West African oil drawing capital interest
Washington (UPI) Apr 28, 2017 - West African oil explorer FAR Ltd. said it finished the first quarter with $26 million in cash and is in a good position to capitalize on unlocked reserves.
"FAR finished the quarter with $26.3 million in cash and no debt," the company's management team said in a quarterly report on cash flow.
The company, which has headquarters in Australia, is focused almost exclusively on the oil potential off the West African coast. This quarter, it bought into reservoirs off the coast of Gambia, a basin it says could be a net positive for its adjacent operations off the coast of Senegal.
FAR this week announced plans for an exploration well in the southern section of the FAN prospect off the coast of Senegal, which it said would assess the upside potential for improved reservoir quality. In its latest update, the company said the southern FAN prospect holds 134 million barrels of recoverable oil on best estimates. By the company's estimates, more than 1.5 billion barrels of oil may be in basins off the coast of Senegal.
FAR is focused on the broader Mauritania-Senegal-Guinea-Bissau basin. With eight regional oil discoveries so far, the company said MSGB is quickly emerging as an attractive exploration basin.
On top of a debt-free quarter, the company was over-subscribed for a placement of 1 billion shares, generating around $60 billion in capital it will use to fund drilling, evaluation and pre-development programs off the coast of Senegal, and potentially the acquisition of further assets off the Gambian coast.
Management said the placement put the company in a strong position to finance developments offshore and a final investment decision for the parts of offshore Senegal is expected by early 2019.
"FAR is particularly pleased that the offer was substantially oversubscribed especially at the modest discount offered," management said. "It is testimony to the value that is yet to be unlocked in FAR that we have been able to raise this quantum of money in what is still a tough market for oil companies."
Lower crude oil prices have sparked concern about investments needed to meet future demand. The International Energy Agency said Thursday that last year posted 2.4 billion barrels of new discoveries, against a 15-year average of 9 billion barrels.
French major Total impresses with Venezuelan shale
Washington (UPI) Apr 28, 2017 - At a time when volatility is an emerging trend in the energy sector, French supermajor Total remains an attractive player, an investment profile read.
A floor price for crude oil at around $50 per barrel meant the market is primed enough to sanction the first major project in three years, the French company said this week. The company, the first of the big oil companies out with earnings, said net profit for the first quarter roughly doubled year-over-year to $2.6 billion, meaning it could now move forward with the development of the Vaca Muerta shale deposit in Venezuela.
The Royal Bank of Canada said Total's move was against the tide. This week, the International Energy Agency warned that, outside of the United States, the low price of oil was curbing spending on new projects that would satisfy future demand, though RBC said the capital intensity of new projects is moving lower.
"Total remains an attractive proposition within an uncertain sector," RBC analysts said in a profile emailed to UPI.
RBC said shale reservoirs in Venezuela may have development costs that are considerably higher than their U.S. counterparts, but higher productivity could offset some of the expense.
Vaca Muerta, located in Neuquen province, is considered one of the best shale basins in Latin America. Analysis from consultant group Wood Mackenzie found parts of the basin are producing on average 646 barrels of oil equivalent per day, representing a mix of oil and natural gas. The study from Wood Mackenzie found production increases will be slow, but advances should accelerate by 2020.
The lauding for the Vaca Muerta shale, however, follows an expression of concern from a safety regulator in Norway about development issues for Total at a production facility being built in South Korea for the Martin Linge oil and gas field in the North Sea.
The Petroleum Safety Authority of Norway said the results of a late March audit found serious deficiencies that could impede the start of operations next year, deficiencies that could present "big challenges" for the start of operations at Martin Linge.
U.S. oil earnings, legislation, lift prices, but GDP may offset gains
Washington (UPI) Apr 28, 2017 - Pro-oil U.S. legislation was supporting a rally for oil prices early Friday, though growth figures from the world's largest economy could throttle the momentum.
The American Petroleum Institute came out of the gate Friday praising President Donald Trump for handing the oil and gas industry victory after victory during his first 100 days in office.
"President Trump issued executive orders and presidential memorandums that put the Keystone XL pipeline back on track; allowed the Dakota Access Pipeline to be completed; opened access to additional federal areas for responsible energy development; and removed duplicative regulations that hinder energy production," API President and CEO Jack Gerard said in a statement.
Already producing more than 9 million barrels per day, executive action Friday could open up more acreage offshore. Capital could migrate back toward the energy sector, meanwhile, after Exxon Mobil reported its revenue more than doubled from first quarter 2016 on the back of cost-cutting and improved market conditions.
Crude oil prices were taking back some of their recent losses in early Friday trading, after the Thursday session saw declines at one point during the trading day of around 2 percent. The price for Brent crude oil was up 1.2 percent about a half hour before the start of trading in New York to $52.44 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was up 1.3 percent to $49.62 per barrel.
Offsetting energy sector gains during Trump's first 100 days in office was a report Friday from the U.S. Commerce Department that gross domestic product grew 0.7 percent in the first quarter, after a 2.1 percent gain in the fourth quarter, for the slowest quarterly performance in three years.
The Commerce Department said the decline was in part due to lower spending by state and local governments. Disposable personal income, meanwhile, increased 3.4 percent in the first quarter, compared to 4.1 percent in the previous term. Personal savings, however, increased 5.7 percent, against the 5.5 percent gain in the fourth quarter.
Crude oil prices may be impacted later in the trading day when oilfield services company Baker Hughes releases weekly rig count figures, which provide a loose indication of the investment appetite for exploration and production. Any gains from North America could drag on the Friday morning rally as analysis this week said U.S. production gains were undermining efforts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to balance the market through managed declines.
Trump moves to lift bans on Arctic drilling
Washington (AFP) April 28, 2017 - US President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at lifting bans on drilling for oil and gas in offshore Arctic and Atlantic areas, saying it would pull in "billions of dollars" for America and create jobs.
However, Trump made no mention of the environmental rationale for the bans, brought in by his predecessor Barack Obama.
"Our country's blessed with incredible natural resources, including abundant offshore oil and natural gas reserves, but the federal government has kept 94 percent of these offshore areas closed for exploration and production," the president said before journalists in the White House.
"This deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth," he said.
Trump's order calls for a review of the Obama-era bans with the goal of allowing "responsible development of offshore areas that will bring revenue to our treasury and jobs to our workers."
Obama's indefinite prohibition on new drilling in US waters in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska, including most of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and in 31 underwater canyons in the Atlantic Ocean was enacted last December under a 1953 law.
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act gives the president power to withdraw offshore areas from commercial use. Previous presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton also invoked the legislation.
Libya confirms restart of its largest oil field
Washington (UPI) Apr 28, 2017 - Libya's national oil company said there may be long-standing agreements in place to keep the taps open in the company to the tune of 200,000 barrels per day.
Crude oil prices, which have been drifting deeper into negative territory for several straight sessions, faced further headwinds in early Thursday trading after reports surfaced that Libya was on the rebound. Referencing "a person with direct knowledge of the matter," Bloomberg News reported Libya's largest oil field, Sharara, had re-opened.
Libya's National Oil Corp. confirmed the restart with an announcement late Thursday that it was considering an understanding reached between regional leaders and security groups to keep the field open unconditionally, "restoring over 200,000 barrels per day of Libyan oil production with immediate effect."
NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said the coordination was meant as a lasting solution and force majeure, a contractual condition related to circumstances beyond the control of the parties involved, was now lifted.
The Sharara oil field has operated in fits and starts as Libya tries to push the momentum on the national security front toward the side of peace. It was closed once in April already after restarting just weeks before that.
Libya is exempt from a production ceiling established by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the NOC said its output could increase by 100,000 bpd by the end of April to 800,000 bpd. The company set a goal of reaching 1.1 million barrels per day, a level consistent with pre-conflict output by next August.
Secondary sources reported to OPEC economists that first quarter production for Libya was around 660,000 bpd, against 574,660 during the fourth quarter.
EU to start first-ever energy forum with Iran
Washington (UPI) Apr 28, 2017 - With trade levels growing in response to easing sanctions, the energy commissioner for the European Union said Friday he was headed to Iran to strengthen ties.
EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete left Friday for Tehran for the inaugural bilateral business forum on sustainable energy. The commission said the forum aims to bring more than 50 European companies with 40 of their Iranian counterparts to lay the ground work for joint partnerships in the energy sector.
On his departure from Brussels, the commissioner said bilateral trade between the EU and Iran is up 79 percent, with exports from Iran quadrupling since a multilateral nuclear agreement brought sanctions relief to the Islamic republic in January 2016.
"Now we want to take this success story one step further," he said in a statement. "The energy sector will feature prominently in our future relations and we are committed to fully tap into its economic and social potential while contributing to achieve our climate commitments."
Iranian state media this week said the EU was already establishing stronger bilateral ties in the agricultural sector. The EU stressed the two-day forum in Tehran is geared toward clean energy and the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Ali Khamenei, the ruling cleric in Iran, has called for a so-called resistance economy, one that limits exposure to international market shocks and sanctions pressures in part by weaning itself off oil for revenue. According to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, non-oil exports for the 11 months ending March 20 were up 33 percent.
International Monetary Fund projections said the economy of Iran, one of the top oil producers in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, should grow at a rate of about 4.5 percent, but wax and wane between growth of 6.6 percent this year and 3.3 percent through 2018.
A profile of the ease of doing business with Iran from Britain, which is now still part of the EU, said "Iran is the biggest new market to enter the global economy in over a decade."
Greenpeace disrupts Credit Suisse meet over pipeline financing
Zurich (AFP) April 28, 2017 - Greenpeace activists disrupted a Credit Suisse shareholder meeting in Zurich Friday, unfurling a banner to protest the bank's alleged financing of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline in the United States.
About 30 minutes before Switzerland's second largest bank kicked off its annual general assembly, activists set up a fake pipeline, measuring around 10 metres (yards) and weighing more than 900 kilos (nearly 2,000 pounds), at the entrance of the building, the group said in a statement.
And just as Credit Suisse chief Tidjane Thiam was launching into his speech, other activists suddenly scaled down on ropes and unfurled a giant, yellow banner urging the bank to "Stop Dirty Pipeline Deals", an AFP journalist in the room said.
The banner, which blocked a screen detailing the bank's 2016 financial results, also carried the hashtags: #NoDAPL and #WaterIsLife.
Thiam wryly thanked the activists for their "interest" in his presentation, before asking them politely to remove the banner to allow the shareholders to see his presentation.
The environmental protection group was protesting against Credit Suisse's alleged financing of the Dakota Access Pipeline, part of which runs through lands inhabited by the indigenous groups.
"Credit Suisse shareholders should know the scandalous nature of the investments made in their name," Mathias Schlegel, spokesman for Greenpeace's Swiss chapter, insisted in the group's statement.
Following the protest, the bank's chairman Urs Rohner meanwhile told shareholders that "Credit Suisse has never financed any part of the Dakota Access Pipeline".
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their backers say the Dakota pipeline threatens the Missouri River and the Lake Oahe reservoir, a key drinking water source.
They also worry about the impact on nearby sacred lands, and the Native Americans and their supporters camped out for the better part of last year, physically blocking construction at the site.
But in the first week of his presidency, Donald Trump signed executive orders to revive the Dakota Access project, along with a second pipeline put on hold by the Obama administration, Keystone XL.
Greenpeace said Friday that Credit Suisse's internal directives blocked the bank from conducting business with partners whose activities impact the fundamental rights of indigenous groups.
"Greenpeace and the Sioux communities directly affected demand that Credit Suisse halts its support for the project and for the companies involved," the group said.
CREDIT SUISSE GROUP
Trump's offshore oil move already facing legal challenge
Washington (UPI) Apr 28, 2017 - With the ink barely dry on an order to review U.S. offshore drilling rights, environmental groups said preparations are already underway for a legal challenge.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced last Thursday that President Donald Trump has an executive order in place to review the five-year program for offshore oil and gas development. In one of his final moves in office, former President Barack Obama used parts of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to ban oil and gas work in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the coast of Alaska, as well as Atlantic coast areas.
Environmental groups said they were alarmed that the Trump administration aimed to put more acreage on the auction block, including possibly some of the first offers for offshore California in decades.
Tim Donaghy, a senior research specialist with Greenpeace, told UPI before Zinke's announcement that the OCSLA gives the president the authority to withdraw some areas from oil and gas leasing consideration, but not the authority to put those lease considerations back on the table. After the announcement, environmental groups Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council said they were drafting a lawsuit to challenge the Trump administration.
"Trump's short-sighted order reverses climate progress and imperils coastal communities, irreplaceable wildlife, and our shared future," Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen said in a statement. "It is also against the law."
Obama's order was issued jointly with the Canadian government.
On the Senate floor earlier this week, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the possible inclusion of Florida waters currently under a moratorium, as well as parts of the Atlantic, would jeopardize coastal tourism dollars, as well as national security given the U.S. military training grounds in the area.
On the opposite coast, California Gov. Jerry Brown, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the federal government was putting its interests above the state's by potentially expanding Pacific drilling rights for the first time in more than 30 years.
"Now is not the time to turn back the clock," they said in a statement issued late Thursday. "We cannot return to the days where the federal government put the interests of big oil above our communities and treasured coastline."
Venoco, which has its headquarters in Colorado, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early April and said it would dispose of its assets as a result. The company quit-claimed its lease for the offshore South Ellwood field back to the state and now starts the decommissioning of its offshore Holly platform and associated infrastructure onshore, built in the 1960s and closed after the Refugio oil spill in 2015.
The last auction for offshore acreage during the previous five-year lease plan brought in nearly $275 million in high bids. This week, Randall Luthi, the president of the National Ocean Industries Association, told UPI that about 90 percent of U.S. offshore areas are deemed off limits.
Eight new fields in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico started producing oil last year, leading to a high-water mark of 1.6 million barrels per day, beating the previous record set in 2009 by 44,000 bpd. By January, regional offshore production was up another half million barrels on a daily basis.
Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska could be included under the new order from the White House. Drilling in those harsh conditions could be cost-prohibitive under current market conditions. In 2014, when oil prices were twice as high as today, Shell said it was reluctant to commit capital to Arctic programs offshore Alaska.
Exxon more than doubles first quarter earnings over last year
Washington (UPI) Apr 28, 2017 - Cost-saving efforts, coupled with improved market conditions, meant earnings for the first quarter more than doubled from last year, Exxon Mobil said Friday.
Exxon is one of the first big oil companies out with earnings reports following the January implementation of an agreement coordinated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to balance the market through managed declines. That decision has established a floor price under crude oil of around $50 per barrel, a marked improvement over first quarter 2016 declines below $30 per barrel.
Exxon reported first quarter earnings of $4 billion, compared with $1.8 billion during the first quarter of 2016. Capital spending year-on-year was 19 percent lower for the first quarter.
"Our results reflect an increase in commodity prices and highlight our continued focus on controlling costs and operating efficiently," Chairman and CEO Darren W. Woods said in a statement.
Exxon this year received approval from the Norwegian government to extend the life of a natural gas field in the North Sea for another five years because of new production calculations. Exxon was among the top five bidders for a March auction for exploration rights to acreage in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Elsewhere, Exxon signed contracts to supply liquefied natural gas to Japan, whose demand is growing, though the pace of acceleration is moderating as it retools its energy sector in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
On the divestment side, Exxon during the first quarter sold off options offshore Gabon, nabbing $350 million for the maturing assets.
Oil production in Texas up slightly year-on-year
Washington (UPI) Apr 27, 2017 - Preliminary data from Texas show total crude oil production for February was slightly more than figures from the same time last year, a regulator reported.
The Railroad Commission of Texas, the state energy regulator, reported a preliminary crude oil production volume of 70.3 million barrels for February, against the preliminary output of 70.2 million barrels in February 2016. Oil production figures from the commission don't include condensate, an ultra-light form of oil found in some shale deposits, and last February's preliminary data was updated to 82.7 million barrels.
Texas is the No. 1 oil producer in the United States and home to shale basins seen as more resilient to the relative low price for crude oil than elsewhere in North America. Lower crude oil prices has curbed spending on exploration and production, though activity, reported as rig counts by oilfield services company Baker Hughes, has moved steadily higher this year.
For the week ending April 21, Baker Hughes reported Texas gained six rigs. Rig activity in the state is more than twice what it was last year, though there's a notable time between when rig deployment translates to actual production.
A drilling productivity report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration finds one Texas shale oil reservoir in particular, the Permian basin, is recovering quickly as oil prices settle in at around $50 per barrel. May output is expected at about 2.4 million barrels per day. For all but three months since January 2016, production from Permian shale has increased.
"With rising oil prices over the past year, the Permian continues to be attractive to drillers, as reflected in rising rig counts," a daily report from the EIA read. "As of April 21, the number of rigs in the Permian Basin reached 340, or 40 percent of the 857 total oil- and natural gas-directed rigs operating in the United States."
In a potential sign of future production, however, total wells completed for 2017 are down 44 percent year-on-year to 1,925. Wells completed loosely equates to commercial prospects, with completions indicating an operation is close to actual production.
Shell claims low-carbon edge
Washington (UPI) Apr 12, 2017 - One of the largest oil companies in the world, Royal Dutch Shell said Wednesday it was focused on a low-carbon strategy that was geared toward long-term growth.
Shell highlighted its movement through a changing energy landscape in a sustainability report on activities last year. Chief Executive Officer Ben van Buerden said in the report that lower crude oil prices and a global community coordinated around the U.N.-backed Paris climate agreement meant changes were necessary for the oil and gas business.
In one of the biggest mergers in the history of the industry, Shell last year tied the knot with British energy company BG Group, building up a stronger natural gas portfolio. Van Buerden singled out natural gas as part of the low-carbon future.
"Our business strategy includes creating a world-class investment case for shareholders and strengthening our leadership in the oil and gas industry, while positioning the company for growth as the world transitions to a low-carbon energy system," he said in a statement.
Globally, the company said in a sector review published in February that new liquefied natural gas was primed for growth. The company said the outlook for LNG demand is set to increase at twice the rate of gas demand, at 4 to 5 percent a year between 2015 and 2030.
China and India, among the fastest growing economies in the world, are leading the pack in terms of growth in LNG imports. Australia, where Shell has considerable holdings, is among the lead exporters of the super-cooled form of gas.
Shell has come under fire for some its conventional operations. Plans to tear down legacy infrastructure in the British waters of the North Sea were criticized for the lack of transparency by advocates from the environmental community.
On Monday, reports surfaced that some of Shell's money circulating in Nigeria was used for payoffs.
Russia plans to cut oil output by 300,000 barrels per day
Washington (UPI) Apr 12, 2017 - According to state media in Russia, the country's oil minister has upped the ante on how much the country will cut out of its production levels through June.
"Our plans have not changed -- by the end of the month we will reduce daily reduction of oil output of 300,000 barrels," Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak was quoted as saying by state news agency Tass. "We will maintain this level in May-June."
Tass reported Tuesday that total crude oil production from Russia last month was 11.04 million barrels per day, about 67 percent toward a quota outlined in a deal with OPEC, but also cited the minister as saying cuts by the end of April would be 250,000 barrels per day.
Russia is the largest non-member contributor to an arrangement by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to balance the global market for oil through production cuts. Parties to the deal meet to consider the terms next month and it's widely expected the arrangement will be extended for another six months.
Figures posted on Twitter by pricing group S&P Global Platts note official data from Russia show March oil production at 10.3 million barrels per day, about 60,000 barrels per day less than the first two months of the year. The average production for the first quarter of the year stands at around 11.2 million barrels per day, 130,000 barrels per day lower than the fourth quarter, but 120,000 barrels per day higher year-over-year.
"Most Russian producers have reduced production month-over-month since January," the report from Platts read.
Novak's most recent comments align with Russia's pledge to OPEC to cut 300,000 barrels per day by May. Coordinated production declines from all contributing non-member states would be 558,000 barrels per day if all parties are in total compliance.
Participating OPEC members are touting compliance amid a sustained rally in crude oil prices, fueled in part by geopolitical tensions. In its monthly market report for April, secondary sources told OPEC economists that member-state production declined in March by 152,000 barrels per day to 31.9 million barrels per day.
Despite bullish calls from Riyadh on compliance, the price of oil and the terms of the arrangement, secondary sources reported total Saudi oil production last month was just shy of 10 million barrels per day for a gain of about a half percent from February.
No end in sight for rally on crude oil prices
Washington (UPI) Apr 12, 2017 - There was no end to the sustained rally in crude oil prices early Wednesday as OPEC chatter adds to the support emerging from geopolitical tensions.
Crude oil prices have been in rally mode for several consecutive sessions and the price for Brent crude oil is up about 12 percent from one month ago. The market focus over the last few weeks has been on crude oil and gasoline inventories in the United States, the world's leading economy, rather than production trends in the shale basins responding positively to higher oil prices.
The American Petroleum Institute reported late Tuesday a decline of 1.3 million barrels from U.S. crude oil inventories and an even bigger draw on gasoline inventories.
"Should this set of data be confirmed by the Energy Information Administration this afternoon we are likely to see the seventh consecutive daily price gain," Tamas Varga, an analyst with the broker PVM, said in a daily newsletter.
EIA's data are official figures from the U.S. government.
The price for Brent crude oil was up 0.46 percent about a half hour before the start of trading to $56.49 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for oil, was up 0.43 percent to $53.63 per barrel.
Market factors feeding the rally early Wednesday came from the monthly market report for April from OPEC, which showed some of the supply-side pressures that pulled oil prices below $30 per barrel were evaporating on the back of a managed decline agreement coordinated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
OPEC economists reported oil demand growth to be around 1.27 million barrels per day, an upward revision of 10,000 barrels per day. Much of the demand growth is coming from expanding Asian economies like India's.
On the supply side, OPEC said major producers like the United States are expected to stimulate non-member state production, though that's offset by a decline of 153,000 barrels per day from OPEC members to 31.93 million barrels per day. Russia and other contributing members, meanwhile, are supporting longer production cuts and data show compliance with the managed decline agreement is above the collective quota.
On the geopolitical front, the diplomatic fallout from last week's U.S. airstrikes on Syria continue to spill over to broader concerns about the relationship between Moscow, Washington, Tehran and Riyadh. Elsewhere, the regime in North Korea is rattling its sabers against the United States for its military presence in the region.
Further upsetting the geopolitical order is the decision from former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to throw his hat into the ring for upcoming presidential elections there. Ahmadinejad is far more conservative than Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his entry could be a sign of increasing tension in the region with Western powers.
In a short-term market report, EIA said it expected Brent crude oil prices would average $54 per barrel for 2017 and $57 per barrel next year, with WTI trading a $2 per barrel discount to the global benchmark.
Norwegian company Aker BP posts production gains
Washington (UPI) Apr 12, 2017 - Aker BP, a merger of Norwegian energy companies and a national subsidiary of BP, said Wednesday its first quarter production was up nearly 15 percent.
The company reported first quarter production of 145.3 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, an increase of 14.8 percent from the previous quarter. Most of the company's output came from the Alvheim license area, which draws oil using a floating production facility from four fields in the greater region.
All told, production from Alvheim was 64.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day for the first quarter, a gain of nearly 20 percent.
The Norwegian government confirmed an Aker BP discovery in December near the Frigg field in the North Sea at between 25 million and 75 million barrels of recoverable oil equivalents. In January, the company boasted that its Valhall and Hod complex in the North Sea passed a production milestone of 1 billion barrels of product, far more than expected and well ahead of schedule.
Norway is one of the top oil and natural gas exporters to the European market, apart from Russia. Nearly all of the reserves produced offshore are designated for exports. Production figures from the Norwegian government for February show an average daily production of 2.1 million barrels of oil, natural gas liquids and condensate, an increase of nearly 2 percent from January.
The newly-minted company offered no comment when pressed on the latest production trends. In statements on earnings for the fourth quarter, CEO Karl Johnny Hersvik said the company was on a streak after paying out its first-ever dividend to shareholders in December.
Anticipating hazards from fracking-induced earthquakes in Canada and US
San Francisco CA (SPX) Apr 13, 2017 - As hydraulic fracturing operations expand in Canada and in some parts of the United States, researchers at the 2017 Seismological Society of America's (SSA) Annual Meeting are taking a closer look at ways to minimize hazards from the earthquakes triggered by those operations.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method of hydrocarbon recovery that uses high-pressure injections of fluid to break apart rock and release trapped oil and natural gas. At the SSA Annual Meeting, experts will speak about the growing recognition that hydraulic fracturing or fracking can produce earthquakes magnitude 3 and larger, acknowledging that this type of seismic activity is difficult to predict and may be difficult to stop once it begins.
Most induced earthquakes in Canada have been linked to hydraulic fracturing, in contrast to induced earthquakes studied in the central and eastern United States. In the U.S., these earthquakes have been linked primarily to massive amounts of wastewater injected back into the ground after oil and gas recovery. However, some presentations at the SSA meeting will take a closer look at the possibilities for fracking earthquakes in the United States.
Michael Brudzinski of Miami University and his colleagues will discuss their work to identify swarms of small magnitude earthquakes in Ohio that appear to be correlated in time and space with hydraulic fracturing or wastewater disposal.
Their work suggest that there are roughly three times more earthquake sequences of magnitude 2 or larger induced by hydraulic fracturing compared to wastewater disposal in the area - even though there are about 10 times more hydraulic fracturing wells than wastewater disposal wells. Their technique, they say, provides evidence of induced seismicity from hydraulic fracturing in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Texas as well.
Zenming Wang and colleagues are preparing for the onset of oil and gas exploration in the Rome Trough of eastern Kentucky, conducting a study of the natural background seismicity in the area to be able to better identify induced earthquakes if they occur. In their SSA presentation, they will also discuss how an area like eastern Kentucky might assess and prepare for ground shaking hazards from induced earthquakes, since the ruptures may occur on unmapped or "quiet" faults.
In western Alberta and eastern British Columbia in Canada, a significant increase in the rate of felt earthquakes from hydraulic fracturing has researchers looking at ways to mitigate potential damage to infrastructure in the region. In her SSA presentation, Gail Atkinson of Western University will discuss the factors that affect the likelihood of damaging ground motion from fracking-induced earthquakes.
Based on these factors, Atkinson proposes targeted "exclusion zones" with a radius of about five kilometers around critical infrastructure such as major dams. This would be combined real-time monitoring to track the rate of seismic events of magnitude 2 or greater within 25 kilometers, with fracking operations adjusted to potentially reduce this rate to less hazardous levels.
Florida lawmaker fending off calls for oil and gas drilling
Washington (UPI) Apr 12, 2017 - Amid calls for more oil and gas drilling, a Democratic senator in Florida said he was "beating back" pressure for exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.
Industry groups like the American Petroleum Institute have praised executive orders from President Donald Trump that favor the oil and gas industry. With changes in Washington, Kevin Doyle, the Florida director of the Consumer Energy Alliance, said in a message sent to UPI that he called on state leaders to evaluate the potential for oil and gas exploration in the waters off the western coast of Florida.
By Doyle's estimates, state coffers could be bolstered for the benefit of Florida residents struggling with medical bills and dwindling pensions.
"A strong and growing constituency in Florida supports understanding how energy development could help lower their month expenses and improve their standard of living," Nelson said in a letter to Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. "We ask you to work with Florida's families and business leaders to find the balance between environmental protection and security energy independence that we know can happen for the benefit of all Floridians and Americans."
Nelson helped push bipartisan legislation in 2006 that banned oil and drilling in the state waters of the Gulf of Mexico through 2022. A measure introduced in January calls for an extension of that moratorium for another five years.
Nelson's original bill was enacted in part to ensure the coastal environment in Florida is protected from oil spills. In 2015, a bipartisan measure was introduced to ensure any foreign party responsible for an oil spill would cover cleanup costs should contamination reach U.S. territory.
In 2012, Mexican regulators said they didn't have effective plans in place to deal with an offshore oil spill. With diplomatic doors opening to Cuba, Florida lawmakers at the time said concerns were evolving as Havana reviews its offshore oil potential.
Officials at the community level were cited by local media as saying few Florida constituents were actually in favor of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. According to political website Saint Peters Blog, Nelson said he was determined to keep Florida waters off limits to oil and gas companies.
"Increasingly we have threats to drill in the Gulf of Mexico off the west coast of Florida, and it's getting to the point that I have to keep beating back these attempts," he was quoted as saying.
Thanks, but no thanks, BHP Billiton tells hedge fund
Washington (UPI) Apr 12, 2017 - Australian energy and mining company BHP Billiton has everything in place to increase shareholder value, it said in response to calls to break up its portfolio.
In a letter made public on Monday, managers at hedge fund Elliot Associates and Elliot International, which hold minor shares in BHP Billiton, called on the Australian company to split off its U.S. oil division in order to unlock tens of billions of U.S. dollars in shareholder value.
BHP dismissed the call early this week. In a statement Wednesday, the Australian company said its structure was already established for growth.
"BHP Billiton is now a stronger, simpler company, well-positioned for future economic conditions," CEO Andrew Mackenzie said. "We are confident we have everything in place to increase returns and significantly grow shareholder value."
The multinational company, which holds assets from mining to oil, reported a net profit of $3.2 billion for the six months ending Dec. 31. That compares with a loss of $7.8 billion during the first six months of last year, a period that saw crude oil prices hit a historic low.
Outside of sectors like copper, the company in early February gave the green light to spending more than $2 billion to help develop the Mad Dog project in the Gulf of Mexico.
For its entire portfolio, Mackenzie said holdings were "large, long-life and low-cost." With a balance sheet that's stronger after last year's market downturn, the company in its earnings report from early this year said it would raise the overall interim dividend it pays out to shareholders to 40 U.S. cents per share.
Elliot said in its letter Monday that BHP's oil assets in the United States are limited in their potential and therefore a waste of capital.
In its response Wednesday, BHP said maneuvering in the way proposed by Elliot was save less the company less than $2.5 million per year while erasing at least $1.3 billion in value.
"Petroleum remains core to the BHP Billiton strategy and has the potential to create significant long term value at high returns," it said.
Gas prices up on geopolitical tensions, end of winter
Washington (UPI) Apr 11, 2017 - A steady rise in crude oil prices and maintenance at the nation's refineries means steady pain at the pump for U.S. motorists, motor club AAA reports.
AAA lists a national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $2.39, up slightly from Monday for nearly a two-week streak of gains. By the motor club's estimates, the national average for the price of gas is up more than 4 percent, or about 10 cents per gallon, from one month ago.
"Pump prices in 48 states and Washington D.C. have moved higher over the last week, led by the switch over to more expensive summer-blend gasoline and increased driving demand," AAA explained in a weekly retail market report.
The summer-blend of gasoline is more expensive to produce because more steps are needed to prevent evaporation during warmer months. The end of winter across much of the Lower 48 also means drivers are taking to the road to break cabin fever and both factors can weigh on demand.
Adding to the situation is a steady gain in crude oil prices. Markets were moving higher in late March amid signs of a crimp in supplies and a U.S. decision last week to launch airstrikes on targets in Syria pulled crude oil prices higher because of the regional tensions that followed.
By region, the West Coast is the most expensive market in the country and AAA said that won't change anytime soon. California gas prices are hovering near $3 per gallon and could break through the psychological price-point given refinery maintenance at a PBF Energy facility in California and maintenance at a BP plant in Washington.
The Great Lakes market remains the most volatile in the country and Michigan held the distinction of the state with the largest increase in gas prices, up 12 cents from last week for a state average of $2.55 per gallon. As an indication of regional volatility, state prices across the border in Ohio are 7 percent lower.
According to AAA, there are two refineries in the area that are operating at reduced capacity because of maintenance work.
The U.S. government estimates the national retail price for the year will average $2.40 per gallon.
Libya estimates field closure costing $9.8 million per day
Washington (UPI) Apr 11, 2017 - The closure of one of the largest oil fields in Libya means a loss of about $9.8 million and the outage of huge volumes of oil, a national oil company said.
Libya's National Oil Corp. confirmed its Sharara oil field was shut down because of attacks by militants on regional pipeline infrastructure. The field has operated in fits and starts as Libya tries to push the momentum on the national security front toward the side of peace and emerged from a previous closure just one week ago.
The NOC said in a statement the closure resulted in the loss of "immense" volumes of oil and natural gas designated for exports across the Algerian border. The loss from the shutdown was estimated by the NOC at around $9.8 million per day.
"When production is resumed, we will face many technical problems to return production from the closed wells, which will cost huge amounts of money," the company stated.
Assuming peak capacity, the NOC said the loss from the field could be about 10,400 barrels of oil per day. Libya is exempt from a production ceiling established by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the NOC said its output could increase by 100,000 bpd by the end of April to 800,000 bpd. The company set a goal of reaching 1.1 million barrels per day, a level consistent with pre-conflict output.
The assessment from the Libyan company follows a visit by NOC representatives to Vienna to discuss future cooperation with Austrian energy company OMV. In statements sent to UPI, Rainer Seele, the CEO of OMV, said Libya is an "ideal" fit for his company, which counts onshore and maturing basins like those in Libya as within its area of expertise.
Libya holds, by OMV's estimate, around 47 billion barrels of oil.
Potential grows for reserves offshore Norway
Washington (UPI) Apr 11, 2017 - The results of an appraisal well in the Edvard Grieg oilfield in Norwegian waters could lead to an increase in the overall reserve estimate, a company said.
Lundin Petroleum said its Norwegian subsidiary confirmed the presence of reserves in an appraisal well drilled about a mile away from the platform positioned over the Edvard Grieg field. The purpose of the well was to prove additional resources and Lundin said it estimated the presence of up to 30 million barrels of oil equivalent at the appraisal well.
"The final implication for total reserves for the Edvard Grieg field will be quantified in the 2017 year end reserves update," the company stated.
For 2017, Lundin said nearly all of its $1.1 billion in development spending for the year was targeting reserves in Norway and most of that was targeting operations tied to the larger fields like Edvard Grieg. Oil was first pulled out of the field in November 2015.
Apart from Russia, Norway is a top oil and gas exporter to the European market. Nearly all of its offshore oil and gas is designated for exports.
For the company itself, Lundin gained some leverage in Norwegian waters last year when regional major Statoil spent $538 million to acquire an 11.9 percent stake in the company.
In a separate statement, Lundin said it received conditional approval to list shares of a spinoff company on the open market. The company completed the establishment of its International Petroleum Corp. in early April, breaking off its non-Norwegian assets into another company.
When announcing plans to form IPC in February, Lundin said its sole focus would be on operations in the Norwegian waters of the North Sea and the Barents Sea.
West Africa oil potential growing
Washington (UPI) Mar 28, 2017 - After posting a perfect record in discoveries off the West African coast, Australian energy company FAR Ltd. said its footprint was expanding with a new buy-in.
Working through a subsidiary, FAR Ltd. said it was buying into basins off the coast of Gambia from ERIN Energy Corp., which has headquarters in Houston. The Australian company under the terms of the agreement, which still requires government approval, agrees to fund up to $8 million in exploration and production costs.
The two Gambian blocks combine for an estimated 1 billion barrels of unrisked barrels of oil and are in close proximity to FAR's SNE oil field offshore Senegal, which was considered the largest oil find ever made when announced in 2014.
FAR Managing Director Cath Norman said the deal with ERIN gives her company a dominant position in the Mauritania-Senegal-Guinea-Bissau basin. With eight regional oil discoveries so far, "the MSGB basin has emerged as an exploration 'hot spot' attracting the attention of the world's oil majors," she said in a statement.
Gambia is a minor player with exports emerging only in 2015. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the country exported an average 81,000 barrels of oil per day last year.
ERIN entered Gambian waters in 2012 and described the region as highly prospective given the proximity to other nearby discoveries like SNE and the larger Jubilee oil field off the coast of Ghana. Through its partnership with FAR, seismic surveys offshore Gambia are planned this year in order to get a better understanding of the reserve potential.
Drilling is planned for late 2018.
Low prices at the pump holding thanks to OPEC
Washington (UPI) Mar 28, 2017 - Uncertainty surrounding an OPEC-led production agreement is keeping a lid on crude oil prices to the benefit of U.S. motorists at the pump, AAA reported.
The motor club lists a national average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $2.28, a fraction of a cent less than the previous day, but relatively unchanged from one month ago.
Retail gasoline prices usually start to increase in early spring and summer as improved weather conditions bring more travelers to the roads. A seasonal shift to a summer-blend of gasoline, which is more expensive to make because of steps needed to prevent evaporation, adds additional pressure at the pump.
This year, the market is offsetting some of the typical seasonal trends in gasoline prices. The average price for gasoline in the United States has declined 10 of the past 11 days as crude oil prices hold around $50 per barrel, about 9 percent below the peak for the year.
Crude oil prices were moving higher early Tuesday after a volatile session Monday, which was influenced by uncertainty surrounding the next move by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC in January started curbing production to offset a lopsided market, but held off on making a formal decision during a weekend meeting in Kuwait.
Mirroring the national trend, AAA in a weekly retail market report said the West Coast remained at even keel, but was still the most expensive region in the country. California had the highest state average in the Lower 48 with $2.98 per gallon. The region as a whole has posted the largest year-over-year increases in gasoline prices and the motor club said pressure could develop as regional inventories of gasoline decline.
The Great Lakes market, meanwhile, holds its distinction as the most volatile market in the country, with Michigan and Ohio posting the largest declines in weekly gasoline prices. Michigan gas prices declined nearly 3 percent from last week to dip to levels on par with the national average. That market is on the cusp of posting major gains, however, as refiners there move to the summer blend of gasoline next month.
Retail markets could get a jolt next month as OPEC meets again to consider whether or not to extend the production agreement. A decision made in November by OPEC lifted oil prices out of a historic decline that saw the price of oil drop below $30 per barrel.
AAA lists a record for a national average at $4.26 per gallon in May 2011.
Oil prices bounce on signs of market tightening
Washington (UPI) Mar 28, 2017 - A wider spread between crude oil benchmarks and signs of trouble in Libya gave oil prices a bounce early Tuesday on signs of short-term tightening of supplies.
Crude oil prices moved in volatile territory in Monday trading as traders were left guessing following a weekend meeting from ministers monitoring an OPEC-led effort to offset an oversupplied market through managed declines. Ministers in Kuwait decided to stand pat and reconsider a six-month extension to the deal in April.
Markets may be bullish in anticipation of orders from the Trump administration that would erase sweeping regulations on fossil fuels. A pro-oil former businessman, the new U.S. president has made efforts to support the domestic energy sector through a wide range of executive orders.
Late in the trading day, the American Petroleum Institute will publish data on U.S. crude oil inventory levels for last week. S&P Global Platts said it expected a build of 300,000 barrels, which would be far lower than the four-year average if confirmed. Geoffrey Craig, the oil futures editor at Platts, said it's not so much the inventory levels, but the growing difference between the price for the global and U.S. benchmark prices that matters.
A premium for Brent "will likely boost U.S. crude oil exports and lower imports, which together could help to offset rising U.S. production and, ultimately, work to tighten U.S. supply," he said in a newsletter emailed to UPI.
The March contract for Brent expires later today. The price for the global benchmark was 1.12 percent higher than Monday's close to reach $51.32 per barrel about a half hour before the start of trading in New York. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, was up 1.1 percent to $48.26 per barrel.
Ole Hansen, the head of commodity strategy at SaxoBank, told UPI the morning momentum was on tighter supplies, with trouble resurfacing in Libya.
"Fundamental support has come from Libya where trouble have close down supply from two sites producing 250,000 barrels of oil per day," he said.
The oil futures editor at Platts said it will remain a tight balancing act for the market, however, as traders watch for the pursuit of a Goldilocks number that would keep producers from reacting too strongly in either direction.
"One question is whether the recent downturn in crude prices below $50 per barrel (WTI) will deter U.S. producers from going full-tilt," he said.
Russian oil company reached Iraqi production milestone
Washington (UPI) Mar 28, 2017 - Russian oil company Gazprom Neft said it passed a milestone with operations in Iraq by passing the 5 million barrel mark for cumulative production in 2017.
The company said it commissioned four wells at the Badra oil field so far this year, bringing the combined total to 14 wells at the field. Total daily production has increased to 80,000 barrels and total output so far this year is in excess of 5 million barrels.
"The Badra project is going according to plan, and it's clear that the infrastructure necessary for increasing oil production is already in place," project director Denis Sugaipov said in a statement.
The company, the oil arm of Russian gas company Gazprom, brought Badra online in late 2013 and tested new pipeline infrastructure to the export terminal at Basra one year later. The terms of its Iraqi contract call for the eventual production of 170,000 barrels per day.
Gazprom Neft estimates Badra holds around 3 billion barrels of oil in place.
The production announcement follows a weekend meeting from members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-member states in Kuwait to consider extensions to an agreement to limit output in an effort to balance a global market favoring the supply side.
Iraq is an OPEC member that initially balked at the agreement. Russia is the largest contributor to the agreement among non-member states and its compliance has come under scrutiny.
Badra is Gazprom Neft's first project outside of Russia.
Trump to rewrite environmental laws
Washington (UPI) Mar 28, 2017 - White House plans to overhaul environmental regulations Tuesday will be rooted in science and sound economic policy, supporters said, though advocacy groups cried foul.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Monday the president is expected to sign an executive order Tuesday that aims to support the energy sector by easing regulations some see as standing in the way of development.
"This order will help keep energy and electricity affordable, reliable and clean in order to boost economic growth and job creation," he said.
Since taking office, President Donald Trump has moved through executive order to erase his predecessor's climate legacy, starting first with a decision to fast-track the approval process for the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines.
Coming off an upset in efforts to dismantle President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, the Trump administration aims to unravel complex regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants and lifting a moratorium on federal coal leasing, among other moves.
During the weekend, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the president is committed to finding the right balance between job growth and the environment by signing the so-called Energy Independence Executive Order.
"The executive order will address the past administration's effort to kill jobs throughout the country through the Clean Power Plan," Pruitt said during an interview on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
The final version of the Clean Power Plan set a goal of cutting emissions of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, by 32 percent of their 2005 baseline by 2030, 9 percent more than in the original proposal.
States that depended on coal and other fossil fuels opposed the Obama-era legislation, though some had already shifted their energy mix toward natural gas and renewables. Rhea Suh, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the president was moving unilaterally by dismantling the Clean Power Plan.
"Nobody voted to sound the retreat in the fight against rising seas, widening deserts, raging heat, drought and fires," she said in a statement.
Suh added that dismantling some of the regulations on oil and natural gas development move against the global tide, though industry supporters said it would boost the overall economic potential.
"Smart, common sense and science-based guidance and regulations will help our nation's energy renaissance continue to provide benefits for American consumers, workers and the environment," Jack Gerard, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement.
Dakota Access pipeline prepared for service
Washington (UPI) Mar 28, 2017 - According to a report, crude oil has been inserted into the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota in preparation for putting the full line in service.
Energy Transfer Partners, an entity behind the 1,172-mile pipeline, announced late Monday that oil was inserted into a section of the pipeline running beneath Lake Oahe in North Dakota.
"Dakota Access is currently commissioning the full pipeline and is preparing to place the pipeline into service," a court filing was quoted by The Hill as reading.
The progress comes one month after U.S. President Donald Trump signed executive orders that made it possible to complete the Dakota Access and restart the process for the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
Dakota Access has long been a source of contention given its proximity to tribal lands in and around North Dakota. State regulators in North Dakota say there's not enough pipeline capacity to transport the amount of crude oil coming out of the Bakken and Three Forks oil reservoirs, leaving companies with rail as a primary transit alternative.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its supporters said Dakota Access would threaten sacred tribal lands and the water supply for residents in the region. Concerns about water supplies in the region also prompted reconsideration for the route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, before President Obama moved against the project on broader environmental grounds. Trump's administration reversed that decision last week.
Dakota Access was the target of widespread opposition since at least last year. In early March, however, a federal judge ruled against the Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux, who were challenging the permit process for the pipeline.
Inserting oil into Dakota Access came on the same day that Norway's DNB Bank announced it was divesting from the project. The bank said in a statement it was using its position as a lender to call for an independent investigation into the safeguarding of indigenous rights.
"By selling our stake, we wish to signal how important it is that the affected indigenous population is involved and that their opinions are heard in these types of projects," Harald Serck-Hannssen, the head of international developments at the bank, said. "Although there have been attempts at consultation by the project parties, the outcome of the process suggests that these have been inadequate."
Novel oil spill cleanup technology tested
Worcester MA (SPX) Mar 27, 2017 - Tests conducted last week of a novel technology that can greatly accelerate the combustion of crude oil floating on water demonstrated its potential to become an effective tool for minimizing the environmental impact of future oil spills. Called the Flame Refluxer, the technology, developed by fire protection engineering researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) with funding from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), could make it possible to burn off spilled oil quickly while producing relatively low levels of air pollutants.
The tests of the Flame Refluxer were conducted between March 13 and March 17 by WPI and BSEE at the United States Coast Guard's Joint Maritime Test Facility on Little Sand Island, located in Mobile Bay. WPI is the first university to work on research at the facility since it reopened in 2015. The tests involved controlled burns of oil in a specially designed test tank on the island.
"In-situ burning has been used with great success, and it is our goal to support research that makes a good method even better," said Karen Stone, oil spill response engineer at BSEE.
"This research, and the results of these tests, are particularly exciting. We saw hotter fires increase the amount of oil that was consumed, what appears to be cleaner emissions, and a significant reduction in burn residue after the burn. Initially we were hopeful that the technology could capture any remaining residue after the burn, but the fires burned so efficiently there was very little to collect."
When oil is spilled in open water, burning it in place (called in-situ burning) can be an effective method for removing the oil before it can settle into the water column and cause ecological harm.
In fact, the current research project is based, in part, on the experience of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, during which more than 400 controlled burns removed between 220,000 and 310,000 barrels of oil from the ocean's surface.
While that experience demonstrated the potential for burns to become an effective clean-up tool, they also made clear the limitations of current techniques. For example, open-water oil fires can be difficult to sustain, they produce smoke, and they leave behind a tar-like residue that can harm marine life. The Flame Refluxer is designed to overcome each of those issues.
According to Scott Fields of the USCG Research and Development Center "in-situ burning is already a very successful process, but we want to improve the air quality for our first responders who are engaged in oil spill cleanup."
The Flame Refluxer consists of metal coils attached to a blanket made from copper wool sandwiched between two layers of copper mesh. The blanket is designed to be placed on top of floating oil that has been collected with a boom towed by boats. After the oil is ignited, the coils and blanket transmit heat from the flames to superheat the oil, which increases its burning rate and efficiency.
As a result, the oil burns more completely. The more complete combustion produces fewer airborne emissions, and any solid residue is captured by the copper wool and kept out of the water column.
The technology was developed at WPI by a team led by Ali Rangwala, professor of fire protection engineering, as an outgrowth of research funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior aimed at assessing the feasibility of using in-situ burns to clean up oil spills in remote locations in the Arctic, where harsh weather can make it difficult to quickly mobilize clean-up equipment and crews.
When laboratory tests identified the challenges of igniting and sustaining oil fires on ice and in cold water, Rangwala and his team began exploring methods for making the oil easier to burn by transmitting heat from the flames to the oil. The Flame Refluxer is the product of that exploration.
"The technology is so simple, it has no moving parts, it's inexpensive, and it significantly enhances the burning rate of oil. The tests we conducted at this unique facility will allow us to advance the technology closer to actual deployment" said Rangwala.
Prototypes of the technology were tested in the state-of-the-art Fire Protection Engineering Laboratory at WPI. The tests at the Joint Maritime Test Facility used a larger prototype, a circular blanket nearly 1.5 meters (four feet, eight inches) across with up to 48 metal coils attached.
The blanket was immersed in a layer of crude oil floating on water. Oil was pumped to the test apparatus to maintain the oil layer at about one centimeter (0.4 inches) throughout each 10-20 minute test burn. (Previous research has shown that crude oil burns most effectively when the oil layer that is maintained between one and four centimeters.)
During test burns conducted with and without the Flame Refluxer, the researchers measured a number of parameters, including temperatures above the oil fire and the flow rate of oil delivered to the test apparatus, in order to determine how effectively the Flame Refluxer conveyed heat from the flames to the oil (a process known as heat flux) and how it changed the oil burning rate.
An air sampling station collected emissions produced by the fire and continuously measured several combustion byproducts: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10). The copper blanket was weighed before and after each test to see how effectively it trapped residue from the oil fires.
While it will take time to analyze the large volume of data collected during the test burns and report official results, Rangwala said the research team made several observations that suggested that the Flame Refluxer technology performed as expected.
"Where we observed thick black smoke during a baseline test, where we burned crude oil without the blanket and coils, when the Refluxer was in use, the smoke was thinner and grey, even though more oil was being combusted.
"In fact, our measurements show that between four and five times as much oil was burned per minute with the Flame Refluxer in place. Finally, we observed that virtually no residue was left over after our burns with the Refluxer, an indication that it promotes more complete combustion of the oil."
New study defines best materials for carbon capture, methane selectivity
Houston TX (SPX) Mar 27, 2017 - Natural gas producers want to draw all the methane they can from a well while sequestering as much carbon dioxide as possible, and could use filters that optimize either carbon capture or methane flow. No single filter will do both, but thanks to Rice University scientists, they now know how to fine-tune sorbents for their needs.
Subtle adjustments in the manufacture of a polymer-based carbon sorbent make it the best-known material either for capturing the greenhouse gas or balancing carbon capture with methane selectivity, according to Rice chemist Andrew Barron.
The specifics are in a paper this month by Barron and Rice research scientist Saunab Ghosh in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Sustainable Energy and Fuels.
"The challenge is to capture as much carbon as possible while allowing methane to flow through at typical wellhead pressures," Barron said. "We've defined the parameters in a map that gives industry the best set of options to date."
Previous work by the lab determined that carbon filters maxed out their capture ability with a surface area of 2,800 square meters per gram and a pore volume of 1.35 cubic centimeters per gram. They also discovered the best carbon capture material didn't achieve the best trade-off between carbon and methane selectivity. With the new work, they know how to tune the material for one or the other, Barron said.
"The traditional approach has been to make materials with ever-increasing pore volume and relate this to a better adsorbent; however, it appears to be a little more subtle," he said.
The lab made its latest filters by heating a polymer precursor and then treating it with a chemical activation reagent of potassium, oxygen and hydrogen, aka KOH. When the polymer is baked with KOH at temperatures over 500 degrees Celsius (932 degrees Fahrenheit), it becomes a highly porous filter, full of nanoscale channels that can trap carbon.
The ratio of KOH to polymer during processing turned out to be the critical factor in determining the final filter's characteristics. Making filters with a 3-to-1 ratio of KOH to polymer gave it a surface area of 2,700 square meters per gram and maximized carbon dioxide uptake under pressures of 5 to 30 bar. (One bar is slightly less than the average atmospheric pressure at sea level.)
Filters made with a 2-to-1 ratio of KOH to polymer had less surface area - 2,200 square meters per gram - and a lower pore volume. That resulted in the optimum combination of carbon dioxide uptake and methane selectivity.
The size of the pores was critical as well. Filters with maximum carbon uptake had the largest fraction of pores smaller than 2 nanometers. Bigger pores were better for methane selectivity.
"It appears that total pore volume is less important than the relative quantity of pores at specific sizes," Barron said. "Our goal was to create a guide for researchers and industry to design better materials.
"Not only can these materials be used for carbon dioxide separation from natural gas, but they are also models for carbon dioxide sequestration in a natural resource. This is the future direction of our research."
Oil streak continues offshore Senegal
Washington (UPI) Mar 27, 2017 - After going eight-for-eight in oil discoveries off the coast of Senegal, Australian energy company FAR Ltd. said it expects a revision to reserve estimates.
FAR Ltd. said it confirmed an oil discovery at the VR-1 well about 3 miles away from its SNE discovery off the coast of Senegal. It's the eighth successful well drilled offshore Senegal since work started in 2014.
"The VR-1 well has been highly successful, providing important information regarding the geology of the western flank of the SNE field," Managing Director Cath Norman said in a statement.
The SNE oil field met the minimum threshold to be considered a commercial opportunity by the third quarter of 2016, less than two years after it was discovered. By the company's estimates, more than 1.5 billion barrels of oil may be in basins off the coast of Senegal and the results from VR-1 could lead to revisions in the reserve estimate.
"Understanding these reservoirs is critical to finalizing the phase 1 development concept and plan," Norman added.
Cairn Energy, which has headquarters in Edinburgh, leads a joint venture targeting oil opportunities off the coast of Senegal. The Scottish company said most of the wells offshore Senegal have been completed ahead of schedule and under budget since operations began in 2014.
When it was discovered in 2014, the SNE field was considered the largest oil discovery in the world. FAR said the inclusion of the VR-1 into the drilling impact would have a minimal impact on funding for offshore Senegal.
More than $2 billion in spending slated offshore Norway
Washington (UPI) Mar 27, 2017 - Norwegian energy company Statoil said it submitted plans to the government to spend more than $2 billion to revitalize operations in the Norwegian Sea.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, the nation's energy regulator, said Monday it received plans from Statoil to extend the lifetime of the Njord field and open up new areas in the nearby Bauge discovery in the Norwegian Sea.
The company plans to spend $1.8 billion on Njord and $481 million on Bauge.
"We are interested in ensuring investments to extend field lifetimes," Kalmar Ildstad, an assistant director for development at the NPD, said in a statement. "This will allow both recovery and value creation to increase, while also opening up opportunities for developing other discoveries in the area."
Njord production was halted last year and the infrastructure on the field was towed to shore after cracks were found on the production structure. Most of Statoil's development budget for the two projects covers upgrades to Njord production structures.
Margareth Ovrum, a vice president for drilling operations at Statoil, said that when the company submitted its first plans for Njord development 20 years ago, it was assumed that operations would end in 2013.
"With new technology, project improvements and close cooperation with the partners and supply industry, we now see opportunities to create considerable value for another 20 years at Njord," she said in a statement.
Apart from Russia, Norway is a lead oil and natural gas supplier to the European economy, exporting nearly all of what it produces offshore.
Statoil estimates there are around 175 million barrels of oil and natural gas left in the Njord field, and another 73 million barrels of oil equivalent at Bauge.
Production from both areas should start by the fourth quarter of 2020.
Norway's Statoil top bidder for U.S. offshore licenses
Washington (UPI) Mar 23, 2017 - As one of the companies with the largest take in a U.S. offshore auction, Norway's Statoil said it reset its Gulf of Mexico position as the market improves.
Statoil was the high bidder on 13 of the tracts up for sale in the latest auction for the rights to drill in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Of the more than two dozen companies with successful bids, Statoil was near the top with company bids of more than $51 million.
The company was the successful high bidder in all but two of the leases it targeted in the central waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Erik Haaland, a spokesperson for Statoil, told UPI in response to emailed questions that the company is moving on U.S. opportunities as market conditions improve.
"We are pleased with having the winning bid for 13 blocks and will now mature these prospects," he said. "The deciding factor to bid was that we see potential for value in these blocks."
Haaland added that, following a string of bad luck with wells it operated there, Statoil "took a break" from the Gulf of Mexico to take a lessons-learned approach to development.
Lease sales last year brought few bidders to the table because of market conditions weakened by historically low crude oil prices. Markets have since stabilized in part because of a production agreement managed by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management secured nearly $275 million in high bids for acreage offshore Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the results of the auction show U.S. economic recovery will hinge in part on energy development.
"Expanded Gulf production is critical to America's economic and energy security, and will play a greater role as we move to break our dependence on foreign oil and strengthen the nation's energy independence," he said in a statement.
U.S. President Donald Trump has put emphasis on the oil and gas sector since taking office, paving the way for increased pipeline infrastructure during his first months in the White House.
U.S. companies Exxon Mobil and Chevron were in the top five with 20 and 19 successful bids respectively. Royal Dutch Shell tied for first with Exxon.
Last year, Statoil production from its offshore portfolio in the United States averaged 60,000 barrels per day. By 2020, the company aims to double that, making the Norwegian oil company one of the top 5 producers from the U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexcio.
Fretting over U.S. economic fate dings oil prices
Washington (UPI) Mar 23, 2017 - Crude oil prices drifted lower in early Thursday trading as investors remained cautious about U.S. economic trajectory ahead of a pivotal vote on health insurance.
Crude oil prices faced lingering pressure in the previous session on signs of ongoing supply-side pressures despite efforts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to offset the glut through managed declines.
Official U.S. data show a build of 1.3 million barrels in crude in oil inventories compared with last week. U.S. crude oil production, meanwhile, continues to show strength with oil at around $50 per barrel, adding 20,000 barrels per day from the previous week to reach 9.1 million barrels per day.
Broader markets may be unsettled Thursday as investors watch for developments from the Republican effort to replace the Affordable Care Act, the signature healthcare measure from President Barack Obama. The measure is facing stiff opposition from the some of the members of the Republican Party.
"Oil traders will watch the vote of the American health care act today and the fate of the bill may be an indicator of the ability of President Donald Trump to drive through his agenda on tax cuts and infrastructure spending," Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst for the PRICE Futures Group, said in a daily newsletter.
After posting modest gains overnight, the price for Brent crude oil was down about 0.3 percent in the minutes before the opening bell in New York to trade at $50.47 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was down 0.4 percent to $47.86 per barrel.
Olivier Jakob, managing director of Switzerland-based consultant Petromatrix, said in a daily newsletter that Brent crude oil was hovering around its 200-day moving average.
"In the near-term, we favor a trading range between $47.00 and $52.00 per barrel for WTI," Jakob wrote in the newsletter.
The price for Brent crude oil had hovered near $55 per barrel for most of the year on optimism surrounding OPEC production cuts. The price for oil came under pressure mid-March following steady reports of gains in oil storage and production in the United States, the world's leading economy.
Markets in general may face stronger headwinds on U.S. labor figures. The U.S. Labor Department reports first-time claims for unemployment for the week ending March 18 up 15,000 from the previous week. The less-volatile four-week moving average was 240,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week.
China's CNOOC hit by market downturn
Washington (UPI) Mar 23, 2017 - After reporting steep declines in yearly oil and gas revenue, Chinese company CNOOC said Thursday its focus on cost control was relentless.
China National Offshore Oil Corp. turned in one of its worst performances in five years with oil and gas revenues down 17 percent from 2015.
When oil prices hit historic lows last year, CNOOC, the country's largest producer, lowered its production forecast for 2016 by 3.5 percent and pledged to put cost control and efficiency at the forefront of its agenda.
"The company unrelentingly pursued a management concept centered around cost control and improved efficiency, maintained prudent financial policies, and realized sound and steady growth in every business," Chairman and CEO Yang Hua said in a statement Thursday.
The company said last year that spending would be cut by 11 percent from 2015 levels. In its annual statement, CNOOC said capital spending cuts were sharper at 26.3 percent year-over-year.
Most major oil and gas companies are expecting improvements this year as the market recovers from last year's slump. In 2016, CNOOC said it realized an average oil price of $41.40 per barrel, a decline of 19.3 percent from 2015.
The price for Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, was trading around $51 per barrel in early Thursday trading. Crude oil prices were under pressure in early March after China lowered its economic growth estimate.
In terms of output, CNOOC boasted that it made 14 commercial discoveries and ended 2016 with 3.9 billion barrels of oil equivalent in net proved reserves.
"Oil and gas reserves made by independent new discoveries in offshore China continued to maintain at a higher level," the company stated.
Putin insists Europe needs expanded gas pipeline
Washington (UPI) Mar 23, 2017 - An expansion to a Russian gas pipeline running offshore to Germany makes sense given production declines in Europe, Russia's president said.
Russian natural gas company Gazprom is one of the dominant suppliers of natural gas for the European economy. The company aims to increase its footprint with the expansion to its twin Nord Stream natural gas pipeline system that runs through the Baltic Sea to Germany and then onto the European market.
Gazprom started calling for tenders to lay the sections of the planned pipeline in the deep waters of the Baltic Sea in early 2016 and maintains the additional components could be in service at some point in 2019.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a meeting with officials with Germany energy company BASF, a partner to Gazprom, that expanding Nord Stream was a logical solution for the European market.
"Given the growth in consumption [of natural gas] in Europe and the decline in production by our European partners, Nord Stream 2 is an absolutely natural project," he was quoted by Russian news agency Tass as saying.
A January report from S&P Global Platts found European demand for natural gas accelerating against declining production, putting a focus on the need for more exports.
In January, Gazprom said European regulators were needlessly standing in the way of access to the OPAL gas pipeline to Germany. Access to OPAL may be necessary if the Russian natural gas company is to twin Nord Stream.
A Polish antitrust authority last year found plans to expand Nord Stream might lead to restriction of competition because of Gazprom's dominant position in the country's gas market, a decision that eventually limited Gazprom's deliveries through OPAL.
Putin said expanding Nord Stream should not be seen as a move to limit the competition of any transit country or company.
"We are ready to maintain ties with all our partners, including Ukraine as a transit country," he said.
Most of the natural gas Russia sends to Europe runs through Soviet-era pipelines in Ukraine. Contractual and geopolitical disputes between Moscow and Kiev have added a layer of risk to Russia's legacy natural gas transit routes.
Oil-, gas-rich Norway expects sluggish economic growth
Washington (UPI) Mar 23, 2017 - There are signs that pressure from a declining energy sector is fading, though Norway's economy is not on pace for major growth, the government said Thursday.
The Norwegian government reported this week that preliminary production of oil, natural gas liquids and other products were up 2 percent from January. Total oil production for February averaged 1.6 million barrels and was about a half percent higher than expected.
Apart from Russia, Norway is one of the main suppliers of oil and natural gas to the European market. Nearly all of its offshore production is exported.
Norway's office for statistics reported that, generally speaking, the economy has been in a cyclical downturn because of pressures from the petroleum industry since late 2014, though there are signs of growth for 2017.
"No strong growth is foreseeable for the next four years, nonetheless," the government report read.
Full-year 2016 gross domestic product increased 0.8 percent, its slowest rate since the global financial crises from the last decade. Emerging growth was apparent, however, as fourth quarter GDP increased by an annualized 1.3 percent.
For investments in the energy industry, the government reported declines began before last decade's recession and continued into late 2016 as low crude oil prices curbed spending. Employment in the petroleum sector, meanwhile, is down 24 percent from its peak in early 2014, though declines there slowed down last year.
"The ripple effects of activity in the petroleum industry are substantial, and the reduction in employment in several supplier industries has been correspondingly sharp," the report read. "Our projections show that the reduction in jobs directly and indirectly associated with petroleum sector demand is about seven times the reduction in the petroleum industry itself."
Norge Bank, the country's central bank, this month left its key rate unchanged at 0.5 percent. In a statement of justification, the bank said inflation would be lower than it expected, which implies the Norwegian economy is becoming isolated.
Oil breakthrough for Mexico with Eni discovery
Washington (UPI) Mar 23, 2017 - Italian energy company Eni said Thursday it confirmed the potential for oil offshore Mexico in the first drilling campaign by a foreign company since 2013.
Eni said it confirmed the presence of oil in the Amoca-2 well, located in the shallow waters in the Campeche Bay near Mexico's southern tip.
CEO Claudio Descalzi said the discovery is a first for his company in Mexico and the first by a foreign company since national energy reforms were enacted in 2013.
"This important discovery comes in a country where Eni has not yet operated and confirms our exploration capabilities," he said in a statement.
The company said the reserve potential from the Amoca-2 well was still being examined, but it estimated the prospects were high.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto moved through reforms to draw private investors to the state energy sector after more than 70 years of a monopoly controlled by state-run Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex. The reforms could bring in up to $415 billion in investments over the next 20 years as the country establishes links to the rest of the world.
Mexico aims to produce around 3.5 million barrels per day by 2025. For Eni, the company said it's evaluating the option to put its fields there on the fast-track to development. It created its Mexican subsidiary in 2015.
Husky Energy responding to minor Alberta oil spill
Washington (UPI) Mar 23, 2017 - Canadian oil company Husky Energy said it was ready to start restoration efforts immediately, after reporting a minor oil spill in southwest Alberta.
Husky estimated a release of about 150 barrels of oil from its Moose Mountain operations in southwest Alberta. In terms of volume, the release is less in gallons than an average residential swimming pool.
The company said the release was discovered one week ago, adding it was still examining the cause of the incident.
"The cleanup will be completed in the days ahead and restoration work will be initiated immediately," a company statement on the incident read. "There is no flowing water at this location and additional precautions have been taken to ensure any runoff is diverted around the cleanup area."
About 1,500 barrels of oil were released near the banks of the North Saskatchewan River after a pipeline ruptured in late July. Husky said its monitoring systems there recorded a pressure anomaly, but no leak, on the pipeline system the night before the spill.
The heavier type of oil found in Canada has the potential to sink in water and mix in with river sediment, making cleanup operations complex.
Libya sets goals for higher oil production
Washington (UPI) Mar 23, 2017 - Libya aims to increase crude oil production at some of its fields by 55,000 barrels to the extent that conditions permit, the nation's main oil company stated.
Officials with Libya's National Oil Corp. met with representatives from Italian energy company Eni and Mellitah Oil & Gas, which ranks itself as the largest in Libya in terms of production.
The NOC said all parties discussed increasing production at the Abu Attifel and al-Remal oil field by 55,000 barrels within the next few weeks "as per the scheduled plan and to the extent that resources permit."
Eni lists the fields in its portfolio and counts Mellitah as the operator. Oil is fed from the complex to the coastal terminal at Zuetina and then onto the export market via tanker. Production has been limited for Eni because of ongoing conflict in Libya.
Martin Kobler, the U.N. special envoy to Libya, said Thursday he had grave concerns about persistent reports of grave human rights violations in the country as the violence continues.
"It is high time to put an end to the gross violations being committed across Libya," he said, adding perpetrators may be hauled before the International Criminal Court.
Mustafa Sanalla, the head of the NOC, has nevertheless held a series of meetings with international oil companies with a steadfast interest in Libya. According to him, production is around 700,000 barrels per day and could reach 800,000 barrels per day by the end of April. Next August, he said, the goal is to reach 1.1 million barrels per day, a level consistent with pre-conflict output.
"We are doing our best to increase production despite all the obstacles and circumstances," he said in a statement.
Libya is exempt from an arrangement organized by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to limit production in an effort to balance an over-supplied market because it needs the revenue to support national security efforts.
UN Security Council again eyes sanctions on South Sudan
United Nations, United States (AFP) March 24, 2017 - The UN Security Council voiced alarm Thursday about the deepening humanitarian crisis and famine in South Sudan, with the United States, Britain and France raising anew the idea of sanctions and a weapons embargo.
Attacks on humanitarian and UN missions, serial rapes, recruitment of child soldiers and famine: Six years after independence, "all the optimism that accompanied the birth of South Sudan has been shattered by internal divisions, rivalries and the irresponsible behavior of some of its leaders," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
"Despite the alarm sounded by the United Nations and the international community over this crisis, the government has yet to express any meaningful concern or take any tangible steps to address the plight of its people," said Guterres, who participated in the council meeting on South Sudan.
The UN chief denounced "a refusal by the leadership to even acknowledge the crisis or to fulfill its responsibilities to end it."
While concern about continued fighting, atrocities and the worsening humanitarian crisis seemed to be unanimously shared, at issue is what the Security Council can do to compel the forces of President Salva Kiir and those of his rival Riek Machar to restore a cease-fire and political dialogue under a 2015 peace agreement.
The United States, which unsuccessfully pushed for an arms embargo in December, raised that possibility again Thursday, supported by Britain and France.
"We are outraged by the events unfolding in South Sudan," said Michele Sison, the US deputy representative to the United Nations. The United States had backed the country's independence from Sudan in 2011.
"We have had warning after warning about the prospect of future mass atrocities," she said.
"Last December some colleagues in the Security Council argued that pressure would be counterproductive because it would block the political process but there has been no progress since December, instead the situation has deteriorated," she lamented.
- 'Deliberate starvation tactics' -
Sison appeared to be taking the position of the prior Barack Obama administration, which had sought a ban on weapons sales.
According to the US diplomat, the government's obstacles to humanitarian work in the famine-struck areas "may amount to deliberate starvation tactics."
"An arms embargo is one tool the council could use to address the continued violence," Sison urged, pointing out that the council could also impose sanctions on the officials responsible.
The 15-member council rejected a proposed resolution including an arms embargo and sanctions against certain leaders in December, after failing to get the nine votes necessary for adoption.
Angola, China, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Senegal and Venezuela abstained.
Britain's foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who chaired the council meeting Thursday, said an arms embargo proposal would be submitted to the council, without specifying a timeframe.
According to data cited by Guterres, 100,000 people in South Sudan are already suffering famine. A million others are near starvation and some 5.5 million could face starvation within the next few months.
After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan descended into war in December 2013, leaving tens of thousands dead and 3.5 million people displaced, despite the deployment of some 12,000 UN peacekeepers.
Half of those displaced have fled to neighboring countries, many of them to Uganda. More than 220,000 are sheltered on UN sites.
A new model for capillary rise in nano-channels offers insights into fracking
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 23, 2017 - In the last decades, hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," a method of oil and gas extraction, has revolutionized the global energy industry. It involves fracturing rock with a pressurized liquid or "fracking fluid" (water containing sand suspended with the aid of thickening agents) to draw out small oil and gas deposits trapped in stone formations.
After the water molecules of the fracking fluid are injected into these formations, they rise up the stone walls of the small channels where they have flowed. They can then undergo "imbibition," a type of diffusion that involves them being absorbed via nano-pores into the neighboring pockets where the oil and gas reside. As the water molecules are absorbed, the oil and gas molecules are displaced and can then be pumped to the surface. This activity is driven by the capillary force between the water and oil, which results from the tension generated at the interface or point where the two fluids meet.
Scientists have typically calculated the expected level of capillary rise in these conditions with the Lucas-Washburn equation, a mathematical model whose earliest parameters were first devised nearly a century ago. The challenge, however, is that that the equation has not been completely accurate in predicting the actual rise observed in nano-capillary laboratory experiments.
"The height of the capillary rise that was observed in these experiments was lower than what the Lucas-Washburn model would have predicted," explained Anqi Shen, a doctoral student at China's Northeast Petroleum University who works closely with Yikun Liu, a professor at the university. "Understanding what was causing this deviation became an important point of focus for my colleagues and me."
The researchers describe their findings this week in the journal Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing.
"Many explanations have been offered for the lower-than-expected capillary rise. One area of discussion has focused on the viscosity of the fluid. Another has been the sticky layers of oil that form on the walls of the capillaries and narrow their diameter, which is an issue that we have also explored," Shen said, whose work is also funded by the Major Projects Program for the National Science and Technology of China.
"We looked at many factors and found that the surface roughness of the capillaries was the main reason for the lower-than-expected result. Specifically, we realized that the model could better determine the actual level of capillary rise if we adjusted the parameters to account for the frictional drag that is caused by the inherent roughness of the surface of the capillary walls. When we saw how this made the model more accurate, we knew that we could not ignore it," Shen said.
Moreover, the miniscule size of the capillaries means that even small increases in surface roughness can make a significant impact on calculations.
"Factors that might be ignored in normal conditions can have significant effects on a micro or nano level. For instance, a relative roughness of 5 percent, in a tube with a radius of 100 cm where the obstacle height is 5 cm hardly affects the fluid flow in the tube. However, with a tube radius of 100 nm and obstacle height of 5 nm, it could significantly affect the fluid flow in the tube," Shen said.
Currently, there are only a few labs carrying out nano-capillary rise experiments. As a result, Shen and her colleagues could only work with the results from one laboratory in the Netherlands. Going forward, they intend to verify their mathematical formula by examining its effectiveness at simulating the results of other experiments.
Although Shen's research focuses on oil and gas development, she and her colleagues hope that their work can be of use to scientists working in other fields.
"Capillary rise is a basic, physical phenomenon that occurs in soil, paper, and other biologically relevant realms," Shen said. "Understanding how it is potentially affected at the nano-capillary level by frictional drag could shed light in a variety of scientific disciplines."
The article, "A model for capillary rise in nano-channels with inherent surface roughness," is authored by Anqi Shen, Yikun Liu, Xiaohui Qiu, Yongjun Lu and Shuang Liang. The article will appear in the Applied Physics Letters March 21, 2017 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4977773).
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