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Predicting the Psychological Response of the American People to Oil Depletion and Declining Energy Return on Investment (EROI)  [PDF]
Jessica G. Lambert,Gail P. Lambert
Sustainability , 2011, DOI: 10.3390/su3112129
Abstract: Oil has played a crucial role in the United States’ continued but increasingly tenuous economic prosperity. The continued availability of cheap, high energy return on investment (EROI) oil, however, is increasingly in doubt. If cheap oil is increasingly constrained, how might that impact the American psychological sense of personal and national well-being? We employ general systems theory and certain key paradigms from psychology and sociology to predict the possible societal response to global peak oil and the declining EROI of whatever oil is produced. Based on these frameworks, the following three defense mechanisms seem likely to be employed by individuals and groups within society if and when confronted with stresses associated with declining oil availability. These are: denial of one’s passive helpless state, desire to establish a scapegoat, and arousal of affiliative needs and increased subgrouping. A group’s “survival” is a function of its unified sense of direction and the stability of necessary interdependencies and linkages. We suggest that the ability of the U.S. society, taken as a whole, to adapt to the stresses derived from the declining EROI of oil will increase during periods of moderate stress, and then decline after reaching its maximum ability to cope with stress. The integrity of interdependencies and linkages—power, communication, affect, and goals—must be preserved for continued social unity. Americans will need to acknowledge the reality of biophysical constraints if they are to adapt to the coming energy crisis.
A New Long Term Assessment of Energy Return on Investment (EROI) for U.S. Oil and Gas Discovery and Production  [PDF]
Megan C. Guilford,Charles A.S. Hall,Peter O’Connor,Cutler J. Cleveland
Sustainability , 2011, DOI: 10.3390/su3101866
Abstract: Oil and gas are the main sources of energy in the United States. Part of their appeal is the high Energy Return on Energy Investment (EROI) when procuring them. We assessed data from the United States Bureau of the Census of Mineral Industries, the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Oil and Gas Journal for the years 1919–2007 and from oil analyst Jean Laherrere to derive EROI for both finding and producing oil and gas. We found two general patterns in the relation of energy gains compared to energy costs: a gradual secular decrease in EROI and an inverse relation to drilling effort. EROI for finding oil and gas decreased exponentially from 1200:1 in 1919 to 5:1 in 2007. The EROI for production of the oil and gas industry was about 20:1 from 1919 to 1972, declined to about 8:1 in 1982 when peak drilling occurred, recovered to about 17:1 from 1986–2002 and declined sharply to about 11:1 in the mid to late 2000s. The slowly declining secular trend has been partly masked by changing effort: the lower the intensity of drilling, the higher the EROI compared to the secular trend. Fuel consumption within the oil and gas industry grew continuously from 1919 through the early 1980s, declined in the mid-1990s, and has increased recently, not surprisingly linked to the increased cost of finding and extracting oil.
Seeking to Understand the Reasons for Different Energy Return on Investment (EROI) Estimates for Biofuels  [PDF]
Charles A.S. Hall,Bruce E. Dale,David Pimentel
Sustainability , 2011, DOI: 10.3390/su3122413
Abstract: The authors of this paper have been involved in contentious discussion of the EROI of biomass-based ethanol. This contention has undermined, in the minds of some, the utility of EROI for assessing fuels. This paper seeks to understand the reasons for the divergent results.
Order from Chaos: A Preliminary Protocol for Determining the EROI of Fuels  [PDF]
David J. Murphy,Charles A.S. Hall,Michael Dale,Cutler Cleveland
Sustainability , 2011, DOI: 10.3390/su3101888
Abstract: The main objective of this manuscript is to provide a formal methodology, structure, and nomenclature for EROI analysis that is both consistent, so that all EROI numbers across various processes can be compared, and also flexible, so that changes or additions to the universal formula can focus analyses on specific areas of concern. To accomplish this objective we address four areas that are of particular interest within EROI analysis: (1) boundaries of the system under analysis, (2) energy quality corrections, (3) energy-economic conversions, and (4) alternative EROI statistics. Lastly, we present step-by-step instructions outlining how to perform an EROI analysis.
Introduction to Special Issue on New Studies in EROI (Energy Return on Investment)  [PDF]
Charles A.S. Hall
Sustainability , 2011, DOI: 10.3390/su3101773
Abstract: Energy Return on Investment (EROI) refers to how much energy is returned from one unit of energy invested in an energy-producing activity. It is a critical parameter for understanding and ranking different fuels. There were a number of studies on EROI three decades ago but relatively little work since. Now there is a whole new interest in EROI as fuels get increasingly expensive and as we attempt to weigh alternative energies against traditional ones. This special volume brings together a whole series of high quality new studies on EROI, as well as many papers that struggle with the meaning of changing EROI and its impact on our economy. One overall conclusion is that the quality of fuels is at least as important in our assessment as is the quantity. I argue that many of the contemporary changes in our economy are related directly to changing EROI as our premium fuels are increasingly depleted.
Energy Return on Investment (EROI) of Oil Shale  [PDF]
Cutler J. Cleveland,Peter A. O’Connor
Sustainability , 2011, DOI: 10.3390/su3112307
Abstract: The two methods of processing synthetic crude from organic marlstone in demonstration or small-scale commercial status in the U.S. are in situ extraction and surface retorting. The considerable uncertainty surrounding the technological characterization, resource characterization, and choice of the system boundary for oil shale operations indicate that oil shale is only a minor net energy producer if one includes internal energy (energy in the shale that is used during the process) as an energy cost. The energy return on investment (EROI) for either of these methods is roughly 1.5:1 for the final fuel product. The inclusions or omission of internal energy is a critical question. If only external energy (energy diverted from the economy to produce the fuel) is considered, EROI appears to be much higher. In comparison, fuels produced from conventional petroleum show overall EROI of approximately 4.5:1. “At the wellhead” EROI is approximately 2:1 for shale oil (again, considering internal energy) and 20:1 for petroleum. The low EROI for oil shale leads to a significant release of greenhouse gases. The large quantities of energy needed to process oil shale, combined with the thermochemistry of the retorting process, produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Oil shale unambiguously emits more greenhouse gases than conventional liquid fuels from crude oil feedstocks by a factor of 1.2 to 1.75. Much of the discussion regarding the EROI for oil shale should be regarded as preliminary or speculative due to the very small number of operating facilities that can be assessed.
A Review of the Past and Current State of EROI Data  [PDF]
Ajay K. Gupta,Charles A.S. Hall
Sustainability , 2011, DOI: 10.3390/su3101796
Abstract: This is a review of the literature available on data for the EROI (prior to this special issue) of the following 12 sources of fuel/energy: oil and natural gas, coal, tar sands, shale oil, nuclear, wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, wave/tidal and corn ethanol. Unfortunately, we found that few studies have been undertaken since the 1980s, and such as have been done are often marked more by advocacy than objectivity. The most recent summary of work and data on the EROI of fuels was conducted in the summer of 2007 at SUNY ESF and appeared on The Oil Drum website and in a readable summary by Richard Heinberg. This paper summarizes the findings of that study, and also those preceding and subsequent to it where available. It also summarizes issues raised by some concerning the findings of these studies and with the calculations within. While there are many who believe that such EROI studies are critical to understanding our financial and social future there seems to be very little interest by governments and industries in supporting this research or in using or promulgating such research as has been done. We view this as critical as our main fuels are progressively depleted and as we are faced with making extremely important decisions on a very meager analytical and data base, and with few scientists trained to cut through the reams of insufficiently analyzed energy advocacy saturating our media and the blogosphere.
Time Series EROI for Canadian Oil and Gas  [PDF]
Alexandre Poisson,Charles A. S. Hall
Energies , 2013, DOI: 10.3390/en6115940
Abstract: Modern economies are dependent on fossil energy, yet as conventional resources are depleted, an increasing fraction of that energy is coming from unconventional resources such as tar sands. These resources usually require more energy for extraction and upgrading, leaving a smaller fraction available to society, and at a higher cost. Here we present a calculation of the energy return on investment (EROI) for all Canadian oil and gas (including tar sands) over the period 1990–2008, and also for tar sands alone (1994–2008). We used energy production and energy use data from Statistics Canada’s Material and Energy Flow Accounts (MEFA). We were able to quantify both direct and indirect energy use, the latter from Statistics Canada’s energy input-output model. We found that since the mid-1990s, total energy used (invested) in the Canadian oil and gas sector increased about 63%, while the energy production (return) increased only 18%, resulting in a decrease in total EROI from roughly 16:1 to 11:1. We also found (although with less certainty) that the EROI for tar sands alone has fluctuated around 4:1 since 1994, with only a slight increasing trend. Finally, we analyzed underlying factors possibly influencing these trends.
What is the Minimum EROI that a Sustainable Society Must Have?  [PDF]
Charles A. S. Hall,Stephen Balogh,David J.R. Murphy
Energies , 2009, DOI: 10.3390/en20100025
Abstract: Economic production and, more generally, most global societies, are overwhelmingly dependant upon depleting supplies of fossil fuels. There is considerable concern amongst resource scientists, if not most economists, as to whether market signals or cost benefit analysis based on today’s prices are sufficient to guide our decisions about our energy future. These suspicions and concerns were escalated during the oil price increase from 2005 – 2008 and the subsequent but probably related market collapse of 2008. We believe that Energy Return On Investment (EROI) analysis provides a useful approach for examining disadvantages and advantages of different fuels and also offers the possibility to look into the future in ways that markets seem unable to do. The goal of this paper is to review the application of EROI theory to both natural and economic realms, and to assess preliminarily the minimum EROI that a society must attain from its energy exploitation to support continued economic activity and social function. In doing so we calculate herein a basic first attempt at the minimum EROI for current society and some of the consequences when that minimum is approached. The theory of the minimum EROI discussed here, which describes the somewhat obvious but nonetheless important idea that for any being or system to survive or grow it must gain substantially more energy than it uses in obtaining that energy, may be especially important. Thus any particular being or system must abide by a “Law of Minimum EROI”, which we calculate for both oil and corn-based ethanol as about 3:1 at the mine-mouth/farm-gate. Since most biofuels have EROI’s of less than 3:1 they must be subsidized by fossil fuels to be useful.
Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) for the Electrical Heating of Methane Hydrate Reservoirs  [PDF]
Roberto Cesare Callarotti
Sustainability , 2011, DOI: 10.3390/su3112105
Abstract: We model the low frequency electrical heating of submarine methane hydrate deposits located at depths between 1000 and 1500 m, and determine the energy return on energy invested (EROI) for this process. By means of the enthalpy method, we calculate the time-dependent heating of these deposits under applied electrical power supplied to a cylindrical heater located at the center of the reservoir and at variable depths. The conversion of the produced water to steam is avoided by limiting the heater temperature. We calculate the volume of methane hydrate that will melt and the energy equivalent of the gas thus generated. The partial energy efficiency of this heating process is obtained as the ratio of the gas equivalent energy to the applied electrical energy. We obtain EROI values in the range of 4 to 5, depending on the location of the heater. If the methane gas is used to generate the electrical energy required in the heating (in processes with a 33% efficiency), the effective EROI of the process falls in the range of 4/3 to 5/3.
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