooling towers are actually for. So you’ve got this terrible lack of scientific literacy amongst the public."

Only one percent of MPs have a scientific background. And it isn’t helped by what’s going on schools, he adds.

This summer, the Royal Society of Chemistry drew attention to the level of questions being set to 14 year olds on science courses. Pupils were set questions such as “what powers a solar powered snail?” and “what part of the anatomy does a riding hat protect?” There are more examples here.

The course material is often comprehensive, Pike notes, but the examinations barely skim it – and are almost fail-proof. “Kids need to know 16 things such as force and pressure, and how they interrelate. The exam only touched on four, and four of the simplest: Length, temperature, mass and volume. There’s no mention of speed, or amps and volts and power. I find that extraordinary.”

Without better education, the next generation of policy makers is as likely to be as scientifically illiterate as this one. The cycle needs to be broken. ®

Related Link

The Royal Society of Chemistry

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.