tar sands

National Oil Companies and the World Oil Market: Should We Be Worried?

Mark Thurber, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Stanford University

Monday, February 6, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

State-owned oil and natural gas companies, such as Saudi Aramco, Petróleos de Venezuela and China National Petroleum Corp., own 73 percent of the world's oil reserves and 68 percent of its natural gas. They bankroll governments across the globe. Although national oil companies superficially resemble private-sector companies, they often behave in very different ways.

Oil and Governance: State-Owned Enterprises and the World Energy Supply (Cambridge University Press, 2012), a new book commissioned by Stanford University's Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, explains the variation in performance and strategy for such state-owned enterprises. The book, which Mark Thurber co-edited and contributed to, also provides fresh insights into the future of the oil industry and the politics of the oil-rich countries where national oil companies dominate.

Though national oil companies have often been the subject of case studies, for the first time multiple case studies followed a common research design, which aided the relative ranking of performance and the evaluation of hypotheses about such companies' performance. Interestingly, some of the worst performing of these operations belong to countries quite unfriendly to the United States. Mark will also discuss the industrial structure of the oil industry, and the politics and administration of national oil companies. One result of the dominance of this structure for oil markets is that high prices often lead to lower supplies and low prices lead to increased production -- the opposite response of private companies.


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Canada's Oil Sands; Warts and All

Bob Skinner, Advisor to Statoil

Monday, February 14, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Canada’s oil sands constitute one of the largest concentrations of hydrocarbons in the world with nearly two trillion barrels of bitumen in place.  Current production is about 1.5 million b/d, half from open pit mines, half from wells relying on steam injection to stimulate production.  Unconventional oil derived from bitumen, extra heavy oil, shale, coal and converted natural gas, is projected to grow as a share of world oil supply. While all are underpinned by immense resources, unconventional hydrocarbons are unlikely to exceed 10% of global supply before 2035. Biofuels, if included, would increase the share of unconventional oil to about 13%.


Extracting, upgrading or converting these forms of oil into useful products economically and in environmentally and socially acceptable ways faces major challenges.  Their development amounts to either reversing or accelerating geological processes, which requires prodigious inputs of energy, materials, labour, technologies or other resources, especially water.  Even as oil prices rise, the cost of production rises because of competing demands for, and therefore higher costs of, these essential inputs, some of which are themselves energy-intensive.  This conceptual framework for discussing their potential contribution to the future energy mix and their political economy is illustrated in the case of the Athabasca oil sands of Alberta.  There are many environmental and social challenges in the development of the oil sands; these are being addressed, albeit slowly. The presentation will discuss the resource, its geology, the technologies and the issues and expectations for development of this resource.

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Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford: The Grand Challenge

Lynn Orr, Keleen and Carlton Beal Professor in Petroleum Engineering, Energy Resources Engineering Department Director, Precourt Institute for Energy



Wednesday, October 6, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Franklin M. ("Lynn") Orr, Jr. became the director of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford upon its establishment in 2009. He served as director of the Global Climate and Energy Project from 2002 to 2008. Orr was the Chester Naramore Dean of the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University from 1994 to 2002. He has been a member of the Stanford faculty since 1985 and holds the Keleen and Carlton Beal Chair of Petroleum Engineering in the Department of Energy Resources Engineering, and is a Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment. His research activities focus on how complex fluid mixtures flow in the porous rocks in the Earth's crust, the design of gas injection processes for enhanced oil recovery, and CO2 storage in subsurface formations. Orr is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He serves as vice chair of the board of directors of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and he chairs the Science Advisory Committee for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and was a foundation board member from 1999-2008.

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Greenhouse gas emissions from oil substitutes:  dynamics, resources, and systems behavior

Adam Brandt, Stanford University

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

The ongoing transition to oil substitutes poses economic, environmental, and political risks. In particular, the problems of oil depletion and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are unavoidably intertwined: any shortfall in conventional oil will induce the production of oil substitutes such as unconventional hydrocarbons or biofuels, which have differing GHG emissions per unit of fuel produced. This transition could have positive or negative impacts on total GHG emissions depending on the resources used and the regulatory environment in which it takes place. Professor Brandt explores this transition using a large-scale mathematical model of future transportation fuel production. He discusses future research to improve our understanding of the environmental impacts from oil substitutes.

* Energy Social following the talk (details will be announced at the seminar)

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Heavy Liquid Hydrocarbons: Their Production and the Resulting CO2 Footprint

Tony Kovscek, Stanford University

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Tony Kovscek, associate professor of Energy Resources Engineering, discusses heavy liquid hydrocarbons, their production, their increasing role in the world's energy mix, and the resulting carbon footprint.

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