natural gas

The Environmental Footprint of Unconventional Natural Gas and Hydraulic Fracturing

Rob Jackson, professor, Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University

 

Monday, September 29, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Unconventional oil and natural gas extraction fueled by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is driving an economic boom, with consequences described as “revolutionary” to “disastrous”. Reality lies somewhere in between. Unconventional energy generates income and, done well, can reduce air pollution compared to other fossil fuels and even water use compared to fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Alternatively, it could release toxic chemicals into water and air and slow the adoption of renewables. Based on research to date, some primary threats to water resources come from surface spills, wastewater disposal, and drinking-water contamination through poor well integrity. For air resources, an increase in volatile organic compounds and air toxics locally is a potential health threat, but the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation will reduce sulfur, nitrogen, mercury, and particulate pollution regionally. Data gaps are particularly evident for human health studies, the extent to which natural gas will displace coal compared with renewables, and the decadal-scale legacy issues of well integrity, leakage, and plugging and abandonment practices. Critical needs for future research include data for 1) estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) of unconventional hydrocarbons; 2) the potential for further reductions of water requirements and chemical toxicity; 3) whether unconventional resource development alters the frequency of well-integrity failures; 4) potential contamination of surface and ground waters from drilling and spills; 5) factors that could cause wastewater injection to generate large earthquakes; and 6) the consequences of greenhouse gases and air pollution on ecosystems and human health.

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A review of environmental impacts of renewable electricity generation technologies from a life cycle perspective

Garvin Heath, Senior Scientist, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Monday, November 4, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Through systematic reviews and original research, this presentation will review evidence of environmental impacts of renewable electricity generation technologies compared, where possible, to their conventional incumbents. Evidence for greenhouse gas emissions, water and land use will be reviewed mostly from the perspective of life cycle assessment. Areas of uncertainty will be highlighted as suggestions for future research.

 

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Grid Flexibility and Research Challenges to Enhance the Integration of Variable Renewable Energy Sources

Mark O'Malley, Electrical Engineering Dept., University College Dublin

Monday, January 14, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Grid flexibility is a characteristic that is proposed to help the integration of variable renewable energy resources. However it has proven very difficult to quantify and this has spurred intense research efforts over the past few years. There are many sources, sinks and enablers for flexibility in the grid and these are all subject to numerous research challenges. Flexibility will be introduced, defined and a number of methods to quantify it will be described. This will be followed by an overview of research into unlocking flexibility in the power system e.g. demand side participation and power system operational strategies. There are potential hidden costs of flexibility and some of these will be highlighted, for example thermal plant cycling, and mitigation measures to reduce these will be formulated. Concluding remarks will try to give insights into how a future grid with very high penetrations of variable renewable energy may look like.

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Assessing Earthquake Risks From Hydraulic Fracturing for Geothermal Power, Natural Gas and CO2 Storage

Mark McClure, PhD in Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford University; Assistant Professor (winter 2013), University of Texas

Monday, November 5, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Scientists have been aware of human induced seismicity for decades. But attention to the issue has increased in recent years, as concerns have been raised for wastewater disposal, hydraulic fracturing, and CO2 sequestration. The importance of credible induced seismicity hazard assessment has never been higher.

In this talk, Mark McClure will summarize the fundamental physical processes of induced seismicity, provide an overview of the history of the field, and review some of the dominant ideas in induced seismicity hazard analysis. Then he will summarize two papers he recently wrote on the topic of induced seismicity during hydraulic stimulation in geothermal energy. The first demonstrates how a single variable, the degree of brittle fault development, can explain the huge variation in induced seismicity across a range of historical enhanced geothermal projects. The second uses coupled fluid flow and seismicity modeling to explain a variety of observations of induced seismicity from enhanced geothermal projects and demonstrates how modeling could be used for hazard analysis or even optimization. Last, Mark will explain the broader implications of his work for induced seismicity hazard analysis.

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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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Producing Natural Gas from Shale - Opportunities and Challenges of a Major New Energy Source

Mark Zoback, Department of Geophysics, Stanford University

Monday, January 30, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

It is now clear that enormous quantities of natural gas can be produced from organic rich shales found in many countries throughout the world. Because natural gas is both a flexible fuel and much cleaner than other fossil fuels, it has the potential to significantly transform energy use in many regions. Natural gas used for electrical power generation produces about half as much CO2 as coal.

Despite these advantages, there are also significant challenges associated natural gas development. These include minimizing the impact of shale gas development on the environment and communities. In the U.S. alone, thousands of wells will need to be drilled each year (along with construction of pipelines, compressor and distribution facilities, etc.). While a number of misleading claims have been made about the dangers associated with processes such as hydraulic fracturing, poor well construction and drilling have the potential to cause environmental damage which must be minimized.

Another challenge associated with shale gas development is to significantly improve the efficiency of drilling and production practice.  This will require greatly improved understanding of shale gas production from the nano-scale pore structure and flow mechanisms in the shale to the optimal way to stimulate production using horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing. 

 

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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

 

Panelists: 

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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U.S. Shale Gas: From Resources and Reserves to Carbon Isotope Anomalies

John Curtis, Potential Gas Agency, Colorado School of Mines

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Professor Curtis will discuss shale gas resource assessments, possible roadblocks to future shale gas production and the use of gas geochemistry for discovery and development of this potential resource.

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Sustainable Energy Future: Scale, Tradeoffs, and Co-Benefits

Panel with Stanford Faculty: Sally Benson, Director, Global Climate and Energy Project; Pamela Matson, Chester Naramore Dean of the School of Earth Sciences; Lynn Orr, Director, Precourt Institute for Energy; Stephen Schneider, Melvin & Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies; Jim Sweeney, Director Precourt Energy Efficiency Center; Buzz Thompson, Co-Director Woods Institute for the Environment

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:30 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

The Stanford panelists will discuss a number of important themes and issues about energy use, impacts, and opportunities as we begin the transition to a low emission energy future. Panelists will consider economic viability, political will, resource constraints, and environmental impacts of various energy technologies at scale. They will discuss tradeoffs and how decision makers may seek co-benefits and avoid unintended consequences when making choices.

* Energy Social following the talk (Note: we do not provide venue details for social on the web)

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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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