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Germany’s Energy Crisis About To Get Even Worse As Rhine Water Levels Plummet

Germany’s Energy Crisis About To Get Even Worse As Rhine Water Levels Plummet

What has already been a year from hell for Germany, which is suffering energy hyperinflation as a result of Europe’s sanctions on Russia, and which is “facing the biggest crisis the country has every had” according to the president of the German employers association, is about to get even worse as the declining water level of the Rhine river, which has historically been a key infrastructure transit artery across Germany, continues to fall and as it does, the flow of commodities to inland Europe is starting to buckle threatening to make an already historic crisis even worse.

The alarming lack of water is contributing to oil product supply problems in Switzerland and preventing at least two power plants in Germany from getting all the coal they need, and what’s more, the continent’s sizzling summer temperatures are forecast to climb even higher in the coming week, leading to even lower water levels.

The 800-mile (1,288-kilometer) Rhine river runs from Switzerland all the way to the North Sea and is used to transport tens of millions of tons of commodities through inland Europe. But with water levels at their lowest for the time of year in 15 years, there is a limit how much fuel, coal and other vital cargo that barges can carry up and down the river.

Low water levels on the Rhine River mean that barges hauling middle distillate-type oil products – typically gasoil/diesel – past Kaub in Germany, are limited to loading about 30% of capacity, according to maritime brokerage services firm Riverlake.

A barge loading in the energy hub of Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (or ARA), which can haul 2.5k tons when fully laden, is restricted to taking on about 800 tons if sailing to destinations beyond Kaub…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why every American should care that diesel prices are surging across the country

Why every American should care that diesel prices are surging across the country

Gasoline prices are increasing almost daily, pinching the wallets and pocketbooks of nearly all Americans with cars. However, as bad as that news is, diesel prices are surging even more across the country. Today’s truckstop retail diesel prices hit a new record of $5.32/gallon. Since February 1st, national truckstop diesel prices have increased by $1.57/gallon. For an owner-operator whose truck gets 6.5 miles per gallon, this equates to a cost increase of $0.24 per mile.

A graph showing the price of diesel per gallon.

Diesel’s importance to our economy

To many Americans (including politicians), diesel prices are so removed from their version of reality that they often dismiss the importance of diesel to the U.S. and global economies. However, diesel is the fuel that drives the economy and leaves major industries vulnerable to cost shocks.

Without diesel fuel, the U.S. economy would collapse in a matter of days. Our supply chains would completely shrivel, almost overnight.

Trucks use it to haul our goods across the country. Of all Class 8 trucks (the big ones), 97% use diesel. No, Elon Musk is not going to save us here. When Tesla announced the Semi in 2017, Musk projected that over 100,000 would be produced by 2022. Today there are less than 20, mostly prototypes.

Trains also depend on diesel to transport products across the country. Almost every train in the country depends on diesel for energy.

An orange BNSF train hauls coal
A BNSF train hauls coal. (Photo: Flickr/Aaron Hockley)

Even a large portion of our electricity is indirectly powered by diesel. Over one-fifth (22%) of our electricity in the United States comes from coal. Diesel-powered trains transport coal to power plants across the nation.

Diesel is also critical to our imports and exports, because 80% of the ships that transport products via the ocean are powered by diesel.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Rationing Looms As Diesel Crisis Goes Global

Rationing Looms As Diesel Crisis Goes Global

  • Russian refiners cut processing rates of diesel fuel.
  • Already tight diesel supply is getting even tighter.
  • Vitol’s chief executive Hardy: diesel supply shortage could trigger rationing in Europe

Earlier this week, Vitol’s chief Russell Hardy warned that a diesel shortage could trigger fuel rationing in Europe. Now, those warnings are multiplying, with fuel rationing no longer looking like an abstract idea. Europe is risking a blow to its economic growth, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing experts. Diesel is what freight transport uses to deliver goods to consumers, but it is also what industrial transport uses for fuel. With Russian refiners cutting their processing rates in the wake of several waves of Western sanctions, already tight diesel supply is going to get a lot tighter.

“Governments have a very clear understanding that there is a clear link between diesel and GDP, because almost everything that goes into and out of a factory goes using diesel,” the director general of Fuels Europe, part of the European Petroleum Refiners Association, told Reuters this week.

As Vitol’s Russell Hardy noted earlier this week, “Europe imports about half of its diesel from Russia and about half of its diesel from the Middle East. That systemic shortfall of diesel is there.”

Europe is not the only one feeling the diesel pinch, however. Middle distillate stocks are on a decline in the United States, too, Reuters’ John Kemp wrote in his latest column.

Distillate inventories, according to EIA data, have booked weekly declines for 52 of the last 79 weeks, Kemp reported, falling to 112 million barrels last week. The total decline for the last 79 weeks amounts to 67 million barrels. Last week’s inventory level was the lowest since 2014 and 20 percent lower than the five-year average from before the pandemic.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How our miraculous transportation system turns water into brine

How our miraculous transportation system turns water into brine

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

When English romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge published those words in 1798, there was no dense network of modern concrete and asphalt roads in Great Britain (or anywhere else) and there were no automobiles or trucks to ride on them. And so, of course, there was no salting of roads in winter.

The excerpt quoted above is from Coleridge’s famous poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and refers to the mariner’s desperate desire for drinkable water while floating on the ocean.

We as a society are inching closer each year to bringing the ancient mariner’s predicament on land because of our practice of salting roads in winter to make them safer for driving. The amount of salt we use for this purpose in the United States has gone from 0.15 metric tons per year in the 1940s to 18 million metric tons annually as of 2017.

The result has been dangerously escalating salt concentrations in rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. Some urban bodies of water exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for protecting aquatic life by 20 to 30 times. Humans, of course, aren’t aquatic life, but the trend in the salinization of surface water is troubling given the important role those waters play in water supplies around the country and the world.

The proposed solutions tend to emphasize substitutes—sand and beet juice (yes, really)—or more parsimonious use of road salt. What those proposing solutions do not explore is whether a road system serving over a billion motor vehicles—the vast majority of which consume petroleum and spew climate warming gases—is the best one for our needs. The assumption generally is that the current system cannot be changed and that all the problems attendant to this system have to be addressed without disturbing its basic structure.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Here’s Why a Bicycle Might the Ultimate SHTF Transportation

Here’s Why a Bicycle Might the Ultimate SHTF Transportation

Have you thought about how you’ll get around in the event that hopping in your car and driving someplace isn’t an option? Transportation and mobility are extremely important factors in preparedness.

Mobility can vary significantly during SHTF versus normal times. But it remains equally essential to logistics and safety. We must stay mobile to restock supplies, search for help (or help others), communicate, evade threats, etc. If things haven’t gone full Mad Max, you may need an alternative mode of transportation.

So what is the ultimate SHTF vehicle? You can find all sorts of fancy bug-out vehicles out there, but if you’re on a budget this may not be an option. Perhaps it’s time to consider the humble bicycle.

Mobility (or lack thereof) depends a lot on the scenario

War, martial law, a natural disaster: each situation calls for a strategy, considering speed, distance, mode of transportation and load/cargo capacity, and also the status of the infrastructure. Either way, we must be able to move around with the maximum safety possible. When other rules change, the rules of mobility follow suit.

Being mobile has just one meaning, but various reasons and different forms. Sometimes we must go fast. Other times going fast means drawing unwanted attention or risking an accident. There’s also range and cargo capacity. There’s stuff to be done nearby, and there’s stuff to be done far away. Sometimes we must move around slowly and stealthily.

How SHTF affects mobility

SHTF can impact mobility in many ways. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and all the craziness that came with it, we’ve seen how fast things can change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

What Oil Companies Face: The WTF-Collapse of Consumption of Gasoline & Jet Fuel from Long-Term Weakness

What Oil Companies Face: The WTF-Collapse of Consumption of Gasoline & Jet Fuel from Long-Term Weakness

Transportation fuel demand rose to where it had been in … 1997.

While the overall S&P 500 Index is down 2.7% in October, about flat for the three-month period, and up 2.8% for the year, the S&P 500 Energy Index is down 4.4% for the month, down 19% for the three-month period, and down 50% year-to-date.

On Friday, Exxon Mobil reported a 29% plunge in revenue in the third quarter, and a loss of $680 million – its third loss in a row, the three of them totaling $2.34 billion. And it warned of possible “significant impairment” charges on “assets with carrying values of approximately $25 billion to $30 billion,” mostly related to its North American shale gas operations. The day before, it had announced job cuts of 14,000 employees and contractors globally, including about 1,900 folks at its Houston headquarters.

Chevron [CVX], which completed the acquisition of Noble Energy in early October, announced this week that it would lay off about one quarter of Noble’s employees. Those layoffs are in addition to the cuts of 10%-15% it’s planning for its own workforce. The cuts at Noble amount to nearly 600 people, and the cuts at Chevron amount to 4,500 to 6,750 folks.

Exxon shares [XOM] have plunged 53% year-to-date to $32.62 on Friday, and thereby edged closer to their March 23 decade-low of $31.45. In July 2014, at the cusp of the Oil Bust, XOM reached a high of $135, having since then plunged by 75%.  Exxon’s dividend yield is now over 10%, but everyone knows that, like other oil companies, Exxon could reduce or eliminate its dividend if push comes to shove.

Bankruptcies by US shale oil and gas companies with less heft and diversification than Exxon and Chevron have turned into a flood. The debts listed in the bankruptcy filings over the first nine months of 2020 reached $89 billion and surpassed year-total filings in the prior peak oil-bust year 2016.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Nuclear powered airplanes, cars, and tanks

Nuclear powered airplanes, cars, and tanks

Preface. After all the research I’ve done on rebuildable, not renewable wind and solar, hydrogen, batteries, and other Green dreams of an endless future of growth based on them, I’ve come to see them as just as likely as nuclear airplanes and cars. Not going to happen.

***

Nuclear Airplanes

Fuels made from biomass are a lot like the nuclear powered airplanes the Air Force tried to build from 1946 to 1961, for billions of dollars. They never got off the ground.  The idea was interesting – atomic jets could fly for months without refueling.  But the lead shielding to protect the crew and several months of food and water was too heavy for the plane to take off.  The weight problem, the ease of shooting this behemoth down, and the consequences of a crash landing were so obvious, it’s amazing the project was ever funded, let alone kept going for 15 years (Wiki 2020).

Although shielding a plane enough to keep the radiation from killing the crew was impossible, some engineers proposed hiring elderly Air Force crews to pilot nuclear planes, because they would die before radiation exposure gave them fatal cancers. Also, the reactor would have to be small enough to fit onto an aircraft, which would release far more heat than a standard one. The heat could risk melting the reactor—and the plane along with it, sending a radioactive hunk of liquid metal careening toward Earth (Ruhl 2019).

Nuclear powered Cars

In 1958, Ford came up with a nuclear-powered concept, the Nucleon car that would be powered by a nuclear reactor in the trunk.

In the 1950s and 1960s, there was huge hype around nuclear energy. Many believed it would replace oil and deliver clean power.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Impact of Corona Virus similar to some earlier peak oil scenarios

Impact of Corona Virus similar to some earlier peak oil scenarios

Empty roads, grounded aircraft, falling tourist and international student numbers, plunging car sales, empty super market shelves, disrupted supply chains…

Fig 1: Empty roads in Wuhan in February 2020

China Car Sales Slump 92% in First Half of February on Virus

21 Feb 2020

Fig 2: Chinese car sales were down since June 2018

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-02-21/china-car-sales-tumble-92-in-first-half-of-february-on-virus

That all sounds like peak oil has hit except that oil prices are low now. Which may change of course as low oil prices may mean that US shale oil is likely to peak earlier than otherwise would have been the case.

Fig 3: US tight oil production

https://www.eia.gov/petroleum/drilling/

The graph shows that tight oil production took off when oil prices were around $100/barrel but peaked in March 2015 and then declined as oil prices dropped to $50/barrel. Production started to recover in September 2016 but almost half of the production (mainly from Bakken, Eagle Ford, Niobrara and Aanadako) has already peaked again in October 2019 and in March 2020 is estimated to be just 240 kb/d higher than the 2015 peak. The other half of the production, from the Permian (Texas) is still growing but monthly growth rates have declined from 180 kb/d in mid 2018 to 40 kb/d now. Recent data are preliminary.

Coronavirus Delivers Another Blow to Embattled Shale Drillers

29 Feb 2020

Frackers already faced financial woes in 2020, even before the virus threatened oil demand

Shale drillers were already braced for a tough year. Now the new coronavirus is putting them under even greater financial pressure.

Exploration and production companies are straining to slow growth—amid an oversupply of oil and gas—and cut spending to appease investors angry over poor returns. Now the virus has further weakened global demand for their products, posing a greater challenge to a sector where many companies are saddled with debt.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-delivers-another-blow-to-embattled-shale-drillers-11582990892

Fig 4: Breakeven oil prices in the US

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Unnecessary travel? The return of breathable air and rethinking transport in a crisis

Unnecessary travel? The return of breathable air and rethinking transport in a crisis

Bowing, perhaps to inevitability, the group of scientists responsible for assessing ways to cut the pollution that causes global heating, working group three of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, announced in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, that for the first time it will hold one of its major meetings ‘virtually’, avoiding the need for polluting travel. Over 270 experts from 65 countries would instead gather online. At a stroke they had been compelled to find a way that would set an example by cutting their own emissions. In doing so they revealed that this had, in fact, been an option all along as the technology to do so already existed.

One of the first things people in cities noticed as the coronavirus lockdowns started to be implemented and travel quickly reduced was the change in pollution levels. The sky was clear and contrail-free, and the air was cleaner. In some Indian cities, where air pollution is among the world’s worst and a major cause of death and disease, “people are reporting seeing the Himalayas for the first time from where they live,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

India’s hastily imposed shutdowns have been devastating, leaving hundreds of thousands of migrant workers without homes or jobs. But in Delhi, where air is normally choking, levels of both PM2.5 (small particulates) and the harmful gas nitrogen dioxide fell more than 70 percent. In China, the drops in pollution resulting from coronavirus shutdowns likely saved between 53,000 and 77,000 lives—many times more than the direct toll of the virus—according to calculations done by Marshall Burke, an Earth system scientist at Stanford University. Air pollution accounts for more than 1.2 million annual deaths in China.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Would YOU Get Around If the SHTF? All-Season Transportation Options

How Would YOU Get Around If the SHTF? All-Season Transportation Options

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Transportation

trans·​por·​ta·​tion | \ ˌtran(t)s-pər-ˈtā-shən
Definition of transportation

1 : an act, process, or instance of transporting or being transported
2a : means of conveyance or travel from one place to another
b : public conveyance of passengers or goods especially as a commercial enterprise
3 : banishment to a penal colony

Okay, banishment to a penal colony was a new one for me.

If the SHTF, what is your primary means of  “conveyance or travel from one place to another?” If fuel availability is in question, that lift or ride might not be an option. And your options will change with the weather if you live in a place with distinct seasons.

Keep in mind that transportation isn’t just about bugging out fifty miles to your lodge. You’ll still have to get around on a regular basis for a variety of reasons.

Winter transportation

For me, here in the Great White (i.e. snow) North, if the fuel is not available and the snowplows are not running how do I get around where we average 20 feet (yep, feet) of snow a year? What are your options for bugging out or just getting from Point A to Point B?

Snowshoes

Not the old school, look like wood tennis rackets strapped to your feet. The new modern ones are a mix of metal, composite and plastics. I bought my first pair (similar to these) after taking the dogs out for their daily walk in our first real snow of the season when we moved to the farm. Later I upgraded to this pair.

At first, I highly doubted their merit, would I use them more than a few times and then they would spend the rest of their days in a forgotten corner in the attic.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Top 5 Ways We Use Oil & Gas

The Top 5 Ways We Use Oil & Gas

Petchem

If climate change and the use of fossil fuels is starting to worry you, consider this: The lion’s share of the petroleum in the United States is being used just to get around–to get people and things from point A to point B. 

Industrial, residential, commercial and electrical power usage of petroleum pales in comparison.   

Fossil fuels–which include crude oil and other liquids–are refined into petroleum products for a multitude of uses, and last year, the United States consumed over 20 million barrels per day. 

A whopping 69 percent of that was consumed by transportation. Industry, which the masses like to villainize most in terms of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, used only 25 percent. Residential usage accounted for only 3 percent of our petroleum consumption, and commercial, only 2 percent. 

What about electricity? American electricity generation used only 1 percent of those petroleum products. 

Source: EIA

So, for anyone looking to pinpoint where we need to start cheerleading for renewables or fossil-fuels shaming, here are the top 5 uses of petroleum products to help redirect the debate: 

#5 Oceans of Plastic: Still Gas, 0.703M BPD

While primarily referring to methane and ethane, “still gas” is any form or mixture of gases produced in refineries by distillation, cracking, reforming, and other processes. That means it also includes ethylene, normal butane, butylenes, propane, propylene, and others. 

It’s used most as refinery fuel or petrochemical feedstock. 

The conversion factor is 6 million Btus per fuel oil equivalent barrel.

U.S. refineries burned nearly 240 million barrels of still gas in 2018. 

But petrochemicals are one of the largest drivers of global oil demand, so it’s a circular competition here for still gas. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Collapsing Orders for Heavy Trucks – Down 71% from a Year Ago – Say about the U-Turn in Trucking

What Collapsing Orders for Heavy Trucks – Down 71% from a Year Ago – Say about the U-Turn in Trucking

“When times are tough, the thinking switches to the short-term. Many fleets are just fighting for survival.”

Orders for Class-8 trucks – the heavy trucks that haul a large part of the goods-based economy across the US – plunged by 71% in May compared to May last year, to — as FTR Transportation Intelligence called it this afternoon — a “chilly 10,400” orders. It was “the lowest volume for Class 8 orders since July 2016 and the weakest month of May since 2009,” FTR said in the statement (data via FTR):

This comes after orders had already plunged year-over-year by 52% in April, 67% in March, 58% in February and January, and 43% in December. It was the seventh month in a row of year-over-year declines (data via FTR):

The cyclical nature of the industry is legendary. Trucking companies get exuberant when capacity tightens and freight rates soar – which they did in late 2017, that in 2018 turned into an outright capacity shortage and a driver shortage.

This boom was fueled in part by a decision in Corporate America to build up inventories in the US to front-run potential import tariffs. This put additional pressure on trucking capacity, and on freight rates. And it motivated trucking companies to order new equipment to meet demand. Given the capacity pressure at the time, they tried to get the orders in ahead of the others, and this created a phenomenal boom in orders — and at truck manufacturers, historic order backlogs.

Then the other part of the cycle begins. As these new trucks enter service, capacity rises, taking pressure of the system. This was expected.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

From Horsepower to Horse Power. When Trucks stop, Horses start.

From Horsepower to Horse Power. When Trucks stop, Horses start.

Preface. Before the industrial revolution there were only four sources of mechanical power of any economic significance. They were human labor, animal labor, water power (near flowing streams) and wind power.   Work done by animals, especially on farms, was still important at the beginning of the 20th century and remained significant until mid-century, when trucks and tractors displaced horses and mules (Ayres 2003).

Just as horses were indispensable the past millennia, so have the cars and trucks of the 20thcentury become essential to our way of life.  If one horsepower equals the power one horse can generate (this is roughly true), then the 268.8 million cars and trucks in the United States, let’s say with an average horsepower of 120 HP, then that’s nearly 32.3 billion horses.  If each needs an acre of pasture, then that’s over 50 million square miles of land. But the U.S. is only 3.5 million square miles.  Clearly we can’t go back to horses – except we have to at some point because oil is finite (I’m assuming you’ve read my book When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation to understand why biofuels, CTL, batteries, overhead wires, natural gas, and hydrogen can’t replace petroleum powered internal combustion engines).

Eric Morris. April 1, 2007. “From Horse Power to Horsepower”. Access Magazine, University of California.

The horse was the dominant mode of transportation for thousands of years. Horses were absolutely essential for the functioning of the 19th-century city—for personal transportation, freight haulage, and even mechanical power. Without horses, cities would quite literally starve.

From 1800 to 1900, US per capita GDP rose from $1,148 to $4,676 (in 2000 dollars). This meant greater trade, and virtually all goods were, at some point in their journey, transported by horse.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

1918: How the Allies Surfed to Victory on a Wave of Oil

1918: How the Allies Surfed to Victory on a Wave of Oil

French troops are transported by truck to the front, as shown on a bas-relief of the Monument of the Voie Sacrée near Verdun. Photo by J. Pauwels.

Virtually everybody knows that the First World War came to an end when Germany capitulated on November 11, 1918. But very few people are aware that, earlier in that same year, the Reich came tantalizingly close to winning the so-called Great War, but ultimately snatched defeat, so to speak, from the jaws of victory.

In the spring of 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive on the western front. This undertaking, orchestrated by General Ludendorff, actually amounted to a big gamble because, though still very strong militarily, Germany was in very bad shape. Blockaded by the Royal Navy, the country was plagued by shortages of all kinds of products, including crucially important raw materials and food. German civilians and soldiers were undernourished and hungry; they were so disgruntled that it was feared that they might follow the revolutionary example set by their Russian counterparts in 1917. Already in the beginning of the year, Berlin and other big cities were the scenes of demonstrations and riots, as well as strikes. Moreover, Germany’s Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian, and Ottoman allies had started to display alarming signs of war weariness. And on the western front, the number of Germany’s enemies was mushrooming as more and more American troops were joining their French and British brothers in arms.  It was therefore fervently hoped that the offensive launched in March 1918 would conjure up the great victory that, like a deus ex machina, would cause all these problems to evaporate.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How long will the rich be willing to share the roads with the poor? 

How long will the rich be willing to share the roads with the poor? 

In Ray Bradbury novel “Fahrenheit 451” we are told of a world with no private cars (above, a still from the 1966 movie by François Truffaut). Bradbury had correctly understood that dictatorships not only tend to burn books but also don’t like their citizens to own private cars. In this post, I argue that the growing social inequality in the West may soon lead to the demise of the private car for the middle class. This evolution may be helped by such concepts as TAAS (transportation as a service). 

In his “The Betrothed”, (1827) Alessandro Manzoni tells us of how a dispute on the right of the way led to a bloody duel between two noblemen. The story takes place during the 17th century and it seems that, at that time, whether one should cede the way to another was a question of rank.

Of course, in our (perhaps) enlightened times, this attitude looks absurd. When you see a stop sign at a crossroad, you are supposed to respect it, independently of whether you drive a rusty Toyota Corolla or a shiny Porsche Cayenne. But, if you think about that, the rich must be very unhappy about having to share the road with all those poor people with their clunkers. They might well be thinking of ways to have the street all for themselves, avoid traffic jams, and regain the mobility that cars provided when there weren’t so many of them.

Is it possible? Well, think of this: the diffusion of private cars in the Western World, and in particular in the US, took place during a period when inequality was declining and reaching values which were possibly the lowest in modern history. But things have changed a lot since then. Here are some data for the Gini Index in the US (from the US Census Bureau)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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