Why Thorium Is A Better Nuclear Fuel Than Uranium

Why Not Thorium?

By Marin Katusa, Chief Energy Investment Strategist, Casey Research

thorium-nuclear-fuel
Can You Invest In Thorium?

The Fukushima disaster reminded us all of the dangers inherent in uranium-fueled nuclear reactors. Fresh news yesterday about Tepco’s continued struggle to contain and cool the fuel rods highlights just how energetic uranium fission reactions are and how challenging to control. Of course, that level of energy is exactly why we use nuclear energy – it is incredibly efficient as a source of power, and it creates very few emissions and carries a laudable safety record to boot.

This conversation – “nuclear good but uranium dangerous” – regularly leads to a very good question: what about thorium? Thorium sits two spots left of uranium on the periodic table, in the same row or series. Elements in the same series share characteristics. With uranium and thorium, the key similarity is that both can absorb neutrons and transmute into fissile elements.

That means thorium could be used to fuel nuclear reactors, just like uranium. And as proponents of the underdog fuel will happily tell you, thorium is more abundant in nature than uranium, is not fissile on its own (which means reactions can be stopped when necessary), produces waste products that are less radioactive, and generates more energy per ton.

So why on earth are we using uranium? As you may recall, research into the mechanization of nuclear reactions was initially driven not by the desire to make energy, but by the desire to make bombs. The $2-billion Manhattan Project that produced the atomic bomb sparked a worldwide surge in nuclear research, most of it funded by governments embroiled in the Cold War. And here we come to it: Thorium reactors do not produce plutonium, which is what you need to make a nuke.

How ironic. The fact that thorium reactors could not produce fuel for nuclear weapons meant the better reactor fuel got short shrift, yet today we would love to be able to clearly differentiate a country’s nuclear reactors from its weapons program.

In the post-Cold War world, is there any hope for thorium? Perhaps, but don’t run to your broker just yet.

The Uranium Reactor

The typical nuclear-fuel cycle starts with refined uranium ore, which is mostly U238 but contains 3% to 5% U235. Most naturally occurring uranium is U238, but this common isotope does not undergo fission – which is the process whereby the nucleus splits and releases tremendous amounts of energy. By contrast, the less-prevalent U235 is fissile. As such, to make reactor fuel we have to expend considerable energy enriching yellowcake, to boost its proportion of U235.

Once in the reactor, U235 starts splitting and releasing high-energy neutrons. The U238 does not just sit idly by, however; it transmutes into other fissile elements. When an atom of U238 absorbs a neutron, it transmutes into short-lived U239, which rapidly decays into neptunium-239 and then into plutonium-239, that lovely, weaponizable byproduct.

When the U235 content burns down to 0.3%, the fuel is spent, but it contains some very radioactive isotopes of americium, technetium, and iodine, as well as plutonium. This waste fuel is highly radioactive and the culprits – these high-mass isotopes – have half-lives of many thousands of years. As such, the waste has to be housed for up to 10,000 years, cloistered from the environment and from anyone who might want to get at the plutonium for nefarious reasons.

The Thing about Thorium

Thorium’s advantages start from the moment it is mined and purified, in that all but a trace of naturally occurring thorium is Th232, the isotope useful in nuclear reactors. That’s a heck of a lot better than the 3 to 5% of uranium that comes in the form we need.

Then there’s the safety side of thorium reactions. Unlike U235, thorium is not fissile. That means no matter how many thorium nuclei you pack together, they will not on their own start splitting apart and exploding. If you want to make thorium nuclei split apart, though, it’s easy: you simply start throwing neutrons at them. Then, when you need the reaction to stop, simply turn off the source of neutrons and the whole process shuts down, simple as pie.

Here’s how it works. When Th232 absorbs a neutron it becomes Th233, which is unstable and decays into protactinium-233 and then into U233. That’s the same uranium isotope we use in reactors now as a nuclear fuel, the one that is fissile all on its own. Thankfully, it is also relatively long lived, which means at this point in the cycle the irradiated fuel can be unloaded from the reactor and the U233 separated from the remaining thorium. The uranium is then fed into another reactor all on its own, to generate energy.

The U233 does its thing, splitting apart and releasing high-energy neutrons. But there isn’t a pile of U238 sitting by. Remember, with uranium reactors it’s the U238, turned into U239 by absorbing some of those high-flying neutrons, that produces all the highly radioactive waste products. With thorium, the U233 is isolated and the result is far fewer highly radioactive, long-lived byproducts. Thorium nuclear waste only stays radioactive for 500 years, instead of 10,000, and there is 1,000 to 10,000 times less of it to start with.

The Thorium Leaders

Researchers have studied thorium-based fuel cycles for 50 years, but India leads the pack when it comes to commercialization. As home to a quarter of the world’s known thorium reserves and notably lacking in uranium resources, it’s no surprise that India envisions meeting 30% of its electricity demand through thorium-based reactors by 2050.

In 2002, India’s nuclear regulatory agency issued approval to start construction of a 500-megawatts electric prototype fast breeder reactor, which should be completed this year. In the next decade, construction will begin on six more of these fast breeder reactors, which “breed” U233 and plutonium from thorium and uranium.

Design work is also largely complete for India’s first Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR), which will involve a reactor fueled primarily by thorium that has gone through a series of tests in full-scale replica. The biggest holdup at present is finding a suitable location for the plant, which will generate 300 MW of electricity. Indian officials say they are aiming to have the plant operational by the end of the decade.

China is the other nation with a firm commitment to develop thorium power. In early 2011, China’s Academy of Sciences launched a major research and development program on Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) technology, which utilizes U233 that has been bred in a liquid thorium salt blanket. This molten salt blanket becomes less dense as temperatures rise, slowing the reaction down in a sort of built-in safety catch. This kind of thorium reactor gets the most attention in the thorium world; China’s research program is in a race with similar though smaller programs in Japan, Russia, France, and the US.

There are at least seven types of reactors that can use thorium as a nuclear fuel, five of which have entered into operation at some point. Several were abandoned not for technical reasons but because of a lack of interest or research funding (blame the Cold War again). So proven designs for thorium-based reactors exist and need but for some support.

Well, maybe quite a bit of support. One of the biggest challenges in developing a thorium reactor is finding a way to fabricate the fuel economically. Making thorium dioxide is expensive, in part because its melting point is the highest of all oxides, at 3,300° C. The options for generating the barrage of neutrons needed to kick-start the reaction regularly come down to uranium or plutonium, bringing at least part of the problem full circle.

And while India is certainly working on thorium, not all of its eggs are in that basket. India has 20 uranium-based nuclear reactors producing 4,385 MW of electricity already in operation and has another six under construction, 17 planned, and 40 proposed. The country gets props for its interest in thorium as a homegrown energy solution, but the majority of its nuclear money is still going toward traditional uranium. China is in exactly the same situation – while it promotes its efforts in the LFTR race, its big bucks are behind uranium reactors. China has only 15 reactors in operation but has 26 under construction, 51 planned, and 120 proposed.

The Bottom Line

Thorium is three times more abundant in nature than uranium. All but a trace of the world’s thorium exists as the useful isotope, which means it does not require enrichment. Thorium-based reactors are safer because the reaction can easily be stopped and because the operation does not have to take place under extreme pressures. Compared to uranium reactors, thorium reactors produce far less waste and the waste that is generated is much less radioactive and much shorter-lived.

To top it all off, thorium would also be the ideal solution for allowing countries like Iran or North Korea to have nuclear power without worrying whether their nuclear programs are a cover for developing weapons… a worry with which we are all too familiar at present.

So, should we run out and invest in thorium? Unfortunately, no. For one, there are very few investment vehicles. Most thorium research and development is conducted by national research groups. There is one publicly traded company working to develop thorium-based fuels, called Lightbridge Corp. (Nasdaq: LTBR). Lightbridge has the advantage of being a first mover in the area, but on the flip side the scarcity of competitors is a good sign that it’s simply too early.

Had it not been for mankind’s seemingly insatiable desire to fight, thorium would have been the world’s nuclear fuel of choice. Unfortunately, the Cold War pushed nuclear research toward uranium; and the momentum gained in those years has kept uranium far ahead of its lighter, more controllable, more abundant brother to date. History is replete with examples of an inferior technology beating out a superior competitor for market share, whether because of marketing or geopolitics, and once that stage is set it is near impossible for the runner-up to make a comeback. Remember Beta VCRs, anyone? On a technical front they beat VHS hands down, but VHS’s marketing machine won the race and Beta slid into oblivion. Thorium reactors aren’t quite the Beta VCRs of the nuclear world, but the challenge they face is pretty similar: it’s damn hard to unseat the reigning champ.

[Marin has an enviable track record in the uranium sector, with one current pick up nearly 1,600% since he first recommended it to his subscribers 39 months ago. Now he’s targeting a little-known company that possesses oil-recovery technology that could reward investors with similar gains.]

Do You Know The Truth About Fracking?

Don’t Frack Me Up

By Marin Katusa, Casey Research

To many walking the planet, fracking has a seriously bad reputation. Thanks to hyperbole and misinformation, fracking opponents have convinced a lot of people that the operators who drill and then hydraulically fracture underground rock layers thumb their noses at and even hate the environment.

Anti-fracking claims may be twists on reality – for example, that a legislative loophole makes fracking exempt from the America’s Safe Drinking Water Act, when really this federal legislation never regulated fracking because it is a state concern. Then there’s the completely absurd, such as the idea that frac operators are allowed to and regularly do inject frac fluids directly into underground water supplies.

We decided to set the record straight by using facts, not playing on emotion like many of the frac-tivists do. It’s important because unconventional oil and gas constitute an increasingly pivotal part of the world’s energy scene. In the United States, where shale gas abounds but imported energy rules the day, this is especially true.

America’s shale deposits hold a heck of a lot of gas. According to the United States Geological Survey, the Marcellus Shale alone is home to 84 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of technically recoverable natural gas. Estimates of the amount of recoverable gas contained in all of America’s shale basins range as high as 3,000 TCF.

To access this gas, fluids made of water, sand, and chemicals to increase lubrication, inhibit corrosion of equipment, and possessing other qualities are pumped into the shale formation. When the pressure from the fluids exceeds the strength of the rocks, the rock fractures, and in a demonstration of might by the mighty small, the granules of sand prop the fractures open. Once the fracturing is completed, the internal pressure from the formation pushes the injected fluids to the surface again.

Frac wells are only open to the surrounding rock at the depth of the target formation. Starting at 250 feet (76 meters) or thereabouts above the producing interval – it varies a bit from state to state – the production casing must be cemented. This graphic, borrowed from the Texas Oil and Gas Association, shows what the procedure entails.

 

fracking illustration

 

Casings are the liners that isolate the inside of the well from the surrounding rock, and from any

Casings are the liners that isolate the inside of the well from the surrounding rock, and from any water that might be contained in that rock. The surface casing is the first line of defense, while the production casing provides a second layer of protection for the groundwater.

Casings do require proper cementation to be effective: the cement seals the annular spaces between successive casing layers to provide a barrier to vertical and horizontal fluid movement. A poor cementation job was a significant factor in the Deepwater Horizon well blowout, and that transpired because deepwater regulations were insufficient. On land, however, cementation is highly regulated, and inspections of wells in progress, announced and unannounced, are common.

Unlike deepwater drilling, fracking is not new. Nor is fracking specific to natural gas or to the United States. Drillers frac many thousands of oil and gas wells around the world every year. In America, oil and gas producers have been using hydraulic fracturing since at least the 1940s to enhance recoveries from older oil wells and to access the oil in tight reservoirs, such as the Bakken.

Then there’s shale gas, a domestic source of energy for North America that’s much more reliable and secure than the millions of barrels of oil that come from places like Nigeria, Venezuela, Iraq, Angola, and Algeria every day. And as we’ve said, accessing that gas using hydraulic fracturing is much less dangerous and damaging than many people think.

Gasland – More Drama Than Documentary

Frac-bashing really took off last year, with the debut of the film Gasland. After receiving a letter offering his family US$100,000 for the right to drill frac wells on their land, a documentary film maker by the name of Josh Fox decided to investigate. Gasland is the product of that investigation, which took Fox to Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia to interview other people living atop the newly discovered Marcellus Shale. Fox also visits Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Texas to talk to those who have been living alongside natural gas drilling for the last decade.

The resulting film is well crafted, dramatic, and emotional. However, documentaries are also supposed to convey context and a fair representation of the facts. That’s where Fox failed.

Let’s be clear: fracking is not without drawbacks (and more on that in a moment). What drives us Casey “Focused on Facts” Research types crazy is messing with the data. Some examples:

Fox “Fact”
Fracking Reality
An energy bill pushed through Congress by Dick Cheney in 2005 exempts the oil and gas industries from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA), the Superfund Law, and about a dozen other regulations. The oil and gas industry is regulated by every single one of these laws except for the SDWA, which has never regulated oil and gas activities. If it seems these federal statutes do not sufficiently regulate fracking, that’s because the states do it instead.
Oil and gas drillers are allowed “to inject hazardous materials, unchecked, directly into or adjacent to underground water supplies.” Disposing of frac fluids is a challenge. One method does involve sending them down old natural gas wells, but the wells are always cased, cemented, and grouted where they pass through drinking water supplies to seal off contact with the surrounding rock and terminate in formations many thousands of feet below water reserves.
Drilling and fracking a well pollutes aquifers. The shales that contain natural gas are 5,000 to as much as 18,000 feet below ground. The aquifers we tap for drinking water are at about 500 feet. That means roughly 2 miles of rock lie between aquifer and frac. A 2010 report by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection concluded “no groundwater pollution or disruption of underground sources of drinking water have been attributed to hydraulic fracturing of deep gas formations.”
Frac fluids are toxic mixtures of 596 deadly chemicals. Allowing for variance among companies and operations, fracking fluid is typically a bit under 91% water and 9% sand. Tiny amounts of added chemicals reduce friction, fight microbes, control pH, and prevent corrosion of equipment. Many are found around the house, including guar gum (in ice cream), borate salts (a fungicide), and mineral oil. And yes, there are 596 ingredients that have at some point been used to make frac fluids, but any single fracturing job uses only a few of the available options.
 

fracking graph

Figure 1. Composition of typical gas shale frac fluid (modified from Bohm et al., All Consulting, 2008a).

Drilling companies refuse to disclose just which deadly chemicals they use to create their frac fluids. Drilling companies must disclose the names of all chemicals stored and used at a drilling site. Anyone who knows how to read a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) can find out what chemicals are present.
Fracking makes people’s drinking water flammable. It’s possible for improperly cemented wells to leak, but one study after another has failed to find frac fluid chemicals in drinking water supplies. Flammable tap water is more likely related to dissolved methane, which is naturally found in well water. (No worries here either – the methane bubbles out quickly, and the US Environmental Protection Agency does not even regulate it.)
Fracking is severely underregulated, and it’s because the industry has lobbied for and achieved so many regulatory exemptions. Fracking is very closely regulated, and reviews of fracking regulations regularly find them to be very rigorous. For example, the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations, an independent panel of environment, industry, and EPA personnel, found Pennsylvania’s fracking process was not only safe but “merits special recognition.”
Frac fluids that flow back out of a well are often stored in pits in the ground that aren’t even lined, where a lot of the fluid just seeps into the ground; even if they are lined, they often leak. Here Fox has finally hit upon some truth – that some pits have in the past leaked. That’s why they are being phased out in most states in favor of above-ground storage solutions that enable much better leak detection and repair capabilities. In fact, this month’s recommendation is a rapidly growing company with an innovative solution to storing frac fluids.
People who live near fracs have been found to have elevated levels of benzene in their blood. The only residents who had elevated benzene levels were those who smoked. Cigarettes contain benzene.
The EPA has never really studied fracking – the current study, which won’t even release its preliminary findings until the end of next year, is the first real environmental assessment of the practice. EPA started a study on hydraulic fracturing in 1999 that focused on coalbed methane reservoirs and whether fracturing them impacted underground sources of drinking water. Published in 2004 after peer review, the study concluded that fracking posed little to no risk in terms of contaminating drinking water.

Industry Efforts

As we alluded to earlier, fracking does has its drawbacks, two of which stand out in particular. The first is that hydraulic fracturing uses a fair chunk of water – an average multi-stage frac requires a total 5 million gallons of water. To put that number in context, electric generation uses nearly 150 million gallons per day in the Susquehanna River Basin of Pennsylvania.

Nonetheless, industry engineers are working hard to reduce water usage. After all, they know as well as anyone else what their livelihood depends on.

The most important shift here has been toward recycling frac fluids. In Pennsylvania, the fracking industry now reuses more than 60% of its water, for example. In addition, companies are exploring other, more creative water reduction strategies. In British Columbia, energy giant EnCana Corp (T.ECA) and its partner Apache Corp (NYSE.APA) spent nine months and C$10 million finding a deep, sour water aquifer and then figuring out how to make the super-salty, hydrogen sulfide-laced water usable for fracking. This novel technique could significantly reduce the need for fracking operations to use freshwater supplies.

The second drawback is that the fluids that flow back to the surface after a fracturing are often stored in containment units that have been known to leak.

As we pointed out, pits, lined or not, are being phased out in many jurisdictions, precisely because it’s truly difficult to tell whether a pit dug into the earth is leaking. This is where companies like  Poseidon Concepts (T.PSN) come in. Instead of lined pits and even the dozens of steel tanks that are the not-so-ideal alternative, PSN offers above-ground lined frames that are inexpensive and much more environmentally sound.

Another way to ease the problem of frac fluids spills or leaks is to make frac fluids so benign that we could literally drink them. It sounds pie-in-the-sky, but the world’s second-largest oilfield services company is working hard on the idea. In fact, Halliburton (NYSE.HAL) has created a frac fluid called CleanStim, made from materials sourced from the food industry. A Halliburton executive showed the stuff at a recent conference – and then tossed it down his gullet.

Where there’s a need, an innovator will rise to the challenge, and there are plenty of innovators in the world of oil and gas.

Fracking Earthquakes: Hazard or… Preventative?

A few weeks ago privately held Cuadrilla Resources, the first company to successfully frac natural gas shales in Europe and a Casey Energy team recommendation back in early 2008, announced that its fracking operations caused two small earthquakes in northwest England last April and May. After the earthquakes, Cuadrilla voluntarily suspended its fracking operations in the area while an independent group investigated the events.

The earthquakes measured 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale. Seismic events, to be sure, but so gentle they were barely felt. Indeed, the independent report found that Cuadrilla’s work had caused the tremors, but the earth moved so little that they posed no threat to anyone or anything.

And what others may consider concern, we consider potential. As two plates of Earth’s crust naturally shift along their fault line, they can sometimes get hung up on rocky “hooks” called asperities. As the plates keep trying to move, stress builds and builds. The huge earthquakes we all fear occur when the stored energy has built enough to break through the asperity: the gradual slide becomes a destructive jerk.

Small tremors, on the other hand, reduce the pressure one bit at a time. Whenever there is a major earthquake or a discussion of when California or Vancouver or Japan will get hit with the next Big One, someone often laments, “If only we had a way to release the pressure beforehand!”

What if hydraulic fracturing could relieve the stress on the faults in earthquake-prone areas? Clearly the notion needs a battery of modeling and tests before it’s anything but a concept, but on a basic level the idea makes sense. Perhaps by releasing the accumulated stress at depth slowly with small tremors, we could mitigate the Big One enough that it might not be so big after all.

If nothing else, the concept is a reminder not to fear serendipity. Finding something you didn’t expect when attempting something else is how the scientific world achieved many of its major breakthroughs.

A Resource We Can’t Ignore

The ability to produce clean-burning natural gas from the 48 shale basins in 32 countries around the world could transform the global energy economy and increase energy security, starting in the United States.

Hydraulic fracturing has become a scapegoat, targeted by environmentalists as another attempt by the oil and gas industry to lock America into fossil fuel dependence. The thing is, America is already addicted to fossil fuels. Until that changes, even environmentalists will need to heat their homes, charge their cell phones, and purchase products made at gas-powered factories.

We of the Casey Research energy team are always looking for alternative energy ideas that stand the test of economics, but to date only geothermal and run-of-river power have come close. In the case of geothermal power, the industry has gotten ahead of itself and for now, at least, has failed to come through on its promises. As for run-of-river, the projects often work, but they provide only a drop into the big bucket of power needs, and each project requires major negotiations from landowners afflicted with NIMBY (“not in my back yard”) syndrome.

So next time someone says that America should put an end to fracking, ask them how they plan to ensure America’s energy security over the next 30 to 50 years. If the answer involves alternative or renewable energies, ask for some hard facts and numbers to support it. Like it or not, none of our alternative energies are as yet even close to stepping up as a major energy pillar for America.

Natural gas is ready to step up. It’s not a perfect solution – it’s much better at providing peak demand than baseload power, still takes energy to produce, and still produces greenhouse gases – but it’s an important part of the solution for now. Not only does America have the reserves, the fracturing process that can unlock them has been demonstrated as safe – and equally important, not demonstrated as not safe. And the industry that uses it seeks and incorporates improvements along the way. Just the facts, ma’am.

[Recent political events demonstrate that relying on Middle East oil is very unwise… and worse, OPEC has its own dirty little secret. Learn more about it – and more important, how you can profit from that knowledge.]

America’s Oil Supply: The Keystone for Survival

by Marin Katusa, Casey Energy Report

A rancorous debate over TransCanada Corp.’s (T.TRP) proposed Keystone XL Pipeline has given rise to two uncomfortable prospects: If the US$7 billion project is not built, Alberta’s oil sands will become landlocked, at least for a while, and the United States will lose access to one of its few reliable, friendly sources of oil.

Keystone XL is a proposed pipeline that would run from Edmonton—the hub of Canada’s massive oil sands—through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, to Houston. The line is critical to ensure a continued, smooth ramp-up in oil sands production, because producers need to send the heavy bitumen extracted from the sands to refineries able to handle that kind of crude. Since refineries in the Midwest are reaching their heavy-oil capacity, it needs to go to the Gulf Coast.

Keystone XL is also critical for U.S. oil security – the U.S. is the world’s biggest importer of oil and, as we recently outlined in the Casey Energy Report, almost half of its oil comes from unstable, unfriendly, or declining producers (think Nigeria, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and the like). Canadian oil sands may be an environmental controversy, but in terms of U.S. energy security they are a lone bright spot. Denying Keystone XL equates to denying the U.S. its only significant friendly, stable, and growing source of oil.

The pipelines that currently carry bitumen from the oil sands to refineries in the Midwest will reach maximum capacity in as little as four years. At that point, oil sands producers would be stuck with growing volumes of oil and waiting for other transportation options to materialize. Those options would take several years to develop, even if efforts begin now.

The Keystone XL pipeline is so important that most in the oil patch haven’t even considered the possibility that it will not happen. Indeed, companies have already signed up to fill most of its capacity. Yet the pipeline has fomented heavy debate in the U.S., pitting legislator against legislator and one government department against another. Opponents say the project threatens key water resources, increases U.S. ties to hydrocarbons, and supports the environmentally destructive oil sands. Supporters say the pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs and potentially lower oil prices in the U.S. because of ensured access to oil supplies from a stable, local source.

The oil sands hold 171.3 billion barrels of oil in reserve. For context, Saudi Arabia’s reserves stand at 264.2 billion barrels. The enormity of the oil sands resource has raised the stakes for both sides in the pipeline debate and placed undue importance on the outcome.

The decision lies with the State Department, because the pipeline crosses international borders. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her decision before the end of the year. The department already issued a preliminary environmental impact assessment, which seems generally supportive of the project. For example, the State Department concluded that if Keystone XL is not built, oil sands production will be diverted to other markets (such as China), and the refineries in Texas will continue to process bitumen apace from offshore platforms. As such, the pipeline would not increase production of greenhouse gases.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not agree. In a letter to the State Department this week, the EPA argued that the project poses serious environmental risks and that the State Department’s environmental review process was seriously flawed.

The EPA also laid out six specific demands for the State Department’s review, including: extending the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions impact assessment from 20 years to the pipeline’s 50-year lifespan; collaborating with the Department of Energy to assess the need for the pipeline and how it fits into President Obama’s goal to reduce U.S. oil imports; and analyzing other reasonable routes for the pipeline that avoid ecologically fragile areas (such as Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer and Sand Hills region). Other concerns include potential impacts to groundwater in the event of a spill and high pollution from refineries along the Gulf Coast that would process the bitumen.

Environmentalists are openly using the project as a proxy for their general opposition to oil sands development. Since environmentalists have framed the debate in that sense, Clinton’s decision will have ramifications far beyond the pipeline: It will set the tone for the U.S.’s perspective on the oil sands. But even though environmentalists would celebrate a Keystone denial, their method may be moot, because denying TransCanada approval for Keystone XL would only hinder oil sands development for a few years.

The thing is, if there is no Keystone XL, Canada will find other ways to export oil from its vast oil sands. And if the United States doesn’t want the oil, other markets will.

The U.S. is Canada’s next-door neighbor and the world’s largest importer of oil, so it is the most logical market for oil sands bitumen; it currently buys almost every drop that Canada exports. If Keystone XL does not become a reality, oil producers in Canada have several alternatives for reaching the U.S. One option is to ship by rail. Last fall, Altex Energy, in a joint venture with Canadian National Railway (CN), started shipping small amounts of oil sands crude along CN’s tracks all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Transporting by rail avoids billions of dollars of infrastructure costs, avoids the need for any regulatory review, and eliminates the need to dilute the crude with chemicals to make it flow more easily. The drawback: It is considerably more expensive than pipeline transport.

There are also other pipelines available, such as the Trans Mountain pipeline that transports crude from the oil sands to Canada’s Pacific Coast. There, it can be loaded onto ships and taken to distant refineries. That pipeline is near capacity, but owner Kinder Morgan is considering an expansion. Another Canadian company, Enbridge, is proposing a new line from the sands to the northern British Columbia port of Kitimat.

If the U.S. says “no” to Keystone XL, watch for the Chinese to step up in support of these proposed pipelines, since oil transported to West Coast could easily be shipped across the Pacific to the world’s second largest oil importer.

There is political support for these projects, bolstered by a national election in Canada that reelected a Conservative Party government. The Conservatives’ traditional power base is in Alberta—home of the oil sands—and the party supports oil sands development whole-heartedly. New pipeline capacity is so important to the government that Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert thinks it needs national, and even international, consideration.

“If there was something that kept me up at night, it would be the fear that before too long we’re going to be landlocked in bitumen,” he said. “We’re not going to be an energy superpower if we can’t get the oil out of Alberta.” At a meeting in July, Mr. Liepert plans to urge his federal and provincial counterparts to adopt an energy strategy that makes the development of crude oil export pipelines a matter of national importance. He also will urge Canada’s federal government to approach Obama’s administration about a continental energy pact, committing the U.S. to providing market access to Canadian oil in exchange for security of supply.

So where do we stand? The State Department’s next step is to release a final environmental impact statement. That will start a 90-day countdown, during which other federal agencies—including the EPA—can weigh in on the project. While all of this is going on, five senators from Nebraska are asking Hillary Clinton to delay her decision until May 2012, to give Nebraska time to beef up its oil pipeline regulations.

Once the comment period is over, Clinton will make her decision based on whether the cross-border pipeline is in the national interest. However, the EPA can appeal that decision to President Obama if the State Department does not address its concerns. As such, the fight—which has already dragged on for two and a half years—could still last for some time. But at the end of the day, it seems the heated battle over Keystone XL may be little more than a symbolic clash of ideology—albeit one that threatens America’s only solid supply of friendly oil and one that would delay oil sands developments only for a few years. Oil makes the world go ‘round, and the denial of one pipeline is not going to stop oil sands development.

As we mentioned earlier, the Casey Research energy team just completed an in-depth investigation of who supplies the U.S. with its oil; we concluded that U.S. supplies are very much at risk. More than 40% of the country’s oil comes from suppliers with declining outputs or those that we classified as At Risk or Unfriendly, because their relationships with the U.S. are rocky or because the countries themselves are inherently unstable. (If you are interested in our report, consider subscribing to the Casey Energy Report, which is the main outlet for our energy market research.)

Canada is a lone, bright light in the U.S. oil-supply picture. The Keystone XL pipeline is an important part of that picture. A decision to deny the pipeline would represent a serious threat to America’s energy security… and a boon to China, which would gladly build infrastructure and buy up Canada’s oil sands production.

[Oil sands development is just one of several emerging energy technologies. Do you know which stocks are best poised for profit in this sector? The Casey Energy Report will keep you apprised of developments to maximize your investment. For just a few days, you can get it for $397 off the retail price. Try it risk-free for 3 months, with money-back guarantee.]

How Shale Gas Might Transform the Energy Markets

By Marin Katusa, Casey Energy Report

In the midst of roller-coaster oil prices and a global reassessment of nuclear power, in early April a key development in the natural gas arena slipped by mostly unnoticed: a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) about global shale gas potential.

us-shale-gas-mapWe all know that shale gas discoveries in America have altered the country’s gas picture dramatically – a twelvefold increase in production over the last decade has transformed the U.S. from an importer to a self-sufficient, natural-gas-loving nation, while also pushing natural gas prices way down. U.S. shale gas production increased by an average of 48% a year from 2006 to 2010, and output is expected to rise almost threefold between 2009 and 2035, according to the EIA’s latest Annual Energy Outlook.

In the face of such impressive shale success in America, many began to wonder about shale gas potential in other parts of the world. In response, the EIA commissioned a report estimating the global volume of shale gas outside of the United States, and the results are, well, a bit mind-boggling.

The report marks the first attempt to estimate the volume of technically recoverable shale gas on a global scale, and did so by assessing 48 shale basins in 32 countries outside of the U.S. (where the resources were already known). While U.S. resources stand at an impressive 862 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), those 48 global basins contain an estimated 5,760 Tcf of technically recoverable shale gas. That gives a global shale gas total of 6,622 Tcf.

To put that into perspective, most current estimates of the world’s technically recoverable natural gas resources (not including shale gas) come in at 16,000 Tcf, which means shale resources add more than 40% to the world’s gas volume.

And that’s not all. The study excluded several major types of potential shale resources, based primarily on data limitations. Importantly, the study only covered 32 nations and excluded several gas-rich countries, including Russia and nations in the Middle East. Large, conventional gas resources in these places mean there has been little reason to look for shale gas, so we still have little clue as to how much is there, though most expect sizable amounts. The study also excluded offshore basins. As such, the world’s shale gas resources are certainly larger than this initial count.

Here’s a shortened table, summarizing some of the study’s findings

Natural Gas Production (2009) Natural Gas Consumption (2009) Natural Gas Net Imports (Exports) as % of Consumption Proved Natural Gas Reserves Technically Recoverable Shale Gas Resource
trillion cubic feet
percent
trillion cubic feet
China
2.93
3.08
5%
107.0
1,275
United States
20.6
22.8
10%
272.5
862
Argentina
1.46
1.52
4%
13.4
774
Mexico
1.77
2.15
18%
12.0
681
South Africa
0.07
0.19
63%
485
Australia
1.67
1.09
(52%)
110.0
396
Canada
5.63
3.01
(87%)
62.0
388
Algeria
2.88
1.02
(183%)
159.0
231
Brazil
0.36
0.66
45%
12.9
226
Poland
0.21
0.58
64%
5.8
187
France
0.03
1.73
98%
0.2
180
India
1.43
1.87
24%
37.9
63
United Kingdom
2.09
3.11
33%
9.0
20

We can pull two groups of countries that might find shale gas development pretty attractive out of this table. The first is those countries that currently depend heavily on natural gas imports but also have significant shale resources: France, Poland, Turkey, Ukraine, South Africa, Morocco, and Chile. The second group is those countries that already produce substantial amounts of natural gas and also have large shale resources. In addition to the United States, this group includes Canada, Mexico, China, Australia, Libya, Algeria, Argentina, and Brazil.

There are major differences within these groups, however, on whether to utilize shale resources. France, for example, is thought to have comparable shale resources to Poland. Poland has traditionally relied heavily on Russian natural gas imports, so the country has been keenly issuing shale exploration licenses. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk recently said that, while shale gas development has to be environmentally sound, “Our determination is clear: Every cubic meter of gas in Poland must be used if possible.” By contrast, the French government has placed a moratorium on shale gas exploration in response to widespread concerns about the environmental impacts of horizontal drilling and fracturing.

Perhaps the biggest surprise from the above list is China. The shale gas estimate for China came in so high that the country’s National Energy Administration commissioned a shale gas development plan. The China National Petroleum Company completed its first horizontal shale gas test well in late March and is moving quickly to explore China’s shale reserves in partnership with experienced gas producers like Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron.

Energy-hungry China is unlikely to let environmental concerns impede development of what seems to be a truly staggering domestic, unconventional gas resource. In other parts of the world, such as Europe and increasingly North America, residents are becoming more vocal in their concerns about shale gas.

Environmental backlash could in fact pose the biggest obstacle to shale gas production. There are widespread concerns around the use and disposal of fracking fluids, which are proprietary mixtures of water, sand, and chemical lubricants. Many believe that fracking fluids can – and in places already have – contaminate groundwater aquifers; there is also a major debate about how to dispose of the huge volumes of fracking fluids created in drilling a single well. In addition, a set of recent studies countered the common claim that natural gas is a ”green” fuel, which is based on gas producing less carbon dioxide per unit of energy than “dirtier” fuels like coal. While that may be true, the studies investigated the total carbon emissions created in drilling and fracking a well and collecting, processing, and burning the gas. They found that natural gas is actually worse for the environment than coal.

The debate over fracking will undoubtedly continue for years. The EIA report has added fuel to that fire, as it will be hard for the world to ignore a fuel resource of this size. However, finding shale gas is just one small step toward actually producing it. The report suggests that any shale gas development outside of the United States is likely five to ten years away, primarily because many of the countries that could benefit from shale production do not have the specialized equipment needed to drill and frack horizontal wells.

In fact, one nonprofit think tank – the Post Carbon Institute – is challenging the idea that shale gas production can continue apace even in the U.S. The Institute investigated what would be required to maintain the production increases and determined that the infrastructure requirements are unrealistic.

Study author David Hughes estimates there is actually only a 12-year supply of easily accessible, domestic natural gas, in part because well productivity is declining. To maintain the current rate of production would require the drilling of 30,000 wells annually – a slight increase from the current rate of 25,000 and a level that Hughes believes will incite a major environmental backlash.

While not everyone will agree with Hughes’ conclusions, it is true that ”technically recoverable resources” often stay in the ground for a very long time because they are not realistically or economically recoverable.

And here’s yet another reason why it may take a long time for the shale gas phenomenon to grow outside of the United States: As long as natural gas prices remain depressed, it will be cheaper for countries to buy gas rather than to develop their own resources. Mexico, for example, is building six new natural gas power plants this year but is planning to increase imports to fuel those plants, even though state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) recently discovered as much as one trillion cubic feet of gas reserves. Instead of developing those fields in the northern state of Coahuila, Pemex will instead focus on oil output, and the Mexican state power utility will import more gas.

We all like to imagine renewable resources powering our future, but the truth is that coal, oil, and natural gas currently provide more than 80% of the world’s primary energy needs. Nuclear power adds only 6% and renewables contribute just 2% of global energy – a figure that will at best rise to 7% by 2035. So it seems very likely that shale gas will play an increasingly important role in the years to come. How much of this massive resource will actually see development remains to be seen. But now we have a start on understanding just how much shale gas the world has to offer, and from here economic and environmental concerns will have to fight it out.

Marin Katusa and his team are on the cutting edge of the energy sector – combining a network of industry connections with meticulous due diligence to find the best energy plays for subscribers. For only 7 days, you can now get the Casey Energy Report for 40% off the regular price. Try it for 3 months – if you’re not completely satisfied, cancel for a full refund. More here.

The Fracking Controversy

By Marin Katusa, Casey Research

Blackstone Group LP (BX), the world’s largest private equity firm, is set to invest $1 billion in unconventional oil and gas projects in North America through a joint venture with Alta Resources, which has cemented a spotlight on fracking.

A U.S. Senate committee has been conducting a hearing on the safety of hydraulic fracturing, as it is formally known. The province of Quebec, the state of New York, and the entirety of France have recently banned the technique. And two new studies claim that fracking-derived shale gas is actually worse for the environment than mining and burning coal. With so many claims flying around about this unconventional practice, let’s get a closer look at the facts.

Fracking is a drilling technique that involves pumping large volumes of water, sand and chemicals into deep shale deposits to fracture the rock and free the oil or gas. Drillers seeking to pull more oil and gas from hard rock deposits have been fracking since the 1950s, but in the last decade advancements in horizontal drilling techniques have taken fracking to a new level.

Fracking has enabled us to extract gas from shale deposits, which are often more than a mile underground. The gas in these deposits used to be inaccessible, but now that it can be extracted, and as a result, shale gas has transformed the North American natural gas landscape. In the chart below, the increase in Lower 48 onshore production over the last 10 years stems primarily from shale gas discoveries.

US Wet Natural Gas Proved Reserves 1979-2009

Shale gas deposits now provide 25% of America’s natural gas and are expected to provide 45% by 2035. In 2010, the nation produced 4.87 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, a 57% increase from in 2009. Shale gas discoveries accounted for 90% of the increase in America’s domestic gas reserves in 2009 – a year when gas reserves grew by 11% even though prices fell by a third – and shale gas now represents 21% of the nation’s total gas reserves.

The dramatic shift to shale gas has three drivers. First, horizontal drilling advanced to a level where drillers became able to frack horizontally. Fracking has been used to extend the lives of vertical wells since 1949, but vertical fracturing cannot retrieve shale gas at economic levels. Horizontal fracking can.

Second, the world’s easy-to-reach, conventional gas fields are starting to run dry. That precipitated an increase in the price of natural gas. When a commodity is worth more, companies become willing to spend more finding it, and thus was born today’s frantic fracking campaign.

Third, the United States hates that it is reliant on OPEC oil. When fracking revealed a wealth of domestic natural gas, that natural gas quickly became the “bridge fuel” in the nation’s energy plan, a cleaner-burning fuel than oil or coal that the country can use to wean itself off foreign oil as it transitions to renewable energy sources. Natural gas exploration has almost been cast as an act of patriotism.

It has also found major support from the federal government. President Obama has promoted natural gas as part of America’s clean energy future, but the real support for fracking came from President Bush. In 2005, the Bush administration drafted and passed the Energy Policy Act, a wide-ranging energy bill crafted by Vice President Dick Cheney. (It is relevant to note that Dick Cheney ran Halliburton, the company that pioneered fracking and is highly active in U.S. natural gas exploration, before joining politics.)

The Energy Policy Act explicitly exempted fracking from the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. The Halliburton Loophole, as it has become known, enables gas companies to pump millions of gallons of fracking fluid into old wells or to leave the fluid evaporating in open pools, without having to identify the chemicals in the fluid. Those chemicals include benzene, toluene, boric acid, xylene, diesel-range organics, methanol, formaldehyde, and ammonium bisulfite.

It is this fracking fluid that causes the most concern. It takes up to 8 million gallons of water to frack a well, and a well may be fracked up to 18 times. With each round, about half of the fracking fluid returns to the surface along with the gas, via the collection pipes. The gas is piped to compressor stations, where it is purified and compressed for transport. The returned fracking fluid, now called wastewater, is either trucked to water treatment plants that may or may not be designed to handle fracking chemicals, reinjected into old wells, or stored in large, tarp-lined pits, where it is allowed to evaporate.

It is no great surprise that the rapid growth in fracking has been matched by an equally rapid growth in opposition. The wells themselves are eyesores for some; to build the roads and drill pads, hundreds of thousands of acres of land have been disrupted. However, the big issue is water contamination. As use of the technique has spread, it has been followed by thousands of incidents of water contaminated by metals and volatile organic compounds that have led to health problems for people, livestock and wildlife.

The natural gas industry claims that the one million currently producing, hydraulically fractured wells in the United States were drilled without causing a single confirmed case of groundwater contamination. That is not true. In Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection acknowledged a contamination of the aquifer that fills household wells in a rural area of Dimrock after more than 60 wells were drilled in a 9-square-mile area.

The fracking operations turned the water brown and imbued it with dangerously high levels of methane, iron and aluminum. Fracking fluids leaked into streams, turning them garish colors and killing fish. One woman’s water well blew up. A family was evacuated from their house because of dangerous methane levels.

Shale formations are typically 5,000 to 8,000 feet deep, way below groundwater aquifers that usually sit just 1,000 feet below surface. As such, it is not likely that the frac gas and fluids travel all the way up to the aquifers through fractures. Contamination more likely occurs through poor cement well casings that allow fracking fluids and methane to escape all the way up the pipe, including at groundwater levels.

In addition, since the Halliburton Loophole exempts fracking from abiding by most environmental regulations, the above-ground handling of return wastewater and the airborne pollution produced through processing add significant risks to the fracking process. For example, Fort Worth, Texas, sits atop a very productive shale formation. Chemical emissions from natural gas processing facilities in and around Forth Worth now match the city’s total emissions from cars and trucks.

Fracking still enjoys wide-ranging support, for good reasons. The lease fees that drilling companies pay to landowners are enough to turn many citizens into supporters. The price to lease an acre of Marcellus Shale, the huge shale play that stretches from West Virginia to New York, continues to climb. Twenty years ago, it was just $25; now it averages $5,000. The industry creates thousands of job and pumps lots of money into state coffers. And it provides natural gas, the clean energy of our near-term future. Right? Well, maybe.

The part that may not be right is the “cleanliness” of natural gas. Two new studies out of Cornell University are poking holes in natural gas’ clean-and-green reputation, suggesting that the rush to develop America’s unconventional gas resources will likely increase the nation’s carbon emissions rather than decrease them.

Natural gas is considered clean because, on combustion, it emits roughly half the carbon dioxide of coal and about 30% that of oil. The problem, according to lead author Robert Howarth, is that combustion is only one part of the natural gas life cycle; during other parts of the cycle, a lot of methane is lost.

The study suggests that  between 3.6% and 7.9% of the methane in natural gas is lost from the time a well is plumbed to when the gas is used. On top of that, a recent study from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA suggests an interaction between methane and certain aerosol particles significantly amplifies methane’s already potent greenhouse gas effects. In addition, thousands of trucks are driving every minute of every day to bring fracking fluid to drills and to remove wastewater. When all is factored in, Howarth and his colleagues conclude the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas is likely 20% greater than coal per unit energy, and may be as much as twice as high.

There are many caveats in the study. The data Howarth used was thin, by his own admission, in large part because the industry discloses so little. And much of the methane now leaking out of shale gas operations should be relatively easy to seal in. But if nothing else, the study should give lawmakers reason to pause before continuing their wide embrace of all sources of natural gas.

Along those lines, many people oppose the overall concept of a bridge fuel. The question is: how long and wide should the bridge be? And if Howarth is right and shale-derived gas is worse for the environment than coal and oil, should shale gas be part of the bridge?

These are the questions that governments around the world are wrestling with. In the U.S., a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is currently hearing testimony in an effort to assess the safety of hydraulic fracturing. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also studying fracking, under orders from Congress. The EPA study is a comprehensive look at whether fracking taints water supplies, and initial results are not expected until 2014.

Some jurisdictions are not waiting for official study results. New York City and Syracuse, New York, have banned fracking in their watersheds, citing a study that concluded fracking could pose “catastrophic” risks to the prized local water supply. New Jersey is considering a ban, and Pittsburgh has prohibited the practice within city limits. The Canadian province of Quebec recently banned fracking completely, even though the province hosts considerable shale gas potential. In Australia, fracking has been sweeping the Queensland countryside, and a furor is building among landowners. Shale exploration is similarly spreading quickly and causing strife across Europe.

Nevertheless, Blackstone’s $1 billion entry into the field suggests fracking is still a hot topic. Blackstone is not the only major making a major shale splash: a year ago, Indian materials and energy giant Reliance Industries struck a deal with Pennsylvania-based Atlas Energy to team up in developing Atlas’ more than 500,000 acres of Marcellus land. The deal is worth $1.7 billion over five years, or $3.5 billion over 10 years.

So what should the investor do? First, it is not important to decide whether or not fracking is damaging to people and the environment. The Senate committee and the EPA are working on that (albeit through numerous politicians and lobbyists – good luck to them). What the investor needs to do is the same as always: separate the wheat from the chaff.

In that analysis, remember these points.

  1. Unconventional exploration, including fracking, is a phenomenon that will forever change the face of hydrocarbon exploration. We applaud those trying to find new ways to tap into the earth’s resources.
  2. Natural gas prices are depressed because of oversupply in North America. Oil prices, on the other hand, are high. If you want exposure to unconventional exploration, choose a company that is working in both areas, or potentially just in unconventional oil. You rarely win when you’re fighting against a low commodity price.
  3. Every successful development in exploration attracts bandwagoners, companies that want to ride the wave even though they are not really involved in the action. Check maps to verify a company’s land position is actually within the basin in question; check cash balances to see if the company has enough money to drill. Do your due diligence.
  4. Where there are congressional committees and controversy, laws are apt to change. Fracking is coming under considerable scrutiny at the state and federal levels, so keep your eyes peeled for news about challenges or change to the regulations governing fracking.

Oil and gas companies can be terrific profit opportunities if you know what to look for – and Casey Chief Energy Strategist Marin Katusa does better than anyone else. He has just discovered a company that benefits from OPEC’s greatest nightmare and is poised to make a fortune on oil exploration in the heart of the Middle East. Read more here.

Where Will The U.S. Get Its Oil?

The energy-rich, former Soviet republic has some of the largest oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Sea basin, producing 1.43 million barrels per day (bbl/day) in 2008. And as the giant Tengiz and Karachaganak fields are developed further, an additional 1.5 million bbl/day will be coming off the production line.
With the country holding 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves and the majority of its Caspian Sea holdings still unexploited, it’s no wonder oil companies – both major and minor – are flocking to it like moths to a flame.

Is the Future of U.S. Oil Really Secure?

By Marin Katusa, Chief Energy Strategist, Casey Energy Report

Two words that any oil company dreads to hear are “export duty.” Especially if the word “increases” or “introduced” is floating around there too.

So when Kazakhstan introduced an oil export duty to meet shortfalls in the national budget, the mood wasn’t exactly jovial.

On July 13, the Kazakh government brought back the tax that had been abolished during the financial crisis. A US$20 tariff will be levied on every ton of crude oil exported from the Central Asian nation. The hope: collect some US$406 million in additional revenue by the end of the year.

The energy-rich, former Soviet republic has some of the largest oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Sea basin, producing 1.43 million barrels per day (bbl/day) in 2008. And as the giant Tengiz and Karachaganak fields are developed further, an additional 1.5 million bbl/day will be coming off the production line.

With the country holding 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves and the majority of its Caspian Sea holdings still unexploited, it’s no wonder oil companies – both major and minor – are flocking to it like moths to a flame.

Of course, this new tax has everyone from Chevron and ENI, whose long-standing agreements have been unilaterally revised in effect, to the small-scale producers in an uproar. The move has been dubbed as the latest example of resource nationalism in Kazakhstan, analysts say, and the feeling is that the country seems to be taking its cue from Mother Russia.

There’s worry, too, that this is only the beginning of the end. There’s no guarantee to say that the tax will not rise as more and more oil begins to flow out of the country. And the thriving uranium industry might be next to get heavy taxes slapped onto it.

Bringing it back to an American context, the question of energy security rears its head yet again. Oil from Kazakhstan flows through two pipelines: one winds through Russia, the other through China. Not exactly the two countries you’d want controlling the taps of your oil supply.

Today’s realities – be they economic or security-related – mean that the natural shopping ground for U.S. oil are the Canadian oil sands in Alberta. According to the EIA (U.S Energy Information Administration), Canada remained the largest exporter of oil in April, exporting 2.486 million barrels per day to the U.S. The majority of these barrels come from the Canadian oil sands.

While protestors may get up their flags and launch advertising campaigns, technological breakthroughs mean the environmental impact from oil sands is far less than before. Canadian laws also protect the environment, ensuring that all disturbed land is returned to a productive state.

Carbon revenue, too, is reinvested into clean energy research, paving the way to the future.

As we wait on alternative energy sources to take center stage in world energy plays, the truth remains that oil and gas must power our lives. And for the United States, Canadian oil sands mean a secure and most of all, reliable, source of energy.

With Canada looking ready to pick up the slack from the Gulf, it’s worth knowing which companies operating in the Great White North are worth adding to your portfolio. These are the ones that combine the latest technology with good site locations and excellent cash flow. Their inclusion will benefit any portfolio and rake in some promising returns.

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Whether it’s Canadian oil sands, uranium, or viable green energies, Marin Katusa and his team make it their mission to find the best of the best junior energy companies for maximum profit potential. Read more about Marin and the new European “Cold War” that promises investors enormous opportunity.

Last Chance Before Casey Research Raises Prices

I have been profiting from Casey Research investment newsletters for about 10 years now and I always thought their newsletter prices were cheap.

Well, that’s about to change.

Some of the prices will go up about 300%!

But the good news is that if you subscribe now you lock in the old low rates for the duration of your subscription (which should be for a LONG time).

The International Speculator is a flagship product that seeks higher returns on more speculative investments.

Casey’s Gold and Resource Report is what you want to get for the coming (very soon, I suspect) big bull market in gold and silver.

Casey Energy Report is right on top of the ways to profit from the government funded green revolution. (We don’t need to agree with the global warming nonsense to profit from the politicos religious belief in it.)

Casey Trend Trader is there to help you profit from long term trends, which, quite frankly, is where the big money is and sometimes with the least risk – the trend is your friend!

And since Casey Research is good at spotting trends, they feel technology’s day may be here again and have launched Casey’s Extraordinary Technology to help us profit by it. The first recommendation last month was up over 35% in about 2 weeks. Those who didn’t move on it quickly missed it and have to hope for a pullback.

Like I said, lock in the low prices now, before they go up forever.

Don’t forget the “macro picture” newsletter, very reasonably priced, the Casey Report.