Dead Men Left

Friday, June 10, 2005

Methane and tin-foil hats II

Jim Bliss' post on peak oil deserves a proper commment, though John has got suitably worked up about it. For the time being, however, I wanted to suggest that - instead of converting your car to ethanol, hoarding barrels of Brent crude in your garage, and so on - you start breaking up your furniture for firewood, because National Grid-Transco (NGT - the UK gas supply people) have printed their forecasts for Winter 2005/2006 (PDF).

Have a look at Figure 25. It shows last winter's demand for gas over the 100 coldest days, an expected "average" demand for gas, and the expected UK gas supply (at 90% reliability) for each day - that's everything pumped out of the North Sea, plus everything that can be transported from Europe. For several of those days, expected demand is significantly larger than expected supply. If this winter is as cold as that of 1985/86, expected demand will be higher than expected supply for every single winters' day. With a 1/50 probability, we will have an exceptionally cold winter, at which point the system will be entirely unable to cope. Of course, there are some storage facilites, but as NGT note, "If storage withdrawal nominations imply that one or more [safety] monitor would be breached, NGT would expect to take action to preserve storage stocks at or above the monitor level. This could involve invoking emergency procedures, including emergency interruption of daily metered customers."