Are you Bazhenov?
June 11, 2012 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Exxon mobil has signed a development agreement with the Kremlin-majority-owned Rosneft to develop the Bazhenov oil shale reserves in Siberia (PDF), which are estimated to hold 2 million million barrels of oil equivalent -- that's about 64 years of current consumption.
posted by seanmpuckett (39 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We are so fucked. Ironically it will be Russia that is one of the most affected when the permafrost goes in the taiga, although I guess that's a minimum of their population and they'll get to exploit the Arctic more.
posted by jaduncan at 6:21 AM on June 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yaaaaayyyy status quo
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:24 AM on June 11, 2012

that's about 64 years of current consumption

Wow, problem solved!
posted by Meatbomb at 6:25 AM on June 11, 2012 [9 favorites]

Because what the world needs is 64 more years of oil.

Then again - I guess this will keep the Hubbert Peak folks quiet for a little bit. Not so sure that's a good thing.
posted by symbioid at 6:25 AM on June 11, 2012

Permafrost melting affects everyone, not just the Russians and Canadians. It'll release a massive amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. But I guess Putin gets to wrestle polar bears with his shirt off so that's OK then.
posted by arcticseal at 6:25 AM on June 11, 2012

I'm just glad Russia became a functional democracy before this happened.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:26 AM on June 11, 2012 [7 favorites]

Oh, I know. We're all fucked.
posted by jaduncan at 6:26 AM on June 11, 2012

posted by Jestocost at 6:27 AM on June 11, 2012

It's still much slower to extract than current oil reserves, and so still puts us under the long tail after peak oil, in contrast to the Forbes spin on his shilling for investors. Just sayin'
posted by kosmogrrrl at 6:28 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

And every time we find new reserves, I am reminded of Michael Nesmith's introduction to Elephant Parts.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:29 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Someone help me out here on my math, 'cos it's not adding up for me.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the world uses a total of 99,163,752 barrels of oil today (summed in Excel).

24,000,000,000 / 99,163,752 = 242.0239202

242 days versus 64 years? I mean, I'm more than willing to concede that I did something wrong, but given Forbes' track record, I'm a little more inclined to believe they're full of shit.
posted by barnacles at 6:30 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

But I guess Putin gets to wrestle polar bears with his shirt off so that's OK then.

Not unless polar bears become better long distance swimmers stat. Swim, polar bears, swim!
posted by Meatbomb at 6:31 AM on June 11, 2012

This comment at The Oil Drum suggests, at a mass-equivalent level, that burning 40 thousand million barrels is about what it takes to raise the atmospheric carbon concentration by 1 ppm, which suggests Bazhenov will give us another 50 ppm to look forward to.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:33 AM on June 11, 2012

Ohhh, okay. The Bakken does 24B barrels; the Bazhenov does 1920B barrels. This has been a lack of reading comprehension on my part.

It still seems to come out to "just" 53 years (19361 days) at current consumption, so doubtless far lesss with the growth of Indian etc.
posted by barnacles at 6:34 AM on June 11, 2012

It's the flow of the tap, not the volume of the tank, that matters. How many barrels per day will be extracted from this Texas-sized behemoth, and at what EROEI?
posted by Bangaioh at 6:36 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

symbioid: I guess this will keep the Hubbert Peak folks quiet for a little bit. Not so sure that's a good thing.
Well, it's shale oil, a substitute for conventional petroleum, so this corresponds pretty neatly with the peak oil predictions, I think.
posted by Western Infidels at 6:45 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

that's about 64 years of current consumption.

I was skimming through this post too quickly and read that as:
"that's about 64 years of current corruption."
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:51 AM on June 11, 2012

The number is 2 kajillion barrels total. How much of that can actually be extracted?

Of that amount, what fraction will actually power the extraction itself? What's the "barrels per barrel" efficiency rate of extraction?

Oil shale extraction is rather destructive. The Siberian forests and marshland are rich, stable ecosystems with enormous global significance. I guess Russia is happy to give up its "green lungs."
posted by Nomyte at 6:53 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

64 years? Pussies. This is America... We can consume that shit in a weekend.... Who's with me??
posted by spicynuts at 7:01 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

The big question is what price of this oil will be. If it's not cheap then it is unlikely to really change the economic issues associated with Peak Oil.
posted by Jehan at 7:01 AM on June 11, 2012

64 years of current consumption. Isn't consumption always increasing? If we can assume a constant rate of increase, what amount of time does this actually get us?

While we're at it, how efficient is the extraction? What effects will this have on the ecosystem near the reserves and surround areas?

So many questions...
posted by lazaruslong at 7:03 AM on June 11, 2012

And Jehan makes the other perfect point....Peak Oil isn't about running out of oil, it's about running out of cheap oil. Is oil extracted from this reserve going to cost the same as our usual sources?
posted by lazaruslong at 7:03 AM on June 11, 2012

The big question is what price of this oil will be.

Ding ding ding ding ding. We have a winner.
posted by eriko at 7:06 AM on June 11, 2012

It's ok, lots of people drive hybrids now. Problem solved.

Seriously, methane from melting tundra will be what does us in. But the US no moral leg to stand on here.
posted by spitbull at 7:22 AM on June 11, 2012

This is a Bad Thing. Shale extraction produces less output energy given input energy. It is basically living beyond means, in terms of natural systems.

For an example: conventional extraction produces 10x barrels of oil for x barrels of input energy, thus for every barrel we invest, we receive 10. If the final demand for oil is 1,000,000, that requires 100,000 barrels. If cost of input energy to output energy is 10% then total barrels produced are 1,100,000. Overall efficiency is 89%.

With shale reserves, 4x barrels is required for every 10x barrel. Reduced, every 5 barrels produced requires 2 barrels of input energy – a cost increase of 30% to 40%. Thus, the environment cost of shale reserves is 4x higher. If our demand remains the same, 1,000,000, now we have to put in 400,000 barrels to achieve the same result.

What is the net effect of that? If 50% of oil comes from shale, and we hold final demand constant, we now actually consume 1,250,000 barrels, as our new productions methods, which represent 50% of production, are 30% less efficient. Thus, our new overall efficiency is 75%.

For the same result, we are consuming 14% more resource.

That's not the end of it though. As mentioned, the results of atmospheric CO2 compound, thus we are consuming the additional 14% more each year. That will slightly raise temperatures, which releases more CO2, which will raise temperatures slightly more. The next year, we repeat the process.

The only sensible reason to extract shale was if all of the energy extracted was utilised to build carbon-neutral energy supplies. In that case, the rise in emissions is temporary, until a crossover, at which point, emissions plummet. Then we have a chance. Natural systems will be disrupted, however, a temporary disruption may well be more manageable than if we utilise shale supplies in the same manner as conventional supplies.

Conventional supplies in a sense were passive supplies. We just had to get them out of the ground. Shale supplies are in a sense, active systems, as they are much more energy intensive to process into usable fuels.

Imagine you have two credit lines: one at 10% interest, and one at 40%. You would draw on the 10% line first, as the payments required would be smaller. However, if you spend on consumption rather than investment, at some point, you are left with the same income and a substantial balance. If you continue using the 40% line to pay the difference between income and expenses plus interest, you are accelerating the timeline to the point where your supplies are exhausted.

The ideal would be if you invested the 10% line in something that generated income, so that you never had to touch the 40% line. But you didn't do that. It was all Vegas, big tvs, and exotic holidays. Now, you have a choice. Continue spending, or invest. The 30% higher cost should make you tend more toward investment. However, if you do not invest and continue consuming, in short, you suffocate. And you suffocated yourself.

It's been commonly said that we'll run out of 'air' before we run out of oil. Shale is a great demonstration of that. The ratio was 1:10. Now it's 4:10. It can keep going, all the way to .99:1 and still be considered commercially viable so long as demand remains high. The same way that the next line of credit could be 99%.

Why would one suffocate themselves? Why would we choose to destroy our air supply?

Individuals isolated from the results of their actions tend to over-indulge.

Those making the decision to extract resources typically are more wealthy than those who incur the results of extraction, simply that wealth buys insulation and safety. It used to be a big lawn, so you could see who was coming. Then it was a fence at the end of the lawn. Then it was a fence around a community. Then it was Monaco.

The people choosing to enact this extraction will be the least affected, simply because they are the most able to 'buy' their way out of it. Those that can purchase purified water or filtered water will be the least likely to be concerned about water pollution.

Sadly, as the effect of these decisions is multiplicative, the results will come quite hard, after all, a multiplicative curve is in essence exponential. The impact you see at point 100 may be 1,000 times the impact seen at point 99. which may be 100 times the impact seen at point 98, which may be 10 times the impact seen at point 97.

Now imagine points are years and we are at point 20. What does point 100 look like?

Horrifying, that's what.

We are just now seeing the results of the last 200 years of human industrial activity. And the majority of humanity did not participate in that segment of industrial activity.

I'll leave it to the reader to imagine what the implications of this contract mean for yourself and your children.

In terms of what to do? We have to 1) reduce demand by 2) changing our consumption of energy, products, and politicians.

You can rant and rave all you want about the tundra and the trees, but we're all driving this together. You may not have signed the contract, but every time you fill up your tank, you're supplying demand.

Thus the blood is on our hands. Less on mine, as I tend to walk the majority of places I have to go, but ours collectively still.

Next time you're at the pump, realise for every gallon you consume, you are creating the future for yourself and the rest of us.
posted by nickrussell at 7:37 AM on June 11, 2012 [22 favorites]

I'm not going to claim to be an expert, but people are aware there's a difference between the Canadian oil sands, kerogen-rich oil shales, and the oil in shale which is what the Bakken is, and what the Bazhenov appears to be.

The article says: "If Russia can get its act together to deploy 300 drilling rigs to the play, Clint figures Bazhenov could be producing 1 million bpd by 2020."

That's small potatoes, and probably will make minimal impact considering how supply and demand ebb and flow.
There's also no guarantee yet about flowrates from the Bazhenov (although the 100feet thick zones and natural fracturing bode well), but without extensive drilling Harold Hamm's 24 Bbbl is conjecture for the Bakken, and wild speculation for the Bazhenov. Wild.

Geology does not work like that. It's a fickle beast.

As to how much environmental damage this will do? Depends on Russian gas markets, how much gas is in the shale, and whether it needs to be flared.

I'm not familiar with Russian environmental regulations, but I would suggest they are lax.

There are billions of other barrels of shale oil sitting around to, with amazing numbers that boggle the mind.

I can't help but notice the 2 Bbbl figure doesn't say if its recoverable or in-place. I would assume the former.

(I did not read the pdf so some of these questions may be answered there).
posted by Mezentian at 8:08 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oil is about more than putting gas in cars - everything we look at or touch or eat or rely on for our daily life (except for air) relies on petroleum. Without oil, our civilization would cease to exist, even if all of us were driving electric cars or using solar panels to generate heat and electricity.

So this discovery is not entirely a bad thing.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:08 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

So this discovery is not entirely a bad thing.

So long as the oil is used wisely ie. to transition to a green economy (per nickrussell's excellent post above).
posted by stbalbach at 8:19 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Without oil, our civilization would cease to exist

It's not a binary concept, either oil or no oil. If you at nothing but red meat every day, you may well live an abbreviated life. Does that mean red meat is bad? Not at all. Red meat is a neutral quantity; neither bad nor good. It's how one consumes red meat that determines the result.

Same with oil. I am not saying oil is the devil; devil be gone! by any means. The earth has a certain absorption capacity in terms of CO2. Before fossil fuels, there were forest fires and volcanos and natural cycles. CO2 levels shifted to and shifted fro; yet remained in a range where we weren't too bothered about it.

The point is the quantity that we are consuming and what we are consuming it for. Lots of oil goes to people sitting in traffic. Lots of oil goes to make disposable plastic things that then go on to poison the ocean. And lots of oil goes to move food, transport people, build bridges and all the rest.

It's how and why we are consuming it. Exxon will sell it to you because you want to buy it. Similar to the man at the meat market. If you eat fatty steak for every meal of the day, he's not going to stop you. Any more than you are going to take the cigarette out of his hand. The problem is not Exxon, they will supply whatever you want to consume, that's what a business does.

The shift in thinking is what we are doing with what they are supplying. Sitting in thousand pound SUVs for an hour a day in itself is not bad. Boring, but not bad. Now, if sitting in those SUVs results in people in Mumbai drowning or potato famines in Canada, then is it bad?

It's not the resource that's the problem. It's the individual and collective decisions we're making, similar to the human decisions that turn red meat from a source of protein into a certain killer.
posted by nickrussell at 8:30 AM on June 11, 2012 [9 favorites]

Seconded all the environmental and EROEI concerns above. And noted the excellent short title.
posted by imperium at 8:31 AM on June 11, 2012

So this discovery is not entirely a bad thing.

So long as the oil is used wisely ie. to transition to a green economy

I'm...not gonna hold my breath.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:39 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Next time you're at the pump, realise for every gallon you consume, you are creating the future for yourself and the rest of us.

oh, god, don't I know it. I'm trying to create a better future, though - I'm already riding a motorcycle pretty much everywhere, and I've got a second bike in my workshop into which I am installing an electric motor and batteries. With any luck I'll be able to stop using hydrocarbon fuels to power my commute within another two or three months.

c'mon, y'all, buy electric! The more of us on board, the more people will install charging stations, and the whole thing will just snowball...
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:03 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd be willing to bet that this shale oil play is going to be just like the Barnett, Bakken, and Marcellus. High intial flow rates, then the bottom falls out and they'll have to be fracked within an inch of their life to even get a fraction of the inital flow.

Barring the damage just from drilling, it takes two to five million gallons of water to frack a well, and it'll be done 5-8 times over the life of the well. Not to mention the disposal of the flowback. I highly doubt that the enviromental regulations will be better than they are in the US. If there are aquifers above the formation, they will be ruined.
posted by narcoleptic at 9:26 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm...not gonna hold my breath.

You'll rethink that plan when this new patch of oil helps us transition to a green atmosphere.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:32 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

My point is that oil is so much more than filling one's car up at the pump. Oil is the basis of our entire way of life, and I haven't seen any discussion out there about how to replace it.

In fact, using oil for fuel is (obviously) such a tremendous waste. On the other had, using oil to create disposable sandwich wrapping or iPhone (or Android!) cases is just an idiotic waste of resources.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:50 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Geologist's take (for the record, I've an extensive background evaluating resource size, recovery and economics for unconventional plays -- tight oil and shale gas). Forbes article is crap, the guy clearly has no idea what he's talking about, and doesn't even know the right questions to ask. USGS PDF is not much better -- its a one page summary as part of a global assessment exercise. It is informed by decades-old regional geology review articles, and no well logs or recent production information. You're not going to get useful answers from that. Casual googling and searching through the usual analyst sources doesn't reveal a lot of important technical information about the play.

I've no doubt, however, that the big numbers are OOIP ('original oil in place') and that no-one has a reliable EUR ('estimated ultimate recoverable') estimate. For these kinds of plays -- self-sourced organic-rich source rocks ("shales" to the guys at Forbes)-- the OOIP numbers are almost always staggeringly huge. Take 50 meters of shale, with original total organic content around 5% (reports for the Bazhenov are higher than that). That rock will generate huge, huge volumes of hydrocarbons, and indeed, this is the primary source rock for the super giant western Siberian oil province. Typically, most generated hydrocarbon is expelled and lost to the surface, a small percentage is trapped in reservoirs (conventional fields) and a small percentage remains in the source rock (in this case, the Bazhenov) -- essentially whatever open space -- porosity -- there is in the source rocks will be filled. Generally, organic rich mudstones will be very tight, with porosities under 5%. Let's say the porosity of the Bazhenov is 1% (its probably higher, but this key piece of information is missing. A good conventional reservoir will be 10 - 30% pore space, by comparison). A square kilometer, then, will have 5e6 cubic meters of oil, or around 30 million barrels. Since this play apparently covers 2.3 million square kilometers, the back of our envelope quickly shows us an in-place resource of around 7 trillion barrels of oil (1.15e13 cubic meters).

This is how you get to such a large number. You do similar math for organic rich shales who have experienced higher temperatures and so are gas-saturated, and you get the giant in-place resource estimates for shale gas. Quads of cubic feet. Hundreds of years of supply.

What's missing are some very, very key pieces of information: what percentage of the resource is actually going to be recovered? how many wells, at what spacing, with what completion designs is this going to take? If the average ultimate recovery factor is 1%, this is a much more modest resource. If its 10%, but it will take 100 years to get that 10%, you again get a modest impact on global production. If the production profiles of the wells are so marginal that you can't recover the costs of exploring, drilling, completing and producing in a year or two then almost no reasonable oil company (and certainly not an Exxon or a Rosneft) will even drill the hole.

The Forbes article (and similar pieces) quote boosters who are quick to mention Bakken. The Bakken is *not* a typical source-rock oil play. Because of a very specific and rare quirk in the geology, wells are productive and recovery factors are high. The fact that the USGS piece calls on fractures (notoriously hard to predict and explore for), is a giant red flag, suggesting that assuming that all 2.3 million sq. km of the Bazhenov will be producible can't possibly be correct.
posted by bumpkin at 9:50 AM on June 11, 2012 [18 favorites]

posted by ecco at 11:06 AM on June 11, 2012

I feel like without some radical questioning of Capitalism corporations will continue to consume the planet and the people who live on it for profit until it becomes uninhabitable. So I dunno, maybe chalk Earth's eventual failure up to flaws in human nature?

On the brighter side, there are a bunch of other planets out there that might have smarter, more cooperative beings living on them. Maybe they'll make better decisions with their home.
posted by nowhere man at 11:07 AM on June 11, 2012

until it becomes uninhabitable. So I dunno, maybe chalk Earth's eventual failure up to flaws in human nature?

In the recent film called Prometheus, there's an instantaneous and significant commentary on this point.
posted by nickrussell at 1:15 PM on June 11, 2012

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