February 26, 2013
In March, we’ll be launching the eighth edition of Our Petroleum Challenge, the Centre for Energy’s flagship publication.
This latest edition includes comprehensive updates to a range of industry facts and figures, along with brand new content and a completely redesigned look that makes the book even simpler to read. Reviewed by professionals in all areas of the oil and gas industry along with related government regulators, the eighth edition of Our Petroleum Challenge is current, comprehensive and, most importantly, readable.
As a primer textbook on the oil and gas industry, Our Petroleum Challenge is ideal for anyone who wants to learn about the complex chain of companies, technologies and processes that transform Canada’s oil and gas resources into the energy products that fuel our lives.
We recognize that the oil and gas industry is a technical and often literally distant industry that can seem inaccessible even while issues like oil sands development and hydraulic fracturing make daily news. That’s why we believe accessible energy knowledge is essential for all Canadians, from business people working alongside the oil and gas industry to teachers engaged in lifelong learning to students planning a career in energy.
It’s the only book you really need.
July 26, 2012
Third in a series on the ‘Now or Never” report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources (ENEV).
Natural gas is the focus of Priority 3. Before I get into a discussion, I think it would be a good idea to point to a resource that has a good, general overview of natural gas. I thought this would be helpful as I’ve come across a number of people who are a little confused as to what natural gas is.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) provides a nice concise overview of natural gas, and what the resource means to Canada.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s focus on Priority 3 – natural gas as a game-changing fuel. This title may be surprising to some. Natural gas has been around for quite a while. Canada has a lot of it and we use it to generate electricity, and in some regions of the country to heat our homes and cook our meals. So what has changed? New technological developments have allowed for unconventional natural gas, like shale gas to be more easily and economically found and produced. And industry is expanding the ways that natural gas can be put to use because an abundance of supply with easy access equals cheaper prices. Certainly in Canada, but maybe even more significantly in the U.S.
Why this makes natural gas a game-changer is because, as technology continues to improve, natural gas will meet future fossil fuel energy demands economically. Couple this with the fact that natural gas is considered the clean fossil fuel, and you can begin to understand why the focus is on this resource.
This energy mix switch (try saying that fast, three times) to natural gas is exactly what Priority 3 focusses on. Specifically, natural gas as a transportation fuel, and Canada’s abundance of unconventional gas resources used at home and exported to new markets. Both of these topics are gaining momentum because of the technological advancements.
I’ll conclude today’s lesson with more reading suggestions. For a scientific approach to defining natural gas, visit naturalgas.org, specifically their overview section. Check out the Canadian Gas Association’s aptly titled section ‘The Future of Natural Gas’. Then download fact sheets and brochures on unconventional resources at CSUR. Lastly, if you want to learn more about natural gas vehicles, head on over to the Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance (CNGVA) website.
February 8, 2012
In an ongoing attempt to address concerns regarding hydraulic fracturing, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers last week identified six operating practices for its natural gas member companies. The operating practices complement regulatory requirements and support the Guiding Principles for Hydraulic Fracturing that the Association published in September 2011.
CAPP is encouraging its members to:
- disclose fracturing fluid chemical additives
- assess and manage the environmental and health risks associated with fracturing fluids
- conduct ground water testing
- monitor and report on water source and reuse practices
- ensure wellbore design and construction integrity and
- manage the risks associated with moving, handling and storing fracturing fluids.
CAPP’s member companies produce more than 90 per cent of Canada’s natural gas and crude oil. Although fracturing is not new, recent focus on the activity has prompted the industry to establish consistent practices across the country. These operating practices, and the subsequent results of implementation, which will be reported to the public, are designed to ensure responsible resource development and protection of the country’s water resources.
February 6, 2012
Awards were handed out at the annual Alberta Oil C-Suite Star Awards last week. Here are the winners.
Top CEO –Steve Snyder, TransAlta Corp
Top CFO – Art MacNichol, Progress Energy Resources Corp
Top Chief Legal Officer – David Robottom, Enbridge Inc
Top Information Officer – Allan Danroth, Capital Power Corp
Top Community/Government Relations Executive – Robert Spitzer, Apache Canada Ltd
Top Human Resources Executive – Rachel Moore, Savanna Energy Services Corp
Top Risk Management Executive – Neil Smith, Crescent Point Energy Corp.
May 18, 2011
Oil and gas producers in Western Canada are more confident than in 2009, according to PwC’s Canadian Energy Annual Survey, released May 17, 2011.
The growing optimism is the result of a 26 per cent increase in revenue, a 15 per cent increase in cash flow, and a 113 per cent increase in profits. And most of this is due to increasing oil prices, up 27.9 percent to $79.98 US from $62.55 US in 2009. The rebound in oil prices allowed industry to increase capital spending almost 44 per cent to $56 billion US.
The upturn also attracted foreign companies who invested more than $17 billion in Canadian oil and gas assets during 2010.
Technologies such as horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracturing also played a role in helping oil producers access resources that a few years ago would have been uneconomical to produce. The same technologies were too successful on the natural gas side, leading to a supply glut and depressed prices for the second consecutive year. Some natural gas producers have reduced gas-directed drilling; some are shutting in gas until the market recovers.
Development of unconventional resources has raised environmental concerns, resulting again in a call for a national energy strategy.
April 5, 2011
If you live in Ontario and want to know where your electricity is coming from at this hour, the Canadian Nuclear Society hosts a website called Where is My Electricity Coming From at this Hour?
All you have to do is go to the website and it not only tells you from whence your electricity comes, but also how many tonnes of CO2 have been avoided by not burning coal, the number of homes being supplied by each electricity source, from whence your electricity came in past 48 hours and the capabilities and output of pretty much every generating unit in Ontario, be it nuclear, coal, natural gas, hydro, wind or other. The source for the generation data is Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator.
We’re pretty excited about this service, not only because of the transparency it provides, but also of its false-impression-busting capabilities. For example, the amount of CO2 Ontario’s coal-fired generating plants emit gets a lot of coverage, and from this we get the impression that coal is one of the major sources of Ontario’s electricity, but in consulting Where is My Electricity Coming From at this Hour, we find that currently only four per cent is coming from coal. Forty-nine per cent is coming from nuclear power, 23 is coming from hydro, 18 from natural gas, five from wind and one from other, chiefly wood biomass.
And 16 hours ago, 4.6 per cent was coming from coal, and that was about as high as it got in the last 48 hours.
In fact, the website points out that 13,210 tonnes of CO2 that would have been emitted in the past hour if all the electricity in Ontario was coal-fired, have been avoided due to the use of other energy sources.
We wonder how many Canadians coast to coast know and understand where their electricity comes from, not only by the hour, but in general. Knowing where our electricity comes from may be useful in deciding how much we’re going to use and how we’re going to use it.
March 18, 2011
Natural gas. Propane. Butane.
Three common fuels with common uses. There are natural gas barbecues, propane powered cars, natural gas and propane furnaces, propane and butane stoves and torches, but, there aren’t any butane cars or natural gas lighters.
What makes them interchangeable is they are all closely related. Very closely. In fact, propane and butane are components of natural gas, accounting for one to five per cent. The other components are methane (75 to 95 per cent), ethane (five to 15 per cent), pentane (less than 0.5 per cent) and traces of nitrogen, water vapour, carbon dioxide and sulphur.
Methane, propane et al. consist solely of carbon and hydrogen in simple chains; the relative proportions are given in the accompanying table.
What makes them not so interchangeable is their physical properties and relative abundances.
|Name||Formula||Melting Point||Boiling Point||Heating Value
Processed natural gas, which is about 90 per cent methane, is used as fuel for space and water heating, generating electricity and powering vehicles. When used for heat or electricity or a barbecue, it is delivered as a gas via pipeline. Powering a vehicle is a different story. The natural gas has to be either compressed (CNG) or liquefied (LNG). CNG is the most common. It involves pressurizing the gas to 20,000 to 24,000 kilopascals or 200 to 240 times the normal pressure at the earth’s surface.
At that pressure, the natural gas occupies less than 1/100 of its original volume. Liquefying natural gas involves cooling it to a temperature less than -162 °C at which point it occupies less than 1/600 of its original volume. Because of these requirements, natural gas lighters would be prohibitively expensive and far too large to carry in your pocket.
Propane makes a effective vehicle fuel because it is a liquid a lower pressures and higher temperatures than natural gas. It’s portable enough for barbecues and camp stoves, but still not enough for lighters. And it’s reasonably plentiful.
Butane is less plentiful than propane and much, much less plentiful than natural gas. Consequently, it isn’t used as vehicle fuel, but because of its low boiling point, it’s ideal for torches, cook stoves and lighters.
March 17, 2011
We’ve all been told that natural gas is the greenest of the fossil fuels. Greener than coal and greener than petroleum products. So why is this?
It’s all a matter of carbon, or hydrogen depending on how you look at it. Natural gas is primarily methane with lesser amounts of ethane, propane, butane, pentane and heavier hydrocarbons, nitrogen, water vapour, sulphur and carbon dioxide. Processing removes most of these other components so by the time the natural gas is actually heating our homes, it’s almost totally methane.
Methane is composed of four hydrogen atoms surrounding one carbon atom – CH4 – which means there’s four times as much hydrogen as there is carbon.
Other fossil fuels are made of more complex carbon and hydrogen molecules. Gasoline, for example, is made of molecules containing from five to 12 carbon atoms, arranged in linear chains, branched chains and rings. As more carbon atoms are added, the relative proportion of hydrogen decreases. The chemical formula for ethane, the two-carbon molecule, is C2H6, giving a hydrogen to carbon ratio of 3:1. In a 12-carbon chain, C12H26, the hydrogen to carbon ratio is 2.4:1.
Carbon dioxide is a by-product of burning fossil fuels. It is also a greenhouse gas which has been linked to climate change. The less carbon there is in a substance, the less carbon dioxide it produces when burned. Natural gas, being mostly methane, has the least carbon of all the fossil fuels.
On average, natural gas emits 53.06 kilograms of CO2 per million British thermal units (kg CO2 per MMBtu). Gasoline emits 71.62 kg CO2 per MMBtu and diesel emits 73.15 kg CO2 per MMBtu. Bituminous coal emits 93.28 kg CO2 per MMBtu.
And to answer the question: natural gas burns with a blue flame when well oxygenated. This results in more complete combustion.
March 15, 2011
Now and then we come across the term “barrel of oil equivalent” or BOE. It is a unit of energy equal to 5.8 million British thermal units, or the amount of energy released by burning a barrel of crude oil. It’s used to compare the relative values of different fuels, most often crude oil and natural gas. One BOE is roughly equal to 6,000 cubic feet of natural gas.
In other words, the energy content of a barrel of oil is 6,000 times greater than that of a cubic foot of natural gas. But it doesn’t really tell us which has the higher absolute energy content. We’re comparing apples and oranges on a couple of levels – liquid versus gas, barrels versus cubic feet, and while it’s easy to convert barrels to cubic feet (multiply by 5.615) it’s more difficult to work with the phase change.
Fortunately, we have a device known as the bomb calorimeter that measures the heat of combustion of a reaction, and thereby, the heat or energy content.
And rather than having 6,000 times less energy than crude oil, natural gas actually has about 1.15 times more energy than crude oil.
Natural gas has a heating value of 52.2 megajoules per kilogram, compared to 45.5 megajoules per kilogram for crude oil. And when we process the gas and refine the oil, the difference is even greater – 55.5 megajoules per kilogram for methane compared to 47.0 for gasoline and 44.8 for diesel.
So, kilogram for kilogram, natural gas packs more energy than crude oil.
Heating Values of Common Fuels
|Fuel||Higher Heating Value
|Lower Heating Value
|HHV as a % of
|Bituminous Coal (wet)||27.3||26.1||49.2|
March 14, 2011
But GasBOT is no hothead (even if her pigtails are pretty bright) — natural gas is also a low-emission fuel source for electricity across the country. And, when it comes to natural gas-powered vehicles, she’s no slowpoke either. In fact, there are as many uses for natural gas across the country as there are places to find it.
Conventional? Sure: if you want to find conventional natural gas production you only have to go as far as Alberta, where Canada produces more than 75 per cent of its natural gas. But GasBOT’s also fuelled by unconventional sources like coal and shale, which can be found across the country. Together, all those natural gas resources keep Canada well supplied.
So whether she’s heating your house or burning rubber, GasBOT is a BOT to watch, which is why we’re going to spend the next week taking a look at natural gas across the country. So, GasBOT… activate!