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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - July 17, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta My 17, THI IffHIMMI The world runs on energy, and always has. For countless ages tbe world has obtained its energy from tbe sun, using it directly, storing it in living plants and and in their fossilized remains, and in the of falling water. Man has put this energy to his own extracting it from the leaves of plants and the flesh of animals as food, from the branches of trees as fuel, from coal, oil and gas, from falling water, from the wind itself. Recently he has begun to find power in a differ- ent source, in the energy lock- ing together the atoms of mat- ter. Some of these sources are easy to tap for the power within them; some still defy the most persistent effort. Together they constitute tbe world's energy re- source and until recently they have virtually been taken for granted. But rising costs of oil and gas and uncertainties about supply have increased interest in all sources of energy. How great are these resources, and how much is available for man- kind? Oil and gas are today's favor- ite fuels, but there are other sources of energy, coal and uranium deposits, solar power, tidal power, the earth's natur- al internal heat. Taken together they are a resource so vast that the planet is in no danger of running out of energy in the foreseeable future. While oil companies continue the peren- nial search for new reserves, scientists and engineers are ex- ploring such alternative sources as the conversion of coal into pipeline quality gas or syn- thet> crude ofl, or solving the problems of the fast-breeder nuclear reactor (which creates new fuel, plutonium, as k burns up These two new energy forms have the greatest potential for adding to pres- ent resources, for in both cases the technology is fairly well known. In the search for new ofl and gas supplies, geologists, geo- physicists and other earth sci- entists keep trying to improve their chances of discovery by using every known, resource of technology. What they are look- ing for are areas of porous rock topped by a cap of dense rock which has trapped ofl or gas and allowed it to accumu- late in the pores of the rock.. Sometimes the porous reservoir is empty of hydrocarbons the cap may have formed too late to prevent tbe escape of oil or gas, or there may have been ofl generating formations near- fact that is only dis- covered when the well turns out to be another dry hole. Since there is still no direct method of peering underground to see where tbe traps are (just as there is no way to detect di- rectly the presence of ofl or gas) the underground structure must be deduced from geophys- ical observations, and the like- lihood of petroleum bearing rocks must be inferred from the observations of geologists. Of the geophysical techniques used, the most important is seismog- raphy, which stfll comprises about 95 per cent of geophysi- cal activity, with tine remaining five per cent coming from grav- ity and airborne magnetic sur- veys. In a seismic survey a sur- face explosion is set off, and sound waves refracted by or re- flected from the various under- lying rock layers are picked up by geopbones and recorded. In former years just about the only information obtained was the record of the reflection times from the various layers, from which structures capable of trapping hydrocarbons could be toteml. This is still the main put pose of seismic surveys, but recently complex techniques have been developed to get more information from tbe seis- mic recordings, and to do it faster and more accurately. These techniques have been made possible by high speed Digital computers, which Im- perial has been using for pro- cessing seismic recordings since 1965. More reseawh on seismic ex- ploration is under way. A pro- ject at the Massachusetts In- stitute of Technology is aimed at a more precise understand- ing of bow the rock structure affects the of seis- mic vibrations. If ft is success- ful may be able to calculate and to understand how seismic energy is changed by passage through a hydrocarbon- saturated sand, as compared with one that is water satur- ated, and thus use the seis- mic method to find hydrocarbon pools oirectly instead of just finding likely places to look for hydrocarbons by drilling. Recently, tbe oil seekers have left dry land and the shallow waters near shore to explore tbe geology tinder some of the world's most forbidding seas A survey of possible energy sources the storm tossed North Sea, the fog-bound Atlantic off Lab- rador and Newfoundland, the ice-choked Arctic Ocean. (Seis- mic exploration at sea cannot use dynamite as an energy source, as is done on land, with- out harming marine life, and other devices have been devel- oped. One, a gas explosion con- tained in an expanding rubber sleeve, transmits the ncessary energy to the rock formations without banning marine life. The gas exploder was developed by Esso Production Research Co., an Imperial affiliate, and licensed to industry in One result of this foray into the continental shelves has been a recent addition to the map of Canada an artificial island in the shallow Beaufort Sea. The 300-foot-long island is big enough to accommodate a conventional drilling rig. A bed of. gravel was found about feet north- west of the site, and late last summer, after the whaling sea- son, Imperial began to build the island, using a dredge to pipe the gravel to the chosen spot. Imperial plans to complete the island this summer, seek a per- mit, and begin drilling as soon as possible. The island is an innovative approach to the special Arctic problems posed by winds and ice pressure too great for con- ventional offshore rigs to with- stand. In waters such as the Gulf of Mexico and Venezuela's Lake Maracaffio the 'jack-up' rig is common a drilling plat- form that puts down extensible legs to plant itself firmly on the bottom. For wildcatting in deeper waters, such as over the conti- nental shelf that curves around Newfoundland, drillers have two types of rigs available: the semi-submereible and the drill- ing ship. A typkal semi-sub- mersible is the million Sed- co I (leased to Imperial and its associates and still explor- ing off the Grand which floats on three huge buoyant legs. Fixed on the spot by nine anchors and made stable by filling parts of the legs with water, the rig can drffl as deep as feet in 600 feet of water. Exploratory holes can be put down in even deeper water by some semi-submersibles or by a drilling ship a large, spe- cially designed vessel with a built-in drilling rig. The drill- ing ship may be anchored or held in one spot by the action of its main screws and several sideways acting propellers, all computer controlled to coun- teract the forces of winds and waves. Such deep water 'dyna- mic positioning' was used for the first time recently when the drilling ship Sedco 445, operat- ing in more than feet of water off the coast of North Borneo, bored to feet under the sea bed. Re-entry of the drffl pipe (the whole length 'pe has to be pulled aUy to replace a worn' drffl bit or to remove _ core of rock for analysis and then run back into the note) was effected by a sonar device. An tinder-water television era helped the shipboard drill- ers to keep track of what was happening down on the sea floor. While exploring hunting for new r crews are lander under the sea floor, pro- duction engineers are seeking answers to a long standing question: 'bow can we get max- imum recovery from existing Oil utiuS? The amount of ofl recoverable from a reservoir depends on three things: the viscosity of the ofl, the permeability of the rock, and the pressure in the reservoir. This pressure is sometimes enough to force the oil out of the pores in the reser- voir rock, into the well bore and up the tubing to the sur- face. As the ofl is withdrawn flie pressure usually falls until eventually the ofl must be pumped out The pressure can come from gas above the oil or dissolved in it, or from water below or from aU three. At the big Redwater field, 40 miles northeast of Edmonton, the en- ergy for the jujcuut comes tram a layer of water under pressure thai lies beneath the ofl. The force of the water is ex- pected to be sufficient to permit recovery of 65 per cent of the ofl in place. Not afl fields have such good the aver- age in Western Canada is about 32 per cent, and many are as low as 10 per cent To increase the amount of ofl where recovery is tew, the pro- ducer may introduce secouduy methods. Be may re-inject the gas produced in solution with the oil to augment the lesei a process known as gas flooding. More likely be wffl pump water into the pool to force more oil out of the pro- wens, a fairly common water flooding. Water flooding more than doubled recovery at the Judy Creek field in Alberta from 20 per cent to 50 per cent, Or, as at Golden Spike, 15 miles west of Edmonton, he may in- ject a propane butane solvent bank above the ofl which scrubs as much as 90 per cent of 'the crude out of the porous rock as it advances through the res- ervoir white the ofl is with- drawn. Such a high recovery is very unusual, though, and means to squeeze more oil out of reser- voirs is the aim of tertiary re- covery, currently the subject of much research. Neither water nor gas alone can push the smaller oil particles out of the rock pores. A possible way to pry the oil loose is to use de- tergents plus polymer thicken- ers followed by water flooding. The detergent reduces the sur- face tension of the ofl, loosen- ing its grip on the rock, while the polymer thickener permits a more uniform flushing of the reservoir. Interest in tertiary recovery methods has recently quickened owing to the higher prices for crude which are in prospect, and which wffl help to cover the higher costs involved. High- er prices are also quickening in- terest in ofl deposits that can- not te produced by conventional methods. To recover the heavy ofl at Cold Lake, Alta., where Imper- ial has been operating a pilot plant on a limited scale for some 10 years, steam injection is used, in a cycle known in the trade as and puff.' For several days high pressure, high temperature steam is pumped into the oil soaked sand. In the next or 'puff por- tion of the cycle, the ofl, thinned by the heat, is pumped to the surface. Main aim of the pilot plant operation is to establish the optimum parameters of the cycle how long to heat, how long to pump, and so on. on results so far, it seems possmle that this type of cyclic steam stimulation could be made more economic by fol- lowing the Imff and puff phase with a type of secondary re- covery the use of a water bank to drive the heated ofl to nearby producing wells, and so increase the amount 'of ofl re- covered. Cold Lake has an esti- mated 100 bfflion banefe of ofl in place five times the ener- gy equivalent of Canada's pres- ent ofl and gas reserves the area around Fort McMurray, north of Edmonton, is believed to contain some 600 bfflion bar- rels of oil in place, locked in the famous Athabasca tar sands. Depth of burial varies from zero to feet, with the greater portion of the oil under deep cover so that in-sftu meth- ods (as at Cold Lake) would have to be used. Some 85 bil- lion barrels, however, are re- coverable as synthetic crude by using conventional open-pit min- ing methods: huge draglines can remove the over-burden and dig the ofl bearing sand for transportation by unit trains to the extraction plant, where the ofl can be separated from the sand by a combination of hot water and steam. This yields an pfly froth that can be upgraded into a low-sulfur syn- tbeUc crude. This is the type of operation envisioned by Syn- crude Canada Ltd. (a consoiti- .um that includes which has received permission from the Alberta government to bufld a barretadav plant Great Canadian Ofl Sands Limited has been operat- ing a plant for several yean, running as much as bar- rels a day. A major difficulty with tar sands is that even the rich sections contain only about 10 per cent bitumen so that the remaining 90 per cent of sand must be moved with the bitumen to the processing plant, then moved bacf again. The material handling job is prodi- gious. As Imperial's research manager, C. H. Caesar, remark- ed recently: "It is estimated that bv 1990 this movement of dirt wifl be equivalent to bufld- insr a St Lawrence Seaway or a Panama Canal every seven to nine months." reserves similar to the tar sands exist else- where in the world there are hundreds of bflh'ons of barrels of ofl in the tar belts' of eastern Venezuela, the Miocene tar ac- cumulations in ScflT, the tar belt in southern Mendoza, Ar- gentina, the patch deposits of Trinidad, the ofl shales of Col- orado. Witli the exception of the Trinidad pitch lake and tbe Venezuelan tar belt, none of these deposits is being worked commercially, although consid- erable research has been done on the U.S. ofl shales. At Para- ctnrte Creek, Colorado, a ton-a-day pilot plant has been operating intermittently for some gathering data for Ofl Review a -ton-a-day plant that would produce aome bar- rels of oil a day from the waxy kerogen in the shale. As before, vast amounts of rock must be processed. This has led another U.S. company to try steam in- jection (as at Cold Lake) with moderate success. This com- pany has also patented a pro- cess in -which heated natural gas is pumped into the ground to permeate the shale, vapor- toe the kerogen and pick it up for recovery above ground by way of conventional drilled boles. There's a'possible short-cut to recovering oil from shale rock, which is favored by some 'nuclear stimulation.' In plain language, set off a mo- dest-sized nuclear explosion un- derground. It is suggested that intense beat generated would thin the oil and let it accumu- late in an underground reser- voir 'formed by the explosion. Nuclear stimulation to free natural gas from tight rock formations was tested by un- derground blasts set off in 1967 and 1969 in New Mexico and Colorado as part of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission's Plowshare Program. The blasts worked as advertised. Such is the appalling power of even a 40-fcUoton atomic explosion that chimney shaped underground caverns were formed by vapor- izing the rock. Gas accumulat- ed as planned but it has not yet been sold to customers, and the amount of radioactivity it con- tains is in dispute. Research 1s currently being done in the United States on better ways to use that old fa- miliar energy source: coal If U.S coal reserves could be turned into synthetic gas of pipeline quality (about btu per cubic foot) they would take .care of U.S. gas needs for about 250 years at estimated 1990 rates of use. Canadian coal re- serves, the energy equivalent of about 450 billion barrels of oil, contain 25 times as much energy as Canada's reserves of conventional, oil and gas. They are sufficient to meet Canada's oil and gas needs combined for 265 years at projected 1990 rates of demand. Attempts are being made to turn coal into a gas or a liquid fuel. This will make a fuel that is more easily transported and cleaner. One of the results of burning high sulfur raw coal is the release of sulfur dioxide' as well as arsenic, lead and beryllium. Various schemes for removing sulfur dioxide from boiler stack gases are being tried, but a more effective ap- proach may be to desulfurize the fuel before it is burned. This can be done at the refinery or at the generating plant, an ap- proach being developed by Bsso Research and Engineering Company at AUngdon in Eng- land. The method passes the sulfur-bearing fuel ettber re- sidual fuel oil or high sulfur coal through a bed of lime granules at 850 degrees centi- grade. The sulfur'reacts with the lime, leaving the fuel Oat passes on to the burner com- pletely sulfur free. The Erne is then stripped of the sulfur and used over again. Various schemes have been advanced for converting coal into a liquid fuel and the sulfur at that stage, but turning it into gas shows more promise, since the technology is better known. Coal can plus coal reacts at high tempera- tures to form gases that can ultimately be converted to me- thane, the chief component of natural gas. Coal gas was once widely used to light towns and cook food. But because it con- tains only 50 per cent methane, coal gas has a beat content only about half that of natural gas. Coal gas can be upgraded into pipeline quality, synthetic natural gas (SNG) by taking some of the carbon monoxide produced in the initial reaction, adding hydrogen and converting it into methane by a catalytic process. Currently the U.S. fed- eral government and the gas in- dustry are spending about million a year to perfect this process. Utimately, according to a recent report by the U.S. Office of Energy up to billion may have to be on coal gasification plants, while further billions vfll be needed to increase coal production to supply the raw material Among otber proposals being developed, one that is consider- ed to have considerable prom- ise is the combination of a tow- btu gas from coal fuel with a gas turbine steam turbine complex. Since gas turbines do not necessarily require a rich fuel, the idea is to produce a low (about 130 Hn per cubic foot) heat content fuel from coal, it to remove the sulfur, and feed tirig to the gat Uu blues. Exhaust from the tur- bines may be as hot as 400 de- grees Fahrenheit, ample for raising steam to feed conven- tional steam turbines. The net result is higher efficiency (per- haps 50 per cent versus the typ- ical 35 to 40 per cent) from somewhat less expensive fuel. Just what will emerge from this welter of research is not dear but there is very strong pressure to increase the U.S. capacity for generating elec- tric power the area in which the so-called energy 'crunch' is presently most serious. For yean Americans have been on an electric energy kick. Cana- dians ere not far behind, of course, but there are not so many of us. Of the 4.9 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity produced by the planet's gener- ators in 1970, U.S customers consumed trillion, or just about a third. Canadians used 202 bfllion kwh and more man three quarters that total came from hydro electric sources. With electricity generated by atomic means now becoming competitive with that from fos- sil-fueled power plants, the list of U.S. nuclear plants is grow- ing. To the end of 1972, some 122 new units were either on order or being planned at 70 plant skes. At present the Unit- ed States is the leader In atomic electricity, with 34 billion kwh generated in 1971, ahead of the United Kingdom at 20 bfflion. Canadian production was four button kwh. It has been predicted ftat by 1990 some 45 per cent of US. power wffl be uramum fueled in Canada 30 per cent is pectod to be uranium -fueled by the year 1990, although to some places the percentage wOl be higher; In Ontario, for ample, more (ban 60 per cent of the electric energy generated in 1990 is expected to from nucieur pfcmto. There is one source of energy that is completely safe, poflu- tion-free and inexhaustible: the sun. Solar power is not several solar-heated houses have been buflt, whfle solar cookers (consisting mainly of a parabolic reflector to concen- trate the sun's rays on a cook- ing pot) have been used on miner scale in sunny countries such as Pakistan. A much larger reflector has been used for years by French scientists to generate ttaupciatuies of up to degrees Fahrenheit, for research into alloys without con- taminating the components, as a normal furnace might Above the earth's atmosphere, solar radiation is more intense, strong enough to operate equip- ment on space probes such as tbe Mariner series, although it caUs for gp-yfofly made sfflcon photovottaic cens, costing up to 9300per watt. Only NASA can afford tliiiiii The high cost of silicon ceEs prompted search for better and cheaper Hght converting devices. Used in vast parabotte reflectors out in space that trap tbe solar radiation, the devices would turn the sun's rays into electric power and zap tins back duwii to earth on The final bffl for such a project, though high, might wen be much less titan the bflHon it's estimated U.S. power com- panies wffl have to spend in the next 20 years to meet their oarinners' jlnnumdii 1 _ J gmuuu nmnfn 8nmnm ins been suggested for the south- western United States. In these almost cloudless deserts, the solar energy comes in at a fat 800 watts per square metre for six to eight hours of the day during most of the year. kcting surfaces with a special coating to increase heat absorp- don cod nunSjiiMDc would collect the sun's heat in liquid sodium which would transfer the heat to storage molten from which eutugy could bo drawn to run steam luiblnes, thus helping solve the problem of what you do for eueigy when the sun goes Jvuui. Even more recently, early this year the Solar Energy Panel rtonned by the VS. Na- tional Science Foundation and NASA) reported that if iiiuuejf was spent on by ttie vear 3030 solar energy could be supplying up to 95 per cent of the total building tog and cooling load, 30 per cent of VS. gas fuel require- ments, 10 per cent of Bqmd fuel needs and 20 percent of the electrical powti dftnuind The panel befieved that if the re- search were successful, s o 1 a r power for besting could start to beuime commer- cial within five years, buflding- cooling in six to 10 yean, syn- thetic fads from organic mater- ials in five to eight years, and solar etodric power to to IS years. The cort of the research pro- gram? About 93.5 bfllion, with tbe US. taxpayers picking op of the bffl. Getting back to earth, to fact, beneath it, there's a final source of energy still relatively ped involving simple technology and little or co pollution. TUs is geotbermal power, and they've been using it to makf electricity in LardareUo, Ififly, since 1904, so mis one works. In aome cases, it can be cheap, too at The Geysers in ernCalifornia an electric utility company generates a modeit amount of electricity from tnf.ruval steam for about nw tenths of cent per kflowshV hour, which compares with seven tenths for conventional thermal generation in Califonna-' and about nine for lear. Geothenoal energy fa usuaBy tapped from reservoirs of erbeated steam deep in fat earth in areas of recent vol- canic action such as parts of Iceland, New Zealand, and some sections of California. To be able to generate amounts of power it's saryto drill in search of _ thermal reservoirs, tapping ci> ther steam or boiling water. Sometimes the reservoir sists of hot brine (hat would corrode steam gfimratinf equipment and might noxious gases such as hydr suffide or fluorine. TUs cutty can be overcome by L tog dean water from the sur- face down a drilled hois to His heat source, where it wffl flash into steam, and be returned qi another pipe to feed the turbines. seriously considered? A _ study sponsored by the National Science UJL aodudei flat this could generate mM fflL. wros PI encuwxy nHblBp present U.S. capacity k about meganatts. 8 was n> parted recently ttw interior depstlmeul wffl pft for lease some 59 sens of federal land which thermal potential, and sbt major ofl companies sra now drilling tod exploring for temnean eneigy. But i this interesting energy wffl become a major outer to the electric supply or just tern, a ____ supplement, is a question flw can't be answered st prwik The winds and the tidas also be used as energy although so far. efforts been minor. The giant Dutch windmffls (each capable, at most, of about two horsepopw) for yean operated pumps (fast helped fits HoUanden racUm land from tbe sea. Until fairly recently, a wtofr mill was a common sight 01 Canadian farm, usuany lor pumping water. TUs year Raj Rang! and Peter Sooth, two re- searchers with Canada's tional Aeronautical TTrtrffti ment, announced devekpflMit of a sort of wind turbine tw> or three convex blades of sfr fofl QffM section that spin op a vertical shaft sod could bs coupled to an electi'k; genenfe> or; a IMoot diameter windmfll might produce slightly over ens horsepower. Main trouble wJMi wind power (which has ths charm of beingfree, except fee the capital invested) is the enly of storing energy ths wind is not blowing. Tidal power? Recently the French govanmeat installed a 240-megawatt tidal power plant in tbe estuary of the Ranee River, which has tides tog 27 feet For efficient tide! power you need big tides. Ths WofMjIwr iisy ot ironay, oetween dfr ada and Maine, has tides an averagerange of IS feet MMUffpi tSUSBSMtttttf ttl fitovnlfc some 300 megawatts. Such a development would cost about S3 bfflion. Work is going forward on other fronts as well, as re- searchers seek ways to gtan more eneigy from less fuel. The magneto hydro dynamic generator, for example, wmch generates electricity as hot gases pass through a trans- verse magnetic field, is expect- ed to be much more effideat than conventional thermal crating plants, if technical problems can be solved. The efficiency of conv etatois can be cooling their coils in liquid 1 um. uQos reoucmc deotricsi Distance and increasing rad such wpct touted ators are being bunt hi the United States, Japan, Brittrin. France and West Germany. What does ttus survey of ener- gy technology indicate? That there is no shortage of potential Bowevei, costs are likely to rise as the eaufly developed jMiiues get scarcer trend that is making hjgfa- cost sources more attractive and is stimulating much inter- est and research into otlKf ways of providing our power. Immling our bomei and ing eumjy to our indDsMss. ;