National / International News

Club arsonist jailed for seven years

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 08:05
An arsonist who tried to torch a Swansea nightclub with 200 people inside is jailed for seven years.

Merck Partners With NewLink To Speed Up Work On Ebola Vaccine

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-24 08:01

The experimental NewLink vaccine is based on a harmless virus that has been genetically engineered to incorporate bits of the Ebola virus. Testing of the vaccine has begun in healthy volunteers.

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DUP remarks 'appalling': McGuinness

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 07:57
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has said it was "absolutely appalling " to hear Gregory Campbell's remarks about Irish language at the DUP conference.

VIDEO: Man's 20-year fake identity

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 07:55
The former head of the Somerset Racial Equality Council is convicted of fraud after stealing another man's identity, as Duncan Kennedy reports.

Italian doctor catches Ebola virus

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 07:46
An Italian doctor who contracted Ebola while working for a charity in Sierra Leone is being flown back to Rome for treatment, officials say.

Three guilty of estate axe killing

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 07:38
Three teenagers who killed a 46-year-old with an axe and a knife when he confronted them on a west London estate are convicted.

Women not equal to men, says Erdogan

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 07:31
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women cannot be treated as equal to men, and accuses feminists of rejecting motherhood.

Morocco hit by deadly flash floods

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 07:13
Flooding in southern Morocco kills 32 people and destroys homes after heavy weekend rainfall, officials say.

Polar sub gauges sea ice thickness

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 07:11
A novel autonomous sub acquires the first detailed, high-resolution 3D maps of Antarctic sea ice.

Omagh bomb accused loses bail bid

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 06:58
A man accused of murdering 29 people in the Omagh bombing must remain in custody, a High Court judge has ruled.

Funeral held for Doncaster crash teen

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 06:42
The funeral of one of five teenagers killed in a road accident in Conisbrough is held in Doncaster.

Secretary Of Defense Hagel To Resign

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-24 06:29

Chuck Hagel's resignation comes amid concern over the rise of ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, and a return of U.S. troops to Iraq. President Obama is announcing the move Monday morning.

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Sanchez is saving Arsenal - Wright

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 06:18
Arsenal legend Ian Wright says Arsenal would be mid-table without Alexis Sanchez, but still doubts their top-four credentials.

AMs set to be given £10,000 pay rise

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 06:03
Members of the Welsh assembly could get a £10,000 pay rise after the 2016 election, the body which sets their salaries says.

Woman charged over bleach attack

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:58
An 18-year-old woman is charged after a teenager had bleach thrown in her face following a party in Hull.

Issues in Google online abuse case

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:52
Clive Coleman examines the case which tried to get Google to monitor and remove false posts.

Video of nanny abusing toddler shocks Uganda

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:47
Maid child abuse shocks Uganda

'Ferguson Forward': Churchgoers Seek A New Normal

NPR News - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:38

Spiritual leaders are praying for calm, but preparing for everything, as they wait for a grand jury decision in the shooting of Michael Brown.

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'Abuse risk' for 132 city youngsters

BBC - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:32
A report finds 132 young people in Birmingham are suffering or are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

The problem with fracking

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-11-24 05:31

Slumping oil prices are wrecking life for drillers around the world, particularly high-cost producers now struggling to make a profit ... like the U.S.

American oil from shale, which comes out of the ground through fracking, is pricey to extract. On top of that, sources of oil become mere trickles within a year or two.

The notion of oil wells tailing off and aging isn’t new. In the late 50s, a Hollywood celebrity famously joked that actors are, “about as short-lived as an oil well and twice as pretty.”

The issue is, for the new so-called shale wells, production falls like a stone in the first year.

“Let’s say you produce 500 barrels in the first month of production,” says James Burkhard, head of oil market research for IHS Energy. “Twelve months later you could be producing around 250 barrels. So a decline rate of about 50 percent. In a conventional well, the decline rate is much less steep.”

Oil from shale is not a pool of liquid, but rather small amounts trapped in tight rock. That requires drillers to fracture, or frac, the shale rock to release the oil. Quickly, though, output slows and pressure falls. And the driller has to drill and frac again, in a new spot. That’s expensive — in many places, each well costs $8 million.

“I’ve seen it personally firsthand,” says Ed Hirs, managing director of the Houston-based oil and gas firm Hillhouse Resources. He also teaches economics at the University of Houston. “We’ve had wells on production since 2009, 2010 that have been plugged and abandoned here in 2014, because they are not producing enough to cover their cost.”

Hirs says his firm barely profited in shale. So it returned to drilling old-school conventional oil, where a good well returns five, even 10 dollars for each one invested.

Fracking for shale oil, he says, is a fad, like that scene where the cruise ship tilts to one side.

“They all ran to the shale side of the boat,” Hirs says. “That was the fashion of the day. We see this in other industries as well.”  

Fast-declining wells also require continuous drilling and investing to increase production. Before one tails off, you have to drill the second. And then before that tails off, you drill the third. It’s a treadmill, which may be speeding up as the most productive drilling spots are taken.

Some call this the 'Red Queen' race. Remember Alice, from the Wonderland books? In one scene, she runs and runs and gets nowhere, at which point the Red Queen chimes in.

“Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”  

Constant drilling means constant spending, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, production revenues are not keeping up with expenditures. Some shale investors are edgy, analysts say.

“If you’re giving money to somebody, you eventually want to get something back,” says Virendra Chauhan of Energy Aspects in London. “If that’s not happening, then there seems to be something wrong with the business model.”

To which shale optimists shake their collective heads. Looking back more than a century, drilling technology has repeatedly proven skeptics wrong. “Until we hit peak knowledge, until the human race hits peak knowledge, we won’t hit peak oil supply,” Burkhard of IHS Energy says.

Companies now drill and frack wells deeper, closer together and more efficiently. So, can technology improve faster than shale wells fall off? “If today the wells you’re drilling are twice as good as the wells you drilled two years ago, then that goes a long way toward addressing that decline,” says geologist Allen Gilmer, CEO of oil and gas database firm Drillinginfo.

Today, the U.S. produces more than 3 million barrels a day, from shale alone. That’s more than the total output of Iran, or Iraq, or Venezuela. “I think it’s very unlikely to ramp down,” Gilmer says, “unless operators really start pulling back on drilling. And as long as a well is economic, I don’t see that happening.”       

Ed Hirs at Hillhouse Resources does see that happening. With oil prices low, and investors antsy, exuberance could go bust. “The challenge with these fast-declining wells is this pace of drilling needs to continue,” Hirs says. “Without the pace of drilling continuing, that three and a half million barrels a day will peter out to zero in the next three to five years.”

That’s the debate: whether shale oil production declines the way its wells do, the way movie stars come and go. Bullish types will note the actor who compared short careers to oil wells decades ago. That actor's name? Ronald Reagan