On the Precipice of a New Energy Source?
- Steve Jacobs (Decision Strategies) | Patrick Leach (Decision Strategies) | David J. Nagel (NUCAT Energy)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 2012
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 18 - 21
- 2012. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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In the late 1850s, the whaling industry was in a veritable boom in the town of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Business was great, and many in the whaling industry believed that increased demand would continue for decades to come. But in 1859, oil was discovered in Titusville, Pennsylvania with a well drilled by Edwin Drake. The rest is history.
That was 150 years ago. A small but increasing number of people around the world believe we are on a similar course, except this time it is the petroleum industry that might be threatened. As with any emerging technology, critical challenges must be overcome and a significant effort lies ahead to convince a world of skeptics that a new source of energy has been discovered and will be important.
The potential new source of energy is low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR). With any discussion of a new technology, caution is advised. The world of LENR is filled with mystery, contradiction, gross speculation, misinformation, slippery timelines, and skepticism that sometimes spill over into outright denial. Healthy skepticism on LENR (or any new technology) is a good thing, but so is an open mind. If LENR is for real—and many well-qualified physicists believe it is—it will not only change the petroleum industry, but also significantly affect almost every aspect of our world. Some call it “the new fire.”
In 1989 at the University of Utah, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced they had discovered a cold fusion process that would ultimately result in cheap, limitless energy. The outcome from these cold fusion efforts became widely known and well documented, primarily because other researchers were unable to replicate the results from the initial experiments. Cold fusion was (and is) viewed as impossible by many in the scientific community. Although the research did not cease, it was largely ignored. For the past 20-plus years, a small number of scientists have been diligently working on what could eventually become a hugely disruptive technology.
According to New Energy Times, “LENRs are weak interactions and neutron-capture processes that occur in nanometer-to-micron-scale regions on surfaces in condensed matter at room temperature. Although nuclear, LENRs are not based on fission or any kind of fusion, both of which primarily involve the strong interaction. LENRs produce energetic nuclear reactions and elemental transmutations, but do so without strong prompt radiation or long-lived radioactive waste.” (“Strong interaction” and “weak interaction” refer to the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force, which—along with electromagnetic force and gravity—make up the four basic forces in nature.)
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