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back to article Giant megaships to suck 'stranded' Aussie gas fields

Energy globocorp Royal Dutch Shell has announced plans to deploy a fleet of monster processing ships - the biggest ever constructed - to exploit so-called "stranded" gas fields, ones which can't be harvested economically by conventional means. Artist's impression of an FLNG ship in operation, with a gas supertanker alongside to …

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Linux

I spy Craig Charles

Am I the only one reminded of Red Dwarf? I'm picturing an entire colony of cats evolving up at the bow end 'cos no-one will ever venture that far forward.

Or, more likely, pirates will board the vessel and take three days to reach the bridge.

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A target?

Who do you think will go after it first? Idiot Green Peace or some anti-capitalist terrorist group?

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hmm

Like some kinda leech/tick/mozzie sucking the planet dry...

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Grenade

What about alternatives..?

It may sound impressive, and will no doubt make $billions$ for Shell over the next 50 years or so, but the fact is that this is the last dying gasp of an industry which is rapidly running out of a limited resource.

I just hope that Shell and others have the foresight to channel the last of the 'Gas Rush' profits into feasible alternative fuels and technologies such as hydrogen extraction and alge cultivation etc.

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Pirate

@A target?

Don't forget Somali pirates.

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Anonymous Coward

@peyton

If somali pirates end up there they would have a good case to sue their GPS manufacturers.

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FAIL

I don't think the locals will be impressed

But what would impress them is a solution to the leaking rig that has been spewing oil into the Timor Sea for the last seven weeks. Our environment minister says the leak has had "minimal impact" and "only 13 birds have died". Fuck me, is that the sound of bullshit I can hear?

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Pirate

Somali pirates

A little far for them in their small motor boats

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Go

Fascinating.

It'd be great to see one of these monsters in the flesh, but as others have already mentioned it'd make a great target for ne'er-do-wells from around the globe.

Wonder who'll get the contract to protect it out in international waters? Or perhaps a 'western' nation would stump up security for a slice of the product at a reasonable rate....;)

Make a great target for a rouge submarine intent on mayhem too!

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Pint

Standard Units Please. It's Friday

El Reg standard units please. It is beer o'clock after all.

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Pirate

Re: @Peyton

Oh I dunno. Any bunch that can mistake a French Naval frigate in full-on Pirate-buggering trim for a nice, fat, unarmed merchant ship could easily confuse the waters off the Horn of Africa for those off Western Australia.

The lone voice of dissent would be the very small pirate sat in the back going: "Are we there yet?".

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Linux

Dunno about LNG being used in Diesel engines

but it sure works good in my petrol cars.

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Coat

@ Chris Roughneen 12:52GMT

"Rouge submarines"?

That would be Red October, then?

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Pint

@Chris Roughneen

"rouge submarine"

Submarines are now wearing makeup? Now that I gotta see!

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Grenade

Alternatives. Like?

We are not running out of fossil fuels. Far from it in fact! It's just that it is getting more expensive to extract them. There are plenty of fields out there which require newer technology such as HPHT (High Pressure - High Temperature) extraction methods which are more economical for the specialists such as Cairn or Venture. An operator like BP will have developed the field and then left the remaining 30% to sell on to one of the aforementioned as it is more expensive for them to junk all the kit on the rig and get the required out there.

Before anyone goes off on a rant, I do work in the Oil and Gas industry and let me assure you that there is plenty of the black stuff. A BP joint venture has just discovered a find off the west coast of Africa estimated to be 2 or 3 times the size of the ENTIRE NORTH SEA. That's a fair bit in itself. Also in Saudi they are only producing from 10 (yes 10!) of their KNOWN fields. If the Saudi's alone opened the taps and produced from all 80 (yes 80!) of their known fields, they could supply the entire planet for the next 80 or so years. Imagine if the Saudi's bothered their arses to go out and find more?!?! Also take into account Iraq which has some 30 billion barrels of oil as yet unexploited along with more large finds off the Western Isles and there is a fair amount still out there.

To counter the point about renewables. The Super Majors (that's BP, Shell, Exxon, Conoco Phillips, Chevron and Total) are the biggest investors in alternative energy. They have been for years as well!

We should look to our own government when we talk of carbon capture and renewable development. They seem to have a single focus on wind and I'm not talking about what's coming out of their mouths! Westminster failed to give planning permission for a carbon capture facility at St. Fergus. Short-sighted? I think so! Add to this the now touted £200 Billion investment required to ensure our lights stay on and don't you think that the UK government should have done something about it before now. I certainly do!

These ground-breaking ships will allow us the time to research and develop alternative energy sources such that when the time comes, we will have the energy mix we need and not some knee jerk reaction to a perceived problem.

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Pint

@Standard Units

By my calcs, that ship will be 52.0664 Double Decker Buses / 3.4711 Brontosauruses long, weighing in at an impressive 142.8571429 MEGAJubs ! Thats Alotta Jubs !

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@Duncan

Yay, go Duncan!

Nice to see somone who has a little more to say about oil than "it's BAD"

On the topic of the ships; could we make then nuclear powered, just to really piss everyone off?

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Rob
Bronze badge

Global warming bollocks

And they say global warming is causing sea levels to rise, no nothing to do with global warming, it's do to with flippin huge ships like this being built.

They are half right though as the blame still lays at people like Shell's door.

(still it would be an impressive piece of engineering)

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Troll

12345

"Make a great target for a rouge submarine intent on mayhem too!"

I thought they were all black?

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@Brutus re. @Duncan

"...could we make then nuclear powered, just to really piss everyone off?"

No!! They'll be able to use the LPG they harvest to fuel their own engines.

With all that surface area up top and a wet, mild climate, they can cover it in topsoil and establish a nice little self-sustaining ecosystem, set up farms, etc. I know..... I'm getting carried away here.

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I sincerely hope...

... that all the crew will be required to be non-smokers!

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Pirate

We already have them

There are two mobile platforms tied up being mothballed/refitted here in Dundee. They have been here for months and are not the first. They are triangular vessels, flat bottomed with long framework legs, one at each corner. In port these stick up a couple of hundred feet into the air such that they have aircraft warning lights on top and you can see them peeking over the hills around about. Out in the North Sea those legs are lowered to the bottom and the platform sits above the waves on them. They are primarily exploration vessels but could just as easily be temporary production platforms.

You don't have to go all the way to Somalia for a pirate threat. Once you are NW off the coast of Australia you are close to Java and Sumatra. Since Indonesia and Singapore settled their differences and started joint patrols in the Molucca Straits the pirates have been at a bit of a loose end . . .

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Pint

It must be Friday

Those ships are obviously made of Playmobil.

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Pirate

Typhoons

"The enormous 480m long ships will be so massive, according to Shell, that they'll be able to shrug off even the most devastating typhoons and remain on station sucking gas."

Yep, and the Titanic is still the most beautiful ship sailing the seas. OTOH, it would make an interesting starting point for a teen scary-movie starring George Looney.

As to Somali pirates, it'd be no good for them. It's so huge that there'd be 3 or 4 different pirate groups each trying to claim they'd captured the vessel, and they'd eventually have an all-out "Pirate versus Pirate" war. Sadly, all the pirates would kill each other and the ninja's would then be declared the winner by default.

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@ Big Al @ Duncan

Al - You've obviously never heard of the legendary smoking shack found in every offshore facility. In fact, in the old days, it was regular to see folk lighting up on the drill floor itself - and that's even before I get into the story I heard about a couple of dudes having a duel with flare pistols in the accomodation block...

@ Duncan - cheers mate, you saved me the bother of doing that. I can also add the enormous find in subsalt formations off Brazil (Tupi - at 8 Bstb bigger than Brent and Forties combined) along with the inevitable further discoveries in this immature play, and big finds recently in the Gulf of Mexico. And that's not even mentioning the Arctic regions.

Any future oil crisis in the next 40-50 years at least will be a crisis of supply, not scarcity, as every previous crisis has been, probably created partially by resource nationalism and imperialism, for want of a better word. The Chinese in particular are likely to be involved.

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Go

Thanks to Duncan

I remember at school in the mid 80s being taught as a fact that Oil would have run out in 20 years. Oil is not running out any time soon. Renewables may well make up part of the future, but the current focus on wind is comical at best. Solar is possible if we have a few tech advances, geo-thermal is in a similar boat. Hydro is interesting if you are in the right sort of country, but nuclear is the only properly feasible alternative at present.

Thanks Duncan for such useful information though.

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@ Duncan

I'm going to join the chorus of thanks as well. There are new finds of oil and gas announced many times a year. In addition there are known reserves which have, for political and economic reasons, not been tapped yet. In the US, there is the oil shale formation in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah which holds estimated reserves at a volume sufficient to sustain America at 2005 use levels all by itself for 150 years. And the exploration beat continues to pound - every year our ability to detect oil and gas reserves improves and as surely as the sun rises, we find new gas and oil fields. Wasn't it Shell which announced a couple of weeks ago the discovery of a huge gas field in the Gulf of Mexico?

Before I get horribly slagged for being anti-progress or something like that, let me state that I'm all for having modern economies based on a different energy source than oil/gas, and have been for a long time. I favour hydrogen as that source, but am willing to entertain other ideas. I'm also a big fan of the idea of putting more money into fusion research than is currently being allocated. There are technical hurdles which must be surmounted for both of those technologies, but in case nobody noticed, man is by nature a species that has consistently surmounted technological problems to make life measurably better for most of it's members.

My complaint about the greens who want to force the end of oil and gas use ASAP is that economically it's just not feasible to turn any economy to an new fundamental energy source overnight. If we'd taken a more measured path of 20-30 years to convert to alternatives and renewables from the start, I wouldn't object. But trying to do it under pressure from the MMCC crowd and make it happen in a decade or less is just economic madness. There will be human fallout from such an abrupt change, and that human fallout will be as dire as any impact of alleged climate change than might have been.

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@Sir Runcible Spoon

Mostly, though there was a yellow one in the 60s, and a pink one ridden by Carey Grant. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2ttd48u0J0

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Happy

Waterworld

Nice to sea (sic) that Shell are considering the wellbeing of their crews, too. See accompanying pic in this reuters story:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601102&sid=a8GXjydKjQbY

@frank - I know they COULD user their own product, but it's not that scary (or silly) enough, whereas combining a nuclear power plant and a refinery is. On the other hand, i do like the farming angle (ref. earlier link, too). Carrying on your thoughts even further, a ship like that will make an excellent pirate base once the waters have risen to cover the globe (a la Waterworld)! Just as long as Kevin Costner doesn't get a look in.

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@Muscleguy

Those are just pretty tiny jack-up drill-rigs, aren't they? This sounds more like a super-mega-FPSO combined with modern directional drilling and a load of onboard processing. Float it over a region, suck out the (relatively) easy oil and gas, stopper it and sell it on to someone more experienced with recovering the last half of the well.

Anyway, the legs on those things aren't anywhere near long enough for most of the world- we're lucky that the North Sea is relatively shallow. Off the coast of Africa they're extracting oil where the seabed's kilometers down- and looking deeper.

@Duncan

One more "thanks" from me!

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Thank you @Duncan

Yes, we are running out of oil. Back in '88, I had a geology class in college. The prof told us we had 20 years of reservers left. When he started teaching at the college in '68, we had 20 years left. When he started college in '51, we had 20 years left.

Oil won't last forever, of course, but guess what? It replenishes itself! A few years ago geologists at some university in the northeast US were shocked, SHOCKED, to find that old, dead oil fields had oil back in them thirty or forty years later. The oil companies knew about this years ago.

Heck, by drilling and removing oil off the coast of Louisiana, they're keeping it from seeping out of the rock and into the Gulf.

By the time we run out of oil, we won't notice it. Heck, think about whale oil. We ran out of that a century ago. I can't even think of where you'd go to get whale oil these days. (Maybe a hippy-dip holistic lesbian dance therapy natural food store in the Bay Area.) By the time we ran out, no one noticed, because oil and gas had replaced it, just as plastics, bakelite, etc, replace the whalebone that was once ubiquitous. As long as people are allowed to make money, this won't be an issue.

And by the way, @scotchbonnet, that shale formation extends all under the Midwest to the Appalachians. My grandfather once shocked me, when we were deer hunting, by lighting a piece of shale from a road cut. The problem is that, right now, it's expensive to extract. As technology improves and prices increase, though, that will change.

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Alert

"rouge submarine"

Well, I once reviewed a security paper which referred to a "rouge administrator". I'd never previously thought that someone who applied makeup could be such a significant threat to an organisation's IT or finances.

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"I favour hydrogen as that source,"

Hydrogen isn't an energy source in the same sense that oil/gas are. Hydrogen isn't something you can mine. You get the hydrogen by using another energy source (solar, oil, nuclear, whatever) to make the hydrogen, typically by separating widely available dihydrogen monoxide into its constituents. You can then conveniently store and transport the hydrogen, potentially using it in a different place and time than it was created, but that hydrogen itself is not an "energy source", and the process of creating that hydrogen is far from 100% energy-efficient, so arguably the energy should for preference be used closer to its original (solar, oil, nuclear, whatever) form where possible.

Maybe what you wrote was just loosely worded. If you really believed what you wrote, then you need to shut up, because words like that just make the deniers look daft. Which may be fair enough.

Incidentally, there may well be plenty of oil left in the ground (though not everyone agrees), but even if there is plenty left in principle, it's irrelevant IF it isn't profitable to extract it. Profit here can be either money or energy - if it costs as much energy to extract the oil than the oil can then release as an energy source, then that's the end of oil as an energy source, which means oil is then just an extremely expensive feedstock for the petrochemical industry. Similarly, if it costs as much to extract it as it can be sold for, no one is going to be interested, not even petrochemical people.

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re: What about alternatives..?

Hmm... I somehow foresee one of these being escorted by a navy on a suck-n-run mission to a field in the Arctic or the economical zone of a "failed" nation. Failure of course can be organised... Hm... Endless opportunities...

So yeah, we do not want yeah stinking alternatives... And the fact that all nations are hastily building catapultless aircraft carriers capable of functioning in the arctic and antractic no longer seems surprising.

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Re: Alternatives. Like?

"To counter the point about renewables. The Super Majors (that's BP, Shell, Exxon, Conoco Phillips, Chevron and Total) are the biggest investors in alternative energy. They have been for years as well!"

The "Super Majors", eh? Erasing for a moment an image of John Major in a tight-fitting grey suit leaping over tall buildings, these are precisely the organisations who not only lobby aggressively against any major spending on the alternatives (that isn't funnelled to them, that is), but also those who would have everyone believe that there is no such thing as climate change and that dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere on an epic scale just makes the sun more shiny but equally as harmless as the one on the Teletubbies. Now that people don't buy that (apart from the conspiracy theory idiots), the rhetoric from the likes of Exxon and pals is that "there may be a problem, but we have to be part of the solution, blah, blah, keep the oil and gas flowing".

And so the easily corruptible politicians won't loosen the purse strings, except on behalf of the almost equally aggressive nuclear lobby, eager to buy into the "one stop shop" story that the "Super Majors" are selling. Meanwhile, the "Super Majors" aren't so "super" if you happen to live in Nigeria and are not part of the ruling class, but that's another story. Still, if you can get cheap enough petrol to fill up your Ford or your Vauxhall and whine about the price, we can't expect the average Britard to think further than the perimeter of the petrol station forecourt.

It's true that various oil companies have access to technologies that could be interesting from a renewables perspective: offshore windfarms obviously get to benefit from offshore engineering expertise that has been accumulating during the oil exploration era of the last forty years. But when there's a choice between pumping more oil, making happy noises about carbon capture, raking in the cash, and then raking in more cash as the cost of exploration increases still further and some consideration is given to bringing alternatives online, or instead actually thinking long-term, it's doubtful that any oil company (or any publicly traded entity) is going to take the most sustainable approach and deliver low-cost, ultra-long-term energy solutions.

@scotchbonnet: "In the US, there is the oil shale formation in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah which holds estimated reserves at a volume sufficient to sustain America at 2005 use levels all by itself for 150 years."

Hilarious! After Alberta has been scraped off the map, the idea is to keep moving south, is it? Looking for ever more marginal oil-like resources. Such "discoveries" are mere fodder for dithering politicians to put off making hard choices about spending real money on decent alternatives.

Your average Britard pundit will joke about nuclear fusion being ten years away forever, but relatively little has been spent working out the practical aspects, and I imagine that a bunch of lobbyists are, as I write this, banging on someone's door demanding that ITER and related projects be closed down and the money spent on carbon sequestration or some other bottom-wiping exercise. In short, society has to place a range of bets on solutions, some longer than others, but that doesn't mean (as the oil company rhetoric would suggest) that you scrap the more unconventional bets after five minutes and return to the status quo.

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Black Helicopters

Movie Set

Kevin Costner could then use it for his sequel to Waterworld!

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Poirats

Has nobody considered how the heck the pirates are going to get aboard ? The bloody ship will be that tall it'll seem like a floating empire state building

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Anonymous Coward

@Ducan

Agreed.

Also, widespread nuclear power as an interim solution should be re-instated - modern pebble bed reactors.

Nuclear is the one alternative power source that's got terrible press, it's 50 years behind where it should be.

We get the same old tired arguments about danger and nuclear waste, whilst in the meantime, we pump billions of tons of waste from carbon based fuels into the atmosphere every year.

Solution:

Explore new oil and gas fields and use part of the profits to build nuclear power plants and another part to investigate other alternative energy sources, such as nuclear fission.

This is the *only* way the worlds power troubles can be solved.

Wind, wave, solar and thermal power solutions are great on a small scale, but to be able to produce the worlds power needs, they fall desperately short. As home power solutions, they are viable and should be pursued, but to grease the big wheels of industry, no chance.

Imagine a future where your home is powered by renewable energy and industry is powered by nuclear reactors and hopefully, at some point, nuclear fission.

On the flip side, imagine that world where the same cartels that run todays oil, coal and gas production are now running the alternative solutions and still playing the same price game...

Hopefully, by then, I'll be stupidly rich, have purchased my second custom built body replacement and will be living in my own biosphere on Mars watching Red Dwarf repeats and eating my way through a huge pile of red planet pizza.

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Coat

@ Brutus

No, to *really* piss people off you need to power it with either coal or whale oil..

And a nice weekend to you too..

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Happy

Megaships!

I think it's shameful that they are building giant megaships when they could easy make do with ordinary megaships.

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WTF?

So what's with ...

... the giant carousel on the stern? Or is that a parking garage ...?

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Paris Hilton

Already started writing the disaster movie...

The plot is a 600 KTon processing ship at risk of exploding and removing a chunk of Australia, then a rogue ice shelf heads towards it but that is stopped just in time by a large meteorite....

PH to star

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WTF?

Ummm...

So these are not giant ships, they are not megaships, they are giant megaships, so they're big then?

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Headmaster

@Fred Flintstone:

The Royal Society for the Promotion of Immorality and Greed (RoSPIG) recently updated its rules on this area. I can only assume the memo passed you by.

The current RoSPIG Code of Practice now states, in clause 42, paragraph 13, subsection iii (and I quote):

"All hyperships constructed for the purpose of gratuitous wealth accumulation *must* be powered by one or more of the following sources of needlessly immoral energy sources:

1. Polar bear cubs. (On-board breeding facilities are not advised for logistical reasons.)

2. Live dolphins. (The "bottlenose" variety has been tested as the most calorific source, but see also Appendix. E),

3. Live baby seals. (Pre-clubbed specimens are also acceptable if live baby seals are unavailable in the necessary vast quantities.)"

As you can see, mere coal or whale oil doesn't cut it any more. The world has moved on.

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bobbins

So what's with ...the giant carousel on the stern?

A bobbin maybe? This sucker's gonna a need a mighty long drinking straw.

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Grenade

Ban them

The Patio Heaters that is.

The most stupid bloody idea ever dreamed up.

The builders should be shot without delay,before they get something even more wasteful .

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As a Western Australian...

...I say $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ mate!

Bonza!!!

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@Matt89

"alternative energy sources, such as nuclear FUSION", I assume you meant, having talked about conventional nuclear (which is fission) beforehand?

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FAIL

Oil Shale?

@scotchbonnet

They have been playing with it for 40 years, you know a bit like nuclear fusion. Not going to happen. Read up on EROEI.

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Infinite gas supplies justify this expense

Well yes, *itch-momma Gaia DOES carry about infinite gas supplies. Prolly enough for the next 2000 years . Gas here oil there it's damm-near pollution! So thanks to her provisioning, while we're getting infected with ebola & HIV & rabies we might as well suck-da-ol.hag dry.

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