On April 8, 2006 the TimesOnline published a short, thought provoking article titled World ‘cannot meet oil demand’, written by Carl Mortished.
The article focuses on information provided by Christophe de Margerie, head of exploration for Total. According to M de Margerie, the important fact that is missing when commentators and others talk about energy supplies is the limit on the world’s capacity to “produce” fossil fuel and deliver it to the market at the rate that the market is seeming to expect.
Unlike many products, where the answer to limitations on production is to build more production facilities, there are strict geographic limits on where oil, gas and coal facilities can be placed. Even if there is a huge lake of oil, there is only so much room for the equipment and people needed to bring that lake to the surface, deliver it to a refinery, and then move it to the market. There are significant bottlenecks in many parts of the delivery system where expansion is not an option. One example that M de Margerie gives is the tiny emirate of Qatar.
M de Margerie argued that the resources were simply not available. He said: “Take Qatar. How many projects can you have at the same time? You have more than 100,000 people working on sites. It’s a big city of contractors. Now they have the problem of having to build a new power plant to supply a city of contractors.”
There is, of course, an atomic response to this major fossil fuel problem. The limitations that govern the expansion of fossil fuel production facilities are different from those that govern atomic energy production facilities. Nuclear power will play a huge role in allowing the world to continue to prosper.
I know – you cannot use a nuclear reactor to power a car. However, you can certainly use it to power ships, island nations, distributed power systems, and electrical power grids currently supplied by natural gas and diesel fuel. Since locomotives can be powered by electricity, they also fall into the category of systems that can be supplied by nuclear power.
Freeing up the supplies that now get consumed in those markets would have a beneficial effect on the the supply available for automobiles and airplanes.