Renewable Energy Development Gets Help

Renewable energy research and development is being driven by high prices for oil and natural gas.
Those same prices also are driving technology efforts for new equipment to recover fossil fuels from ever-increasing areas.
And that also bodes well for law students focused on the energy industry, according to Thomas M. Zeiders, an attorney for Wright & Associates, P.C., in Edmond.
Zeiders, a 2006 TU College of Law graduate, speaking to former colleagues and teachers, also emphasized that continuing education is a must as the energy field changes because of global pressures and competition for the finite resource.
Zeiders himself is continuing his education ‘‘through learning distance’’ at the University of Dundee, Scotland. He is taking most of the courses at his Tulsa home, occasionally traveling to Scotland for required seminars.
Technology is making exploration for more fossil fuels possible, he said. Halliburton Co. is developing methods of obtaining methane gas from coal seams.
Ethanol is coming on the scene, but that product is highly subsidized by governments, he added. Most cars in Brazil use ethanol. Ethanol is being introduced again in the U.S., but there are transportation problems.
Ethanol cannot be moved through pipelines because it picks up water in the transportation process and is diluted.
Professor Marla E. Mansfield noted that critics of ethanol costs fail to factor in the reality that corn already is grown as cattle food and that 75 percent of the mash from ethanol processing is returned to the agriculture industry for animal food.
Wind power and new methods of generating electricity also are being developed, Zeiders continued, but it is the exploration for oil and natural gas and political actions that grip the attention of the world.
It is anybody’s guess about the moves that powerful national oil companies will make as they move out of their own waters and into those of other nations, he said. It also is anybody’s guess about what will happen with Russia’s efforts to form a natural gas cartel with other countries.
Since that country has the largest natural gas reserves in the world, few countries, especially those in Europe, are willing to do something to cut off their supply. If that were to happen, they would have to go elsewhere — to the mid East — and they don’t want to go there for natural gas. The U.S. ‘‘doesn’t want to mess with Russia’’ and do something that would further jeopardize this fragile supply.
Russia clearly demonstrated its power in world’s natural gas arena by cutting off the supply to Ukraine.
Fossil fuel energy will continue to be a contentious focal point on a global scale as countries turn to renewable sources.
Oil supplies are flattening, Zeiders said. Canada, the number one crude oil supplier to the U.S. is finding its fields are flattening and production is beginning to drop.
Problems are being experienced in the Cantarell Field in Mexico as production from the second largest oil field in the world in terms of output are dropping. This is unexpected and the Mexican government hasn’t developed additional technology needed for offshore work.
Similarly, production from the North Sea is declining and some rigs in that are inactive, needing to be removed from those waters.
Deep water exploration by the U.S. and other countries with such technology might be possible, but there are no pipelines available and it takes time to get product to the marketplace, he said. Brazil has vast deep water exploration capabilities and recently approved a production and off loader vessel for work in the Gulf of Mexico. This vehicle is capable of moving into U.S. waters and will pose a significant issue for this country. It also creates problems for large producers like Shell and Exxon.
Booming economies in other countries also are placing demands on the energy industry, Zeiders said. India is looking for places to fill that country’s energy needs. China is searching for reserves off the South African coast.
Current price increases at the gas pump will ease as problems between Britain and Iranians are resolved, he said. It is anybody’s guess what will happen with prices.
Certainly, it is possible they could increase to $150 per barrel, but that is bad for the petroleum industry because that only will drive the efforts towards more renewable energy sources.

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