December 20, 2008

Nanotechnology for Climate Control and Enabling a Kardashev Type 1 and 2 Civilization

J Storrs Hall has conceived of Utility Fog and a Space Pier and now his idea for nanotechnology enabled climate control.

Version One: 1000 Times More Powerful than Global Warming
You build a little balloon—my guess is the balloon needs to be somewhere between a millimeter and a centimeter in size. It has a very thin shell of diamond, maybe just a nanometer thick. It’s round, and it has inside it an equatorial plane that is a mirror. If you squished it flat, you would only have a few nanometers thick of material. Although you could build a balloon out of materials that we build balloons out of now, it would not be economical for what I’m going to use it for.

Given that we can build these balloons so that the total amount of material in a balloon is actually very, very small, you inflate them with hydrogen in such a way that they will stabilize about twenty miles up in the stratosphere. So you have these itty bitty balloons, and inside of them they have a mirror. They also have a tiny little control unit and just barely enough power, fans, or other actuators to tilt themselves to a preferred orientation. Now you make enough of them to cover the entire globe.

This is why the nanotechnology makes a big difference, because if they are as thick as I have described them, you only need about ten million tons of material to do that. To compare that with the stuff that we are used to, that is about the same amount of material that is used to make a hundred miles of freeway. This is nothing that our technology cannot handle, assuming that you can actually turn it into a high-tech gadget of the kind I described.

So you have this balloon and it floats up there twenty miles. They all have a little GPS and receiver so they can turn themselves. That’s all there is to it. What can you do with a machine like this? The machine is essentially a programmable greenhouse gas. If you set the mirrors facing the sun, it reflects all the sunlight back. If you set them sideways, it allows the sunlight to come through, and similarly for the longwave radiation coming from the back side of the earth at night.

This machines, which I call “the weather machine,” has a radiative forcing capability. For comparison, the radiative forcing capability for CO2, as generally mentioned in the global warming theories, is about one watt per square meter. This machine essentially has a kilowatt per square meter of radiative forcing capability. It completely trumps any natural influence of that kind that’s out there or that we can imagine. If you are worried about our world dying because of global warming, or if you are one of the people who is worried about our world falling into an ice age, we can fix that.

Version Two: Absorb/Transmit Any Frequency, Direction and Phase
You have the same balloon, but inside of it you have a kind of aerogel that is switchable antenna units with crosslinks. You can tune the thing to be an absorber or transmitter of radiation in any desired frequency, in any desired direction (and if you’re really good, with any desired phase).

Once you get that, essentially you’ve turned this layer in the stratosphere into an enormous hologram. Of course, the astronomers really hate it, because it screws up viewing, but what they do love is that it turns the entire earth into a telescope with the aperture of 8,000 miles. Of course, you can take that light and change it into any other wavelength you want and send it off into any other direction you want. You can control not only the climate as a single parameter, but you can probably get close to controlling local weather. We don’t come close to knowing enough about the whole weather system to say exactly what you could and couldn’t do, but I am fairly sure that you could do things like make Canada as warm as California. You could cool the tropics, you could warm up the polar regions if you wanted to.

Collecting the Concentrated Solar Power
If you wanted to use solar power, for example, you could build an array of photovoltaics out in the desert out there somewhere and you could take the area of about a thousand square kilometers above it and set the little mirrors in the first version, or charge your little antennas in the second, to focus the sunlight down onto your area. Instead of having to have a thousand square kilometers of solar collectors, you have one. You have just concentrated all that sunlight on it and it’s pretty much free, because you have already built a device to control the weather. What’s more, you have not changed the energy balance any, because you are shading all the areas that are otherwise under the thousand square kilometers. That gives you in broad daylight an energy flux that is approximately the same as a thousand nuclear reactors of a typical size. Of course, you have to cool the collectors fairly vigorously because they are not 100% efficient.

Full Kardashev Type I by Definition
You would be able to use all of the solar power hitting the earth. Once the collectors are built underneath then earth would be a full Kardashev Type I civilization.

Type I — a civilization that is able to harness all of the power available on a single planet. Earth has an available power of 1.74 ×10**17 W (174 petawatts).

Current world energy usage and generation is at about 17 terawatts. Getting all solar power means about 2000-5000 times current power levels. You still have to convert to electricity which is not perfectly efficient and solar energy still needs to go into the earth for normal biosphere processes.

If your nanotechnology is at this level then making spaceships and sending nanofactories to Venus and asteroids would be relatively simple. It would be about twenty million tons of material for the mirror bubbles and converters for each earth scale energy system. Then the electricity has to be transmitted and distributed to where it needs to be used (a super-grid which could be wireless)

Two billion of those systems turns humanity into a Kardashev Type II civilzation.

Type II — a civilization that is able to harness all of the power available from a single star, approximately 3.86 ×10**26 W.

40,000 trillion tons of nanotechnology produced material (mostly nanometer thick shells of millimeter to centimeter size filled with aerogel and some electronics) enables a Kardashev Type II civilization.

An earth type I civilization makes use of roughly 25 megatons of TNT equivalent a second. Sol type II civilization consumes 2 billion times more energy.

A civilization that controls thousands (type I) to a trillion times (type II) more power than our current civilization would have a lot of power for good or for destruction.

Update: for space based collection There was the Devon Crowe idea of large space bubbles cured by ultraviolet. Large space bubbles could be adapted for concentrating solar power with lightweight structures.

Strong Magnetic Fields Could Raise Superconducting Critical Temperature

A new-found aspect to superconductivity, called the "paramagnetic intrinsic Meissner effect," is that a strong magnetic field could be used to raise temperatures at which materials become superconducting.

A superconductor in a weak magnetic field expels the external magnetic field, but a superconductor in a strong magnetic field sometimes concentrates magnetic lines rather than loses them, UA physicist Andrei Lebed has discovered.

The Meissner effect in wikipedia

"Paramagnetic Intrinsic Meissner Effect in Layered Superconductors" by Andrei Lebed

"Cooper pairs with broken time-reversal, parity, and spin-rotational symmetries in singlet type-II superconductors" by Andrei Lebed and O Dutta

Andrei Lebed had previous work includes work on unconventional superconductors

Unconventional superconductors are materials that display superconductivity but that do not conform to BCS theory and Nikolay Bogolyubov theory or its extensions.

The first unconventional triplet superconductor, organic material (TMTSF)2PF6, was discovered by Denis Jerome and Klaus Bechgaard in 1979. Recent experimental works by Paul Chaikin's and Michael Naughton's groups as well as theoretical analysis of their data by Andrei Lebed have firmly confirmed unconventional triplet nature of superconducting pairing in (TMTSF)2X (X=PF6, ClO4, ...) organic materials

Andrei Lebed on University of Arizona physics department faculty list

Research interests are on theory of low-dimensional conductors and superconductors. In particular, these include studies of unconventional triplet, singlet d-wave, and LOFF superconducting order parameters in organic and high-Tc materials, unique properties of layered organic compounds in high and ultrahigh magnetic fields, superconducting phases stabilizing by a magnetic field, and properties related to changes of effective space dimensionality for some one-body and many-body phenomena in a magnetic field. These works are closely related to experiments conducting in Princeton University, Boston College, Harvard University, National High Magnetic Field Lab, Los Alamos National Lab, and some other institutions.

List of other papers by Andrei Lebed

2006 article discussing the effects of superstrong magnetic fields on superconductors

General Fusion: Almost has Second Round of Funding

The January 2009 issue of Popular Science has several pages on General Fusion.

32 page patent for acoustic generator for nuclear fusion.

24 page patent for magnetized target fusion generator

Popular Science indicated that General Fusion has raised $7 million of their $10 million second round which would fund an almost full scale version (2 meters instead of 3 meter diameter).

A prototype device with a tank diameter of ~2 m and an input energy of ~120 MJ could provide interesting fusion gain. Such a system could be built at a reasonable cost of ~10 $M in about 3 years. (For a prototype with low repetition rate, no tritium re-breeding, no heat exchanger and no turbo-generator).

This would suggest 2010-2011 as the timeframe for completion of the tests and work associated with that device.

The third phase for General Fusions is to raies $50 million for a net energy gain device with a target date of 2013 if the second/third phase are roughly on schedule.

Then they try to raise $300-500 million for commercialization.

The company's ultimate plan is to build small fusion reactors that can produce around 100 megawatts of power. The plants would cost around $50 million. That could allow the company to generate electricity at about 4 cents per kilowatt hour, relatively low.

M Simon has performed an analysis of the patents

MTBF is Mean Time Between Failures, which is described at this wikipedia link. The reliability of the pistons is a key aspect.

When they go to pistons they will pressurize the pistons and use triggered latches to let them all go at the same time. The final velocity of the piston will be 100 m/S and the shock wave it induces will be traveling at 2.5 km/S. If we assume 100nS timing to assure reasonable addition of all the induced waves you get a distance variation at that speed of 10 um. Which is 2X what his measurement system can do. Good. And the measurement system will require laser diodes for the light source and gratings to do a linear encoder.

He plans to control the timing and velocity by repeated shots to adjust the parameters. Clumsy but OK.

Can it be made to work? There is an outside chance. Repeatedly and reliably? I doubt it. Wear is going to be a killer on the latches. He proposes to fix the piston/cylinder wear with an air bearing. The problem is that the space in front of the cylinder must be evacuated before every shot.

I'd want to see a dummy steam powered machine with 2 or 3 cylinders operating reliably for a day or two meeting all specifications for timing and velocity before I set up the full machine. Given that he expects to run the whole 200 cylinders on 100 Mj or so a 2 MW steam boiler ought to suffice for experiments.

I will say that he seems like a careful experimentalist so he might pull it off. He might even get the machine to function for a few shots. Continuous operation for a year?

That would require a 2,000 year MTBF or better for each cylinder and its associated electronics for a reasonably good probability of 1 year of operation. that is roughly better than 20 million hour MTBF. That is space rated electronics parts and space rated assembly or better because the mechanical parts have to have a failure rate on that order as well.

Let us think in terms of an auto engine. 4,000 hour MTBF at 5,000 rpm. 8 cylinder. Say 10 billion piston strokes VS 200 pistons at 1 stroke per second at 3,600 strokes an hour at 24 hrs a day at 365 days a year. About 6.5 billion strokes. So the ball park is right. Except for one minor detail. The piston in the auto is not slamming into the cylinder head every time it reaches TDC [top dead center]. Its timing is constrained by the crank shaft.

Let us look at timing in the auto at 5,000 RPM [revolutions per minute] it completes a revolution in 200 uS (microseconds). To get the timing of the spark right it must be controlled to within 1/2 uS. (about 1 deg) . But in the auto you have rotational inertia helping keep things constant and feedback from gas sensors to tell you when the timing is right.

So I would not put making all this work outside the realm of possibility. It will not be easy. Not easy at all. And the MTBFs of every part in the cylinder assembly must be beyond space rated.

Although having a system for monitoring the pistons and system for wear and having an easy method to rapidly swap out pistons could maintain a sufficiently high operating reliability. Keeping 90% uptime throughout a year with an average of one piston or some other component replaced every day with a 15 minute hot swap would be doable. Quality and cost of components would need to be balanced against overall costs.

Nasa has stirling free piston cryocoolers with mean time between failure of over 500,000 hours Aircraft engines wiith 40,000 hours of mean time between failure are common and microturbines have 14,000 hours of mean time time between failure. Twice weekly and even daily maintenance can be doable if the maintenance can be fast (using a robotic arm to pop a piston assembly out and replace it). Faulty units can be refurbished and put back into service if that keeps costs down without sacrificing overall reliability.

Previous update: General fusion had completed proof of concept experiments and performed full scale computer simulations.

First article by this site on General Fusion's and magnetized target approach

December 19, 2008

Dwave System s 128 qubit chip has been made

Here is a picture of the 128 qubit silicon chips on a wafer.

The quantum computer chips are shown in a stage before they have metal applied because at a later stage they look more like a mirror. So this is a more visually interesting point.

The main point is that 128 qubit quantum computer chips exist and are being tested and experimented with.

Carnival of Space Week 84

President Obama and new Space Policy and Direction
1. Astroengine looks at the "Space Exploration Crisis".

NASA’s future is on a knife-edge and this could severely damage the US future in space. How can a short term five year case be made for long term benefits ?

2. Tomorrow is Here asks the related question: "Does Obama want the Moon?

3. Music of the Spheres/FlyingSinger has been following and contributing to public discussions about several space-related policy proposals at, the Obama Transition web site. One of the most active is on Space Solar Power. If you care about space policy in the US, these are discussions that might actually make a difference. Post on additional space discussions at

Mars and Venus and other Planets and Moons
4. Supernova Condensate looks at a supercriticial ocean on Venus.

4. The Universe Today has first part of an 3-part interview with Mars Rover Driver Scott Maxwell.

5. Bad Astronomy has the top ten astronomy pictures of 2008

Here is one the top ten, an avalanche on Mars.

6. Astrodownunder has many more Mars images in his piece on "Mars as a real place

7. Orbital Hub looks at the just completed phase of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) science mission.
During this phase, the orbiter returned seventy-three terabits of science data to Earth, which is more than all earlier Mars missions combined. The next phase of the MRO mission will take two years. The list of scientific discoveries and observations made by MRO is stunning. We know now that Mars has a long history of climate change and that water was present in liquid form on its surface for hundreds of millions of years.

8. 21st Century Waves looks at the Mars vs the Moon from a different angle

9. Martian Chronicles has coverage of the AGU Conference. The American Geophysical Union(AGU) is a scientific society with a membership of 50,000 researchers, teachers, and students focused on earth and space science.
Coverage on sessions on Titan
Coverage on sessions on Enceladus
Coverage on the Mars Phoenix space lander mission
Coverage on Venus conference sessions

10. Meridian Journal also has planetary updates galore from the American Geophysical (AGU) meeting.

Mysteries of Astronomy and Extraterrestrial Life
11. Starts with a bang looks at the feasibility of Warp drive.

12. Crowlspace looks at the theory of the ooon originating from the Earth in "Did Gaia birth Selene?"

13. Alice's astro info says "Aliens yes but UFOs no". .

14. Simostronomy looks at a mystery star that fades for a year every five years.

15. Space Disco looks at the mystery of dark energy

16. The Chandra Observatory is revealing some of the secrets of dark energy

17. Centauri Dreams sends "Giuseppe Cocconi, SETI Pioneer," a story by Larry Klaes.

Cocconi's contributions to physics in general and to SETI in particular were impressive, and the scientist, who recently died, was a major factor in firming up the young science involved in listening to the stars for possible extraterrestrial signals. Larry tells the whole story. If it weren’t for the efforts of Cocconi and Philip Morrison, the theorizing behind the Drake Equation and the development of SETI itself might have been slowed for years

18. One Astronomer's Noise looks at geomagnetic reversal and the ancient prediction of doomsday in 2012.

History, Education and More
19. Altair VI has an article about the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission.

20. Kentucky Space has ideas for projects to engage children with space science.

21. Astroblogger looks at Comet Christensen in Celestia AND Making SSC files in Celestia

Comet P/2003 K2 Christensen (P/2008 X4) was recently recovered by Australian Amateur Alan Watson using images from the STEREO spacecraft. This is the first time a comet has been recoverd in this way. This series of posts shows you how to use the popular 3D solar system simulation program Celestia to see comets from the point of view of the STEREO spacecraft (and match them to the stereo images), and to make you own Celestia files for newly discovered comets.

22. Planetary Society covers Ralph Harvey who's in the field with a team searching for meteorites in Antarctica

23. The Planetary Society also provides an update on the Kaguya mission to the moon.

24. A Babe in the Universe covers a new film imagines the thrill of freefalling from the edge of Space.
"Space Diving": In 1960 Major Kittinger leaped from a balloon at 102,000 feet, a record whoch still stands. New spacesuit designs may make Space diving a reality.

25. This site looked at studies of non-electric uses for nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion for space travel is actually a lot easier than nuclear power for electricity.

There has been a flurry of nuclear fusion related news.
- Funding of the dense plasma focus fusion approach
- Positive verification from the IEC (Bussard) fusion project
- Completion of physical experiments and computer simulation of acoustic wave magnetized target fusion
- A proposal for hybrid fusion/fission power generation

December 18, 2008

Update on General Fusion : Steam Punk Approach to Nuclear Fusion

General Fusion is a venture capital funded company that is taking an acoustic wave approach to magnetized target fusion (MTF). The approach is to have a sphere surrounded by steam pistons that drive a pressure wave inward to generate fusion compressions twice every second. They have performed some actual proof of concept experiments at 25 times slower piston speed and performed full scale computer simulations.

This site has covered General Fusion before when their venture capital funding was announced.

There was also an external review of the work and plans

The goal is to build small fusion reactors that can produce around 100 megawatts of power. The company claims plants would cost around US$50 million, allowing them to generate electricity at about four cents per kilowatt hour.

Assuming a repetition rate of 0.5 Hz, 100 MJ acoustic pulses, a fusion gain of 6 (relative to impact energy) and a thermal to mechanical efficiency of 33%; this machine would produce ~50 MW electric.

Computer simulations show only about 12% of the incoming energy makes it into the plasma. This 12% seems a robust result; many changes of the parameters aimed at improving this coupling did not produce significant changes. We therefore require an intrinsic fusion gain of 50 to get a total energy gain of 6. This forces us to use a bigger machine delivering more energy to the plasma to achieve these higher gains.

So we can see that a machine of 2 m diameter with an input energy of 120 MJ can give gains of interest.

A prototype device with a tank diameter of ~2 m and an input energy of ~120 MJ could provide interesting fusion gain. Such a system could be built at a reasonable cost of ~10 $M in about 3 years. (For a prototype with low repetition rate, no tritium re-breeding, no heat exchanger and no turbo-generator).

Proposal Details

General Fusion proposes a new compression system that offers many advantages. A near spherical vessel ~2 m in diameter is filled with liquid lithium-lead alloy (Li-Pb). This liquid is under consideration for fusion reactor blankets; it has low a melting point, low vapor pressure, re-breeds the tritium, and good nuclear characteristics. The liquid is spun in the vessel by pumps that inject the liquid tangentially near the equator and pumps it out near the poles. This creates a vertical vortex tube in the liquid metal. The vessel is surrounded by many steam actuated pistons. High pressure steam accelerates the pistons to ~100 m/s. [recent tests were at 4m/s] The pistons impact the spherical vessel and send a strong acoustic wave in the liquid metal. The pressure developed at the impact is: P=ρvcs/2 where ρ is the density, v the speed of impact and cs is the sound speed in the impacting material. For steel ρ=8000 kg/m and cs=5000 m/s so the pressure developed is 2 GPa. Good steel can handle up to 450 kpsi (3 GPa) of compression. The efficiency of the driver can be quite good. About 33% of the thermal energy goes into piston kinetic energy (the usual thermal to mechanical efficiency of a steam cycle at a realistic temperature). For steel and liquid lead (density 10.8, cs= 2 km/s), the acoustic impedance (density*speed of sound) match is good with 91% of the energy going into the liquid lead. The wave then focuses in the center, getting stronger. Just prior to the wave collapsing the center vortex, two spheromaks (a toroidal magnetized plasma configuration) of reverse helicity are injected from the top and bottom of the system. They move rapidly to the center where they merge to produce a stationary FRC (Field Reverse Configuration). The advantages of this plasma target are that it can be rapidly sent in the center just prior to collapse and then stay there with low velocity while the vortex collapses and compresses it. The toroidal magnetic field is canceled and its energy goes in thermal energy heating up the plasma just prior to compression. Also, it has been observed that when merging, the resulting plasma has higher ion temperature than electron temperature. As radiation losses increase with electron temperature but fusion goes with ion temperature, this may somewhat improve the operation. After compression, the fusion energy is released in neutrons that heat the liquid metal. The cycle is repeated at ~1 Hz. The liquid metal goes in a heat exchanger to make steam. The steam is directly used to push on the pistons. Therefore the re-circulated power does not have to be converted in electricity, reducing the cost of the turbo-machinery and generator. The steam is directly used to push on the pistons. Therefore the re-circulated power does not have to be converted in electricity, reducing the cost of the turbo-machinery and generator. Typical MTF systems use pulse power technology worth around 3$/J. For typical fusion systems of order 100 MJ this is $300 million just for the pulse power system. 100 MJ of steam at 1500 psi in a 10 m**3 tank plus associated fast acting valves will cost of the order of $500 000; a considerable saving. Because of the high accuracy of the impact timing of the numerous pistons (~1 μs), an electric means of controlling the exact piston trajectory is required. But this system can control only a few % of the piston energy. In particular, it can be a braking only system not requiring any high electrical power components. The pistons are sent a few percent above the required velocity and a servo loop applies just the required breaking to adjust the impact time and velocity. The US patent application #11/072,963 describes such a system in more details. The spheromak generator will use a pulse power electrical system. But as only ~1% of the compression energy is required for the initial plasma, this should be only a 1 MJ 3 system worth ~3 M$. Most neutrons and all other radiations are stopped in the ~1 m radius of Li-Pb so the neutron flux at the wall is much reduced. This is extremely advantageous over many other fusion systems where neutron and radiation wall loading is a difficult and mostly unresolved technical issue. Radio isotopes produced by neutron activation of the structure is also a problem, especially for maintenance, in most proposed fusion machines. Expensive robotic maintenance is the usual answer to this problem. It is much less of an issue for our proposed machine. Many MTF systems under consideration also require the destruction and replacement of substantial amounts of hardware for each pulse; a costly and complex proposition. Our proposal does not require hardware replacement for each pulse.

Recent Experiment
In order to demonstrate our concept, a small experimental machine driving a spherical
shock wave to compress a pre-formed plasma was built. Because of the expected
development time of the precision piston system, we used a simpler electrically driven shock generator for this experiment. In D-D shoots, an average of 2x10**3 fusion neutrons was detected. The intent of this document is to seek peer review as a step toward raising funds for Phase 2, which aims to build and test a large 100 MJ piston driven spherical shock generator capable of achieving break-even.

We compressed a pre-formed plasma of about 3x10**16 cm-3 and 7 eV with a lithium tube collapsing at speeds up to 4 km/s. A 22 kJ shock wave in water focused on the tube to drive the collapse. We observed an average D-D fusion yield of 2x10**3 neutrons. A simple computer simulation of the experiment predicts a similar yield if an impurity concentration of 10**13 cm-3 and a symmetry limited compression ratio of 7 is assumed. Observation of the collapse with electrical pins indicates an asymmetry of 1 part in 7, consistent with the fusion yield.

It takes five days to prepare, fire and clean the set-up for each shot. About 30% of the shots fail because some parts of the set-up misbehave. The set-up is often damaged, requiring lengthy repairs, especially when new parts need to be ordered. This unfortunate reality conspires to reduce the amount of data obtained. A total of 7 successful shots were performed.

Proliferation Resistance Compatible with a Lot of Nuclear Power

Here is a study of future scenarios where there is a lot of nuclear power.

Can Future Nuclear Power Be Made Proliferation Resistant ?" by the
Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland.

From that study it seems clear the problems are manageable, especially with proper reactor design selection and looking at processing, reprocessing and the entire chain of material flows.

Nuclear Facilities, Materials and Terrorism

It appears prudent to assume that a sophisticated terrorist group could construct a nuclear device if it obtained the requisite amounts of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium – all the more so, if we imagine the situation 50 years or more in the future. With respect to plutonium, although the task would be made more difficult, we must also assume that the isotopic composition of the plutonium, including the possibility of high amounts of plutonium-238, will not be an insuperable barrier. Nor would the admixture of transuranics with the plutonium be a deterrent. As we noted earlier, such admixture would increase the critical mass by no more than a factor of two or so, and would not be self-protecting in the way in which spent fuel is, and it would not raise insuperable problems of pre-initiation or heat management.

Given the formidable difficulties of a terrorist group generating their own nuclear material, it is critical to block all other ways for them to obtain such material. At present, probably the greatest vulnerabilities are fissile materials generated by the nuclear weapon states for use in weapons. This is not an issue of the civilian fuel cycle; we assume that in our nuclear future all such material will have been destroyed or secured.

Clearly, if nuclear power is to grow substantially, nuclear facilities – especially reactors that will be many and spread widely – must be made extremely safe from incidents that could release massive quantities of radioactivity to the public.

Study Recommendations:
• There should be no use of HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium) in the nuclear fuel cycle, including in research and isotope-production reactors, and in naval reactors.
• Separated fissile material should not be located anywhere in the fuel cycle where terrorists could plausibly appropriate it. Possibly such separated materials could be tolerated in a center controlled by an international authority or embedded in a sealed fuel assembly such as envisioned for the nuclear battery. But separated weapons usable materials should not be used in fuel elements that would routinely be sent to hundreds of nuclear reactors, as would be the case in some of the scenarios described.
• An international norm needs to be established that requires states to take strong action against individuals and entities engaged in nuclear terrorist activities.
• Reactors with features of intrinsic safety should be given extra weight in consideration of future nuclear power.

In addition, reactor and system designs that achieve deep burn (99+% burning of uranium, thorium and plutonium) should be the preferred path not just for non-proliferation but also for better use of the resources.

Thoriumenergy blog looks at burning all nuclear waste with advanced reactors.

Jorgensen, drawing on work by French nuclear scientists, H. Nifenecker, D. Heuer, J.M. Loiseaux, O. Meplan, A. Nuttin, S. David, and J.M. Martin, offers plans to simultaneously reduce the current TRU wastes 15-fold (with onsite recycling) to 15,000 fold reduction (with the best offsite recycling), while also supplying 9000 GWe electricity for an energy-hungry world.

A discussion of plutonium from reactors to get sub-par military grade material with explosions in the 100 ton to 20 kt range.

Chloride Molten Salt Reactors can burn depleted uranium as fuel. There is over a million tons of depleted uranium now. Transmutation into weapons grade material is possible, but the transmutation processes can be used to make depleted uranium into fuel.

Country Proliferation

With respect to country proliferation:
• Any country with nuclear power and a nuclear power infrastructure could get fissile material if it wished – within months or a year – barring international action to prevent this. If it had a commercial reactor, it could build a reprocessing plant to separate out plutonium; or it could build a dedicated reactor and reprocessing plant in a somewhat longer period. It could also enrich uranium over time, but as long as the country did not have any enrichment facilities to begin with, such a route would take longer than would a plutonium path.
• However, in the scenarios considered, it should be possible to have a safeguards regime such that any diversion of facilities and materials would be quickly detected, giving time for an international response (see the following bullet). In this respect, the once-through fuel cycle, the hub-spoke arrangements with sealed reactors, and possibly certain thorium cycles appear particularly attractive in making immediately visible an attempted diversion and lengthening the time for a diversion to be consummated.
• Since technically most countries will be able to get nuclear weapons, enforcement and compliance provisions of any international control regime are crucial.

The Five Nuclear Future Scenarios

Five nominal scenarios based predominantly on specific reactor types:
Advanced light water reactors (LWRs) and/or gas-cooled thermal reactors on a once through fuel cycle In this scenario, LWRs and gas-cooled reactors such as the pebble bed reactors operate on a once-through fuel cycle through 2050 (as described in the MIT study) and also to the end of the century. The reactors will be fueled by low-enriched uranium. Spent fuel will be put directly into geological repositories.
Actinide burning based on fast reactors
This is the vision of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). Spent fuel from
LWRs and from a fleet of fast reactors will be reprocessed to separate plutonium and
other transuranics (TRU – americium, curium, and neptunium). These will be
fabricated into fuel for fast reactors and will be fissioned in the fast reactors in several cycles, such that the plutonium and other TRU are eventually mostly burned away. The fission products will be put into geological repositories.
Fast breeder reactors in a closed fuel cycle
We imagine, in equilibrium, a division of LWRs and fast breeders in roughly a 55-45 ratio, similar to that described in the MIT study. Spent fuel from both types of reactors will be reprocessed and the separated plutonium used to start-up and re-fuel the breeder reactors.
Thorium fuel cycles
Several different thorium cycles are considered. In particular, we note the possibility of breakeven breeding in a molten salt reactor. While such a reactor requires enriched uranium (typically 20 % U-235) for startup, relatively little further supplies of enriched fuel are required during subsequent operation. The U-233 produced by neutron absorption in Th-232 is never separated from the fuel, and it is also denatured by the addition of U-238 which means that isotope separation would be required to obtain weapons-grade U-233. In addition, the isotope U-232, which has a high gamma-emitting daughter, is produced during reactor operation, thus further
complicating attempts to obtain weapons-usable U-233 from this cycle.
Nuclear batteries in a hub-spoke configuration
At a central facility, reactors nominally in the range of 20-100 MWe would be fueled either with 20% uranium or plutonium, sealed, and then transported to countries deploying the reactors. The reactors would not need to be refueled during their core life, nominally 20 to 30 years, at the end of which time they would be sent back to the central facility, where the plutonium would be separated and re-fabricated into cores for the replacement reactors.

Civil Defense Enhancement Against Nuclear Bombs

To address possibility of limited numbers of weak bombs - then follow my revised civil defense approach and more here

As the technology becomes available and affordable continue to increase to higher levels of robustness.

Level 1: Hurriquake nails and other cheap adjustments that are widely available now and in use for some new construction. Expect to get to 2-5 PSI and up to 10-15 resistant houses. Also need treatments for improved fire resistance. 50-70% casualty reduction.

Level 2: Use cellustic fiber that is almost up to the strength of steel (nanopaper made from wood), more steel framed construction, better concrete or carbon fiber, or graphene reinforcement. Stronger windows, doors OR monolithic domes for some new construction. Resistant PSI 10-25+. 60-85% casualty reduction. Add anti-radiation
damage drugs (new carbon nanotube based drugs that are 5000 times more effective.) Total 85-92% casualty reduction.

Level 3: Better materials (more advanced carbon nanotube, graphene reinforcement with hydrogen impregnated for radiation shielding) and designs. PSI 25-100+. 85-98% casualty reduction. Need anti-radiation gene therapy and anti-radiation drugs as the radiation casualties would be dominant.

Level 4: Molecular nanotechnology. PSI 1000+.
Integration of radiation to electricity systems Integrate room temperature superconductors for strong magnetic shielding. Rapid evacuation from utility fog systems. Metamaterials that guide earthquakes shocks and other waves around buildings. 99.9%+ casualty reduction.

Mostly technical discussion of the study and this article at the Energy from Thorium forum.

December 17, 2008

Non-electric Uses for Nuclear Fusion

Non electric uses for nuclear fusion were presented in a 2003 report to the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC).

There are at least 5 unique products that we can "sell" from fusion reactions before the fusion community enters the main market for fusion energy (the generation of electricity):
A.) high energy neutrons (2-14 MeV)
B.) thermal neutrons
C.) high energy protons (3-15 MeV)
D.) electromagnetic radiation (microwave to x-rays to g rays).
E.) high energy electrons coupled with photons to provide ultra high heat fluxes

The most promising opportunities for non-electric applications of fusion fall into four categories:
1. Near-Term Applications
- Production of of 99MO, medical isotope of choiceThe use of fusion reactions to provide relatively inexpensive PET isotopes in low population density areas for the diagnosis of cancers and other abnormalities can be a big help in keeping related Medicaid and Medicare health care costs down.
-Detection of explosivesThe production of neutrons from DD reactions in small portable fusion devices can contribute to the nation’s Homeland Security mission. The detection of clandestine materials (explosives, chemical and biological weapons, drugs, etc.) is of vital importance to our national security and is an area where existing low Q fusion devices are already at the proof of principle stage.

2. Transmutation (alternatives are nuclear fission approaches)
3. Hydrogen Production
4. Space Propulsion

Next Two Tables Show Transmutation and Space are Easier Than Electricity

Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC of Bussard) fusion

Dense plasma : focus fusion.

General fusion: acoustic wave approach.

Tri-alpha energy, colliding beam fusion

Laser ignited fusion/fission hybrid proposal

Micro fusion proposal

Carnival of Space Week 83

Astroblogger has the Carnival of Space week 83

This site contributed its article on laser ignited hybrid fusion/fission power.

Colony Worlds reviews five key pieces of solar system real estate and how one power/country could dominate the solar system by controlling them.

1. the moon, for lunar oxygen
2. Ceres asteroid, control metal rich region of the asteroid belt
3. Phobos (Mars moon), Phobos could be converted into an enormous space station in order to make it easier to process metals harvested from the asteroid belt. Since the sunlight on Mars is much stronger than in the asteroid belt, a future mining corporation could use the Sun's rays to melt asteroid metals en mass before exporting them towards Earth (and Luna).
4. Jovian moon Callisto, a radiation safe world. It is protected by Jupiter's magnetic field but is outside Jupiter's radiation belt
5. Saturn's moon Titan

There were several posts on Mars, including Planetary Society coverage of buried glaciers on Mars

Centauri Dreams looked at the Winterberg papers on microfusion. This was also covered by this site.

See more at the 83rd Carnival of Space and later this week this site will host the 84th Carnival of Space.

China s Low $1565 per Kilowatt Nuclear Power Build Cost and new Cleaner Coal Plants

China has officially broken ground on six domestically engineered CPR-1000 pressurized water reactors, generating around 1080 MWe each. The total investment in Yangjiang's six reactors is to be 69.5 billion reminbi ($10.1 billion), giving a construction cost of 10,700 reminbi per MWe ($1565 per KWe), according to Zhang Guobao, head of the National Energy Bureau. He added that this was was 'much lower' than the figure for desulfurized coal-fired power plants in the province.

Costs for US nuclear plants can be twice as much.
Regarding bare plant costs, some recent figures apparently for overnight capital cost (or Engineering, Procurement and Construction - EPC - cost) quoted from reputable sources but not necessarily comparable are:

EdF Flamanville EPR: EUR 3.3 billion/$4.8 billion, so EUR 2000/kW or $2900/kW
Bruce Power Alberta 2x1100 MWe ACR, $6.2 billion, so $2800/kW
CGNPC Hongyanhe 4x1080 CPR-1000 $6.6 billion, so $1530/kW
AEO Novovronezh 6&7 2136 MWe net for $5 billion, so $2340/kW
KHNP Shin Kori 3&4 1350 MWe APR-1400 for $5 billion, so $1850/kW

FPL Turkey Point 2 x 1100 MWe AP1000 $2444 to $3582/kW

NEK Belene 2x1000 MWe AES-92 EUR 3.9 billion (no first core), so EUR 1950 or $3050/kW
UK composite projection $2400/kW
NRG South Texas 2 x 1350 MWe ABWR $8 billion, so $2900/kW

CPI Haiyang 2 x 1100 MWe AP1000 $3.25 billion, so $1477/kW
CGNPC Ningde 4 x 1000 MWe CPR-1000 $7.145 billion, so $1786/kW
CNNC Fuqing 2 x 1000 MWe CPR-1000 (?) $2.8 billion, so $1400/kW
CGNPC Bailong/Fangchengang 2 x 1000 MWe CPR-1000 $3.1 bilion, so $1550/kW
CNNC Tianwan 3&4, 2 x 1060 MWe AES-91 $3.8 billion, so $1790/kW

On the assumption that overall costs to the utility are twice the overnight capital cost of the actual plants, then the figures quoted above give:
SCEG Summer 2 x 1100 MWe AP1000 $2200/kW

Another indication of financing costs is given by Georgia Power, which said in mid 2008 that twin 1100 MWe AP1000 reactors would cost $9.6 billion if they could be financed progressively by ratepayers, or $14 billion if not. This gives $4363 or $6360 per kilowatt including all other owners costs.

Mid 2008 vendor figures for overnight costs (excluding owner's costs) have been quoted as:
GE-Hitachi ESBWR just under $3000/kW
GE-Hitachi ABWR just over $3000/kW
Westinghouse AP1000 about $3000/kW

January 2008 Energy Construction Cost Comparison

New prices could be lower now because of lower costs for steel and concrete. Labor costs should also be coming down.

China Breaks Ground on IGCC Cleaner Coal

China is also breaking ground on their first first integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant (cleaner burning than regular pulverized coal and potentially carbon neutral.)

Underpinning China's potential leadership in carbon-neutral coal power is broad expertise with gasification. By 2010, China will have installed 29 gasification projects since 2004, compared with zero in the United States, according to the Gasification Technologies Council, a trade group based in Arlington, VA. Most of these Chinese projects turn coal into synthesis gas (or syngas)--a blend of carbon monoxide and hydrogen--to feed catalysts that synthesize chemicals and fuels. IGCC technology uses the same syngas to drive turbines and generate electricity with far less pollution than conventional coal plants. For example, mercury and soot levels [soot: ie. particulates are the main air pollutant from coal that causes lung and heart disease. Still if you are going to make coal plants at least build cleaner ones.] are close to those seen at natural gas-fired plants, while carbon dioxide comes out in a pure stream that should be easier to capture and sequester.

The project plans to start up a 250-megawatt IGCC plant in Tianjin in 2010 using a novel gasifier designed by the Thermal Power Research Institute in Xi'an; the plant will also supply some syngas and heat to local chemical plants. GreenGen plans to catapult the output of the gasifier design, from a 36-tons-per-day pilot plant, directly to commercial scale of 2,000 tons per day.

And GreenGen is already preparing to scale up further: in April, GreenGen and Tianjin officials signed an agreement for two 400-megawatt IGCC units. Meanwhile, Chinese utility firm Huaneng, GreenGen's majority stakeholder, started up a CCS pilot project at its Beijing coal power plant this summer.

Wikipedia on integrated gasification combined cycle plants.

2007 MIT Technology Review article on China's Greengen IGCC plants and carbon sequestering plans.

They're not emissions free, but their gas streams are more concentrated, so the sulfurous soot, carbon dioxide, and other pollutants they generate are easier to separate and capture. Of course, once the carbon dioxide--the main greenhouse gas--is captured, engineers still need to find a place to stow it. The most promising strategy is to sequester it deep within saline aquifers and oil reservoirs. In preliminary analyses, Chinese geologists have estimated that aging oil fields and aquifers could absorb more than a trillion tons of carbon dioxide--more than China's coal-fired plants would emit, at their current rate, for hundreds of years.

IGCC plants still cost about 10 percent to 20 percent more per megawatt than pulverized-coal-fired power plants. (And that's without carbon dioxide capture.)

China is still building a lot of regular coal electricity plants

Ningdong Coalfield is one of the 13 large-scale coal bases ratified by the government, with a proven coal reserve of 27.3 billion tons. According to estimates, the eight projects will trigger development in relevant industries and result in an investment scale of 130 billion yuan, directly consuming around 600,000 tons of steel and around 1 million tons of cement, as well as creating 45,000 jobs.

The plan calls for all the projects in the Ningdong base to be completed and in operation by 2020.

Sept 2008 review of wroldwide IGCC and carbon capture and storage projects.

After more than doubling in price from 2000, nuclear plant costs and other energy plant construction costs are on their way down in the USA and around the world. 17% lower prices in 2008.

The situation with steel shows a sharp slowdown.

Steel Prices - London Metals Exchange

December 16, 2008

Carbon Productivity and Rate of Progress

Research by the McKinsey Global Institute and McKinsey's Climate Change Special Initiative carbon productivity must reach $7,300 by 2050—a tenfold increase over today.

A tenfold increase in carbon productivity sounds daunting, but it is a type of challenge that humankind has met before. U.S. labor productivity increased tenfold over a 125-year period from 1830 to 1955. We now need a clean-energy revolution on the same scale as the Industrial Revolution. But we probably have less than 40 years before emissions lead to irreversible damage. The clean-energy revolution has to happen three times faster than the Industrial Revolution did.

Our colleagues from around the world have conducted a detailed bottom-up analysis of just what such a clean-energy revolution would entail and how much it would cost—country by country and industry sector by industry sector. Overall, the shift to a low-carbon economy would require new global capital investment averaging $570 billion per year between 2010 and 2030.

This sounds like a lot, but it is only about 2 to 4 percent of expected capital expenditures during this period. And because the money would largely go into long-life assets (e.g., better buildings, cleaner power sources, low-emissions transport), most of it would be financed through borrowing over time.

our analysis estimates that 70 percent of the technologies needed are either available today or are likely to be commercially viable in the coming decade. Renewable technologies, such as solar, wind, and geothermal, already account for 12 percent of Germany's power today and have the potential for dramatic expansion. For example, we estimate that the renewables share of U.S. power could almost triple from 8 percent today to 23 percent by 2030 at a reasonable cost.

A NASA study relates estimates of the amount of oil and coal to atmospheric CO2.
Limits on how much oil and coal that we can affordably get could provide a cap on the maximum level of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, in either the case of running our of oil and coal or shifting to clean sources of energy, we still have to shift to clean sources of energy.

The Nasa study has diagrams here and more of the scenarios converted into charts here

Los Alamos Green Freedom plan : make fuel from the air

Green Freedom pdf

Converting coal pollution into fuel

Reviewing Mckinsey Consulting Plans and cost analysis for countering climate change

Verdict Positive for Inertial Electrostatic Fusion

Information on the Inertial Electrostatic Fusion project by EMC2 Fusion Inc which is carrying on the work of the late Robert Bussard

Alan Boyle reports that the review of the WB7 experiment is done and the verdict is positive.

The team has turned in its final report, and it's been double-checked by a peer-review panel, Dr Nebel [research team lead] told me today. Although he couldn't go into the details, he said the verdict was positive.

"There's nothing in there that suggests this will not work," Nebel said. "That's a very different statement from saying that it will work."

By and large, the EMC2 results fit Bussard's theoretical predictions [this also should mean a replication of the 100,000 times better result that Bussard had with the WB6 prototype], Nebel said. That could mean Polywell fusion would actually lead to a power-generating reaction. But based on the 10-month, shoestring-budget experiment, the team can't rule out the possibility that a different phenomenon is causing the observed effects.

"If you want to say something absolutely, you have to say there's no other explanation," Nebel said. The review board agreed with that conservative assessment, he said.

The good news, from Nebel's standpoint, is that the WB-7 experiment hasn't ruled out the possibility that Polywell fusion could actually serve as a low-cost, long-term energy solution. "If this thing was absolutely dead in the water, we would have found out," he said.

If Polywell pans out, nuclear fusion could be done more cheaply and more safely than it could ever be done in a tokamak or a laser blaster.

Despite the skepticism, Nebel and his colleagues have already drawn up a plan for the next step: an 18-month program to build and test a larger fusor prototype. "We're shopping that around inside the DOD [Department of Defense], and we'll see what happens," he said.

Nebel said some private-sector ventures are also interested in what EMC2 is up to, and that may suggest a backup plan in case the Pentagon isn't interesting in following up on WB-7.

For the time being, Nebel said his five-person team is getting by on some small-scale contracts from the Defense Department (including these three). "I've got enough to cover the people we've got, and that's about it," he said. "What we're doing with these contracts is trying to get prepared for the next step."

He's also waiting to see what the Obama administration will bring. Will the White House support EMC2's low-cost, under-the-radar fusion research program alongside ITER and the National Ignition Facility? "We just don't know," Nebel said.

Highlights of Bussard's Google Talk on IEC Fusion

IEC Fusion for Dummies

Polywell fusion discussion board

The next IEC fusion record could be a 100 MW version.

Successful development of IEC fusion would transform space travel and energy

There was speculation that the next IEC fusion experiments would be 100MW versions. This is not clear based on the procurement request.

Here is an introduction to the inertial electrostatic fusion concept.

Some controversy:

According to Todd Rider in his general critique of inertial-electrostatic confinement fusion systems, net energy production is not viable in IEC fusion for fuels other than D-T, D-D, and D-He3, and breakeven operation with any fuel except D-T is unlikely. The primary problem that he discusses is the thermalization of ions, allowing them to escape over the top of the electrostatic well more rapidly than they fuse. He considers his paper optimistic because he assumes that core degradation can be countered.

Nevins makes an argument similar to Rider's in [W.M. Nevins, Phys. Plasmas <2> (10), 3804 (October, 1995)], where he shows that the fusion gain (ratio of fusion power produced to the power required to maintain the non-equilibrium ion distribution function) is limited to 0.1 assuming that the device is fueled with a mixture of deuterium and tritium. A fusion gain of about 10 is required for net energy production.

From M. Simon:

Rider's chief criticism is related to the recirculating power required in a colliding beam machine: "In virtually all cases, this minimum recirculating power is substantially larger than the fusion power, so barring the discovery of methods of recirculating the power at exceedingly high efficiencies, reactors employing plasmas not in thermodynamic equilibrium will not be able to produce net power". This is a very valid criticism and is acknowledged by Robert Bussard. However, Bussard claims that the discovery of what he terms the Wiffle Ball effect and by circulating electrons escaping from the Wiffle ball at high efficiencies he can get the total electron circulation efficiency into the 99.999% to 99.9999% range, making machines of his proposed design viable for power production.

So Rider in his Masters thesis theoretically indicated that he did not believe the electrons could be contained in the IEC fusion designs. Robert Bussard believed and claimed experimental proof that he could and built a test machine which had results indicating success. The device shorted out. The recent work by Dr Nebel and his team replicated Robert Bussards work and their device runs like a clock and does not short out. Robert Bussard also had a PHD in physics. Bussard served as the Atomic Energy Commission assistant director of its controlled thermonuclear reaction division in the early 1970s, helping found the United States fusion program [basically one of key people in starting the US fusion program]. Bussard's worked on actual Tokomak and Riggatron and then for 17 years inertial electrostatic fusion experiments.

Other fusion researchers such as Rostoker and Monkhorst have disagreed with Rider and Nevins analyses. They claiming Rider and Nevins assumptions do not always apply, and proposing nonthermal schemes that they calculate can produce net power, and theorists at LANL have proposed [R.A. Nebel and D.C. Barnes, “The periodically oscillating plasma sphere,” Fusion Technology 38, 28 (1998).] a new electrostatic plasma equilibrium that should mitigate this problem. This concept, called Periodically Oscillating Plasma Sphere (POPS), has been confirmed experimentally[J. Park et al., “First experimental confirmation of periodically oscillating plasma sphere (POPS) oscillation,” submitted to Physical Review Letters]. POPS oscillation maintains equilibrium distribution of the ions at all times, which would eliminate any power loss due to Coulomb collisions, resulting in a net energy gain for fusion-power generation.

IEC fusion type devices currently work to generate fusion and generate billions of neutrons.

Robert Bussards 2006 Google Techtalk on IEC Fusion 92 minutes

Analysis of Bussard Fusion Videos
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

IEC Fusion versus Tokomak Fusion

US Interest Rates Zero to 0.25% and soon 4.5% US mortgages

Hale Bonddad Steward at Huffington Post has a lot of charts that show the bad financial situation.

Brad Delong, economist, seems to be indicating that the USA is at or near a depression.

There is serious talk and moves toward a $3 trillion stimulus package that would allow everyone in the USA to refinance a mortgage at 4.5%.

The Fed and the Treasury appear ready to start buying up large quantities of securities -- government debt, mortgages, commercial loans, even stocks -- from banks' balance sheets, giving them plenty of new money to lend. This quantitative easing is a tool used by Japan earlier this decade to combat deflation and stimulate the economy.

The Fed will use its balance sheet to stimulate the US economy

China is planning to increase its money supply by 17% in 2009 to stimulate its economy

The situation with steel shows a sharp slowdown.

Tensilica and Energy Efficient Computing

The proposed sustained 10 petaflop and 200 peak petaflop tensilica computer is based on 2008 technology. Over the next few years, Tensilica will have 45 nanometer and 32 nanometer chips with improved energy usage and performance, which would enable affordable supercomputers that are more powerful than 10 petaflops.

Other proposed, in development or completed supercomputers and their how specialized or general purpose they are.

Tensilica and their configurable processors could be used as the basis for exaflop and multi-petaflop computers. The main challenge for faster computers is increasing the amount of computer per watt of power. This power challenge is also critical because computing is using 6% of overall power.

What Tensilica is Doing for More Computing and Less Power

Overall Computing Energy Efficiency Trends

The Green list of supercomputers has a current peak of 536 Mflops per watt

Cell processors (in particular cell broadband engine, Cell/BE) are dominant in energy efficient supercomputers IBM will be producing the Cell at 45 nanometers early in 2009 and said it would require 40 percent less power at the same clockspeed than its 65nm predecessor and that the die area would shrink by 34 percent.

The trend is to mixing different types of processors (FPGAs, Cell processors, GPGPUs, floatingpoint accelerators and more) to get more energy efficient computing.

The configurable Tensilica processors provide a wider range of processor types and flexibility.

December 15, 2008

Bakken oil, Oilsands, Deepwater Oil update

Bakken Oil North Dakota Update
In October, 2008 North Dakota had an average of 203785 barrels of oil per day, with most of that from the Bakken Oil Formation.

In spite of reduced oil prices drilling is continuing in 2009 in North Dakota but drilling budgets will be down about 30%

Better and Cheaper Oilsands CAPRI, THAI Projects Go Ahead
Petrobank has its approvals in Alberta (Whitesands, May River Project) to proceed with testing of its new oil recovery method called Capri.

The project will be constructed in phases with the first module (Phase-1) having the capacity to produce 10,000 to 15,000 bbl/d of partially upgraded bitumen. Expansion will continue in stages with the production capacity ultimately reaching 100,000 bbl/d.

Alberta Oilsands for 2009

Alberta oilsand spending is projected to drop 25% from $20 billion to 16 billion in 2009

Total Canada withdrew a regulatory application for the 115,000-barrel-a-day Northern Lights project. Petro-Canada last month postponed a decision on the $25-billion Fort Hills mine for at least a year while it reviews cost estimates. Earlier this fall, Shell Canada withdrew regulatory applications for a 100,000 barrel a day in-situ project near Peace River, in addition to delaying a 100,000 barrel a day expansion of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project. Suncor Energy delayed by at least a year the $20.6-billion Voyageur expansion.

Stringham, VP of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), said the current round of expansions has merely involved delays, but the cancellation of new projects could result in a five-year production lag between 2012 and 2017 on the road to three million barrels a day.

Many producers are waiting to see if costs fall enough to make those delayed projects economic again.

"They hope they can bring those costs down," said CAPP's Stringham. "That's why they're buying some time to do that. It's money well spent in deferring it out."

Like crude prices, the costs for materials such as steel have fallen by about two-thirds since reaching their peaks. But Justin Bouchard, a research analyst with Raymond James in Calgary, said it remains to be seen if costs for other items like labour will come down enough to make projects like Fort Hills viable again.

"We fully expect costs to come in lower, but the big question is how much lower? Our concern is that labour and contractor rates may be stickier in the near term than expected."

Note: The THAI and CAPRI oil recovery methods could reduce the cost of oilsand projects.

Deepwater Oil and other Megaprojects
From Chevron's Oct 31, 2008 conference call:

Let’s start in the Gulf of Mexico deepwater with our Tahiti project. The project is progressing on schedule. The spar hole was installed during the first quarter and the topside modules during the third quarter of this year.

The facility sustained minor damage during hurricane Ike and will be repaired during ongoing hookup and commissioning activities. However, this will not delay the projects and we still anticipate first oil by the third quarter of 2009.

In Brazil, at the Frade field construction of the FPSO is 85% complete with a sail-away from Dubai expected in late December. First oil is expected during the second quarter of 2009.

In Angola, the Tombua Landana project remains on schedule, to meet first oil during the second half of 2009. The hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, did not significantly impact the schedule for sail-away of the various compliant pile tower components.

The Large Scale Steam Pilot in the Partitioned Neutral Zone also remains on schedule. If this pilot is successful, it will lead to a full-field development at Wafra. First steam injection is expected during early 2009.

Finally, I would like to provide a summary of other key 2008 upstream highlights. Please turn to slide 20. For September 10, we announced the extension and amendment of the Partitioned Neutral Zone operating agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This agreement extends the existing arrangement for 30 years through 2039.

Chevron's Tahiti gulf project is expected to produce 125,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd).

Shenzi 85,000 bopd by BHP Billiton is another US oil project for 2009

Other oil megaprojects at wikipedia

Previous look in mid-2008 at new oil production.

Alberta oilsand production is still projected to reach 2 million bopd by 2010-2011 from current 1.3 million bopd.