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April 14, 2010

Production from Developing Manteo Prospect Offshore North Carolina vs. Equivalent Wind Farm

April 14, 2010
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The Manteo Prospect off the shore of North Carolina is an exploration target estimated to contain as much as five trillion cubic feet of natural gas (TCF), [1] potentially the largest domestic find of conventional natural gas since Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay in 1968.[2]

For comparison sake, Independence Hub in the Gulf of Mexico can access an estimated two TCF in proven natural gas reserves. [3] Independence Hub consists of multiple subsea wells that are tied back to one centrally-located host platform producing approximately 850 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.[4] Given than the Manteo Prospect appears to have access to a larger reserve of natural gas, it is reasonable to assume that the Manteo Prospect could produce as much as, if not more than Independence Hub.

Cape Wind is a proposed wind project for offshore Massachusetts in Nantucket Sound. The Cape Wind developers propose installing 130 wind turbines, each with a maximum capacity of 3.6 megawatts, standing 440 feet tall across an area of approximately 25 square miles.[5] Overall, the project is estimated to have a maximum delivered capacity of 454 megawatts based on a design wind velocity of 30 miles per hour and greater to a maximum operational velocity of 55 miles per hour. Based on the average wind speed of the Nantucket Sound of 19.75 miles per hour, however, the average generation capacity of the Cape Wind project would be approximately 182.6 megawatts.[6] At this capacity, the Cape Wind project would annually deliver about 1,600 gigawatt-hours of energy.[7]

To compare offshore natural gas production and wind energy generation, the potential energy production for the Manteo and Cape Wind projects has been converted to British thermal units (Btu). If the Manteo project produced as much as Independence Hub, and as noted above, this is every reason to believe it will, it would supply 320 trillion Btu of energy[8]annually, while the Cape Wind project would supply 5.4 trillion Btu[9]. Therefore, it would take about 59 Cape Wind developments to equal the energy output of the Manteo project.

Both natural gas and wind energy developments pose some oil spill risk if the facilities are damaged or destroyed. Natural gas is often produced in combination with condensate, a form of liquid hydrocarbon, and the tanks and equipment on the production platform hold lubricating oils and other fluids. The turbines and service platforms that make up a wind farm also contain lubricating oils and other fluids. The Manteo worst-case scenario listed below is based on the Independence Hub worst-case discharge of 10,795 barrels of oil.[10] The equivalent wind farm scenario of 98,058 barrels is based on estimates of the Cape Wind project. This includes 27,820 gallons from 130 turbines and 42,000 gallons from one electric service platform, or about 1,662 barrels of oil, multiplied by 59 to equal the annual potential energy production of the Manteo development.[11] While a larger offshore wind farm may require fewer service platforms depending on the design, for simplicity, we are assuming the same ratio of turbines to service platforms.

Manteo Natural Gas Development Equivalent Wind Farm

(59 Cape Wind projects)

Form of energy produced

Natural Gas Electricity

Annual potential energy production

320 trillion Btu 320 trillion Btu

Distance from shore

38.7 to 44.8 miles[11] 5.2 to 13.8 miles[12]

Number of facilities

One surface platform tied to multiple subsea wells 7,700 turbines

59 electric service platforms

Height of facilities

Platform: 105 feet[13] Turbines: 440 feet[14]

Visible from shore?

No Yes[15]

Area of development

1.2 acres

(0.002 square miles)[16]

944,000 acres

(1,475 square miles)[17]

Worst case oil spill volume

(Assumes complete destruction of all facilities)

10,795 barrels[18] 98,058 barrels[19]

Percentage of facilities destroyed to spill 10,795 barrels of oil

100 percent 11 percent

848 turbines and 6 electric service platforms, across 104,298 acres (163 square miles), or approximately 6.5 Cape Wind projects


[1] http://www.osti.gov/energycitations/product.biblio.jsp?osti_id=5738053

[2] http://www.bp.com/liveassets/bp_internet/us/bp_us_english/STAGING/local_assets/downloads/a/A03_prudhoe_bay_fact_sheet.pdf

[3] E&P, Independence Project, p. 10, www.epplp.com/PDF/Ind_Hub_FINAL.pdf.

[4] http://www.gomr.mms.gov/homepg/offshore/egom/independence_hub.html

[5] http://www.mms.gov/offshore/AlternativeEnergy/PDFs/FEIS/Section2.0DescriptionofProposedAction.pdf

[6] http://www.mms.gov/offshore/AlternativeEnergy/PDFs/FEIS/Section2.0DescriptionofProposedAction.pdf

[7] http://www.mms.gov/offshore/AlternativeEnergy/PDFs/FEIS/Section2.0DescriptionofProposedAction.pdf

[8] Based on 1 cubic foot equaling 1,028 Btu

[9] Based on 1 kilowatt hour equaling 3,412 Btu

[10] http://www.gomr.mms.gov/homepg/regulate/environ/nepa/MMS2005-064.pdf – Pages 119 and 120, Tables A-3 and A-4

[11] http://www.mms.gov/offshore/AlternativeEnergy/PDFs/FEIS/Section5.0EnvironmentalandSocioeconomicConsequences.pdf, Page 5-24

[12] http://www.nccoastalmanagement.net/Archives/Offshore/Big%20Map.htm

[13] http://www.mms.gov/offshore/AlternativeEnergy/PDFs/FEIS/Section2.0DescriptionofProposedAction.pdf

[14] http://www.gomr.mms.gov/homepg/regulate/environ/nepa/MMS2005-064.pdf, page 7

[15] http://www.mms.gov/offshore/AlternativeEnergy/PDFs/FEIS/Appendix%20A%20-%20FiguresMapsTables/Fig2.1.1-1PropWTG.pdf

[16] http://www.mms.gov/offshore/AlternativeEnergy/PDFs/FEIS/Appendix%20A%20-%20FiguresMapsTables/Fig5.3.3-1DaytimeSimulation.pdf

[17]1.2 surface acres (page 7 of EIS for Independence Hub), 5053 subsea/seafloor acres (latter based on MMS high end for Independence Hub sea bottom impact of between 304 and 5,053 acres — high end estimate based on use of catenary mooring lines – p. 67 of EIS). EIS at: http://www.gomr.mms.gov/homepg/regulate/environ/nepa/MMS2005-064.pdf

[18] Based on 59 sites of 25 square miles each.

[19] http://www.gomr.mms.gov/homepg/regulate/environ/nepa/MMS2005-064.pdf – Pages 119 and 120, Tables A-3 and A-4

[20] http://www.mms.gov/offshore/AlternativeEnergy/PDFs/FEIS/Section5.0EnvironmentalandSocioeconomicConsequences.pdf, Page 5-24


View Comments
  • Falstaff

    Yes of course the US will benefit from more drilling, the Manteo project included. However, this either-or comparison between wind turbines and gas rigs is ridiculous and amateurish:

    1. The Manteo gas production figure used, 320 trillion BTU, is _primary_ energy, i.e. what we have when it comes out of the ground before the gas goes to a power plant. The Cape Wind figure is secondary energy, i.e. it will directly produce electricity. Yes gas primary energy can be used directly for heating, but it is nonsense to compare the two as is. For conversion to electricity 70-60% of the energy is lost. Perhaps rejected energy can be used for heat in combined cycle operations, but then we’re back to heating and again not comparable.

    2. As the authors note above Manteo is a _prospect_, as is all oil and gas drilling. It is indeed more than likely that it will produce 320 trillion BTU per day at some point. It also may produce much less, with a non-zero risk it will be a dry hole. Furthermore, the production will eventually decline. The colossal Hibernia rig for example off Newfoundland reached its peak output after six years and has been declining for the last four, down now almost 30% from its peak [1]. By contrast, we know for a fact the Nantucket Sound winds will blow so much per year not only on the day the project is successfully completed, but also six, sixty, or even six hundred years from now – for as long as the turbine structures are maintained.

    Wind power has some well know problems including variability, high capital cost for off shore production, and large land or sea areas requirements. These problems are not reduced, nor enhanced, by making nonsensical comparisons to gas and oil drilling.

    [1] http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2245014620071022

  • Falstaff

    Yes of course the US will benefit from more drilling, the Manteo project included. However, this either-or comparison between wind turbines and gas rigs is ridiculous and amateurish:

    1. The Manteo gas production figure used, 320 trillion BTU, is _primary_ energy, i.e. what we have when it comes out of the ground before the gas goes to a power plant. The Cape Wind figure is secondary energy, i.e. it will directly produce electricity. Yes gas primary energy can be used directly for heating, but it is nonsense to compare the two as is. For conversion to electricity 70-60% of the energy is lost. Perhaps rejected energy can be used for heat in combined cycle operations, but then we’re back to heating and again not comparable.

    2. As the authors note above Manteo is a _prospect_, as is all oil and gas drilling. It is indeed more than likely that it will produce 320 trillion BTU per day at some point. It also may produce much less, with a non-zero risk it will be a dry hole. Furthermore, the production will eventually decline. The colossal Hibernia rig for example off Newfoundland reached its peak output after six years and has been declining for the last four, down now almost 30% from its peak [1]. By contrast, we know for a fact the Nantucket Sound winds will blow so much per year not only on the day the project is successfully completed, but also six, sixty, or even six hundred years from now – for as long as the turbine structures are maintained.

    Wind power has some well know problems including variability, high capital cost for off shore production, and large land or sea areas requirements. These problems are not reduced, nor enhanced, by making nonsensical comparisons to gas and oil drilling.

    [1] http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2245014620071022

  • admin

    Our brief educational video was designed to inform the public of the scale of the challenges presented by offshore wind electricity generation compared to conventional energy sources. We felt the need to do so because of our belief that leaders are misleading the public about these challenges and the actual prospects for wind [1].

    We chose to use btu comparisons despite the primary/secondary energy uses because we could not determine the ultimate use of the electricity proposed to be generated, any more than we could determine whether the natural gas would be used in a conventional turbine or a more efficient combined cycle or other unit. For example, if used in resistance heating, the efficiency of the ultimate electricity generated would be reduced significantly.

    You are correct that any gas field will suffer decline rates, as the Hibernia oil platform and every other oil field eventually does. However, the life expectancy of wind turbines is expected to be 20 years [2], and many gas fields produce far beyond that. If the ancient Atlantic reef from which Manteo would produce is as prolific as geologists believe, we have significantly understated its referenced reserves, which are 2.5 times larger than those that will supply Independence Hub, the model used for our video. If anything, we understated the resource most expect to be found, and possible production rates.

    IER has done exhaustive research on the relative costs of energy produced from various sources, using EIA and other data [3]. Offshore wind is one of the most expensive options available to Americans. If the government is going to induce, coerce and compel consumers to pay for and purchase this energy source, it is IER’s position that they should know the relative size of the endeavor.

    [1] http://www.factcheck.org/2009/04/hot-air-on-wind-energy/
    [2] http://library.witpress.com/pages/PaperInfo.asp?PaperID=17822
    [3] http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/2009/05/12/levelized-cost-of-new-generating-technologies/

  • admin

    Our brief educational video was designed to inform the public of the scale of the challenges presented by offshore wind electricity generation compared to conventional energy sources. We felt the need to do so because of our belief that leaders are misleading the public about these challenges and the actual prospects for wind [1].

    We chose to use btu comparisons despite the primary/secondary energy uses because we could not determine the ultimate use of the electricity proposed to be generated, any more than we could determine whether the natural gas would be used in a conventional turbine or a more efficient combined cycle or other unit. For example, if used in resistance heating, the efficiency of the ultimate electricity generated would be reduced significantly.

    You are correct that any gas field will suffer decline rates, as the Hibernia oil platform and every other oil field eventually does. However, the life expectancy of wind turbines is expected to be 20 years [2], and many gas fields produce far beyond that. If the ancient Atlantic reef from which Manteo would produce is as prolific as geologists believe, we have significantly understated its referenced reserves, which are 2.5 times larger than those that will supply Independence Hub, the model used for our video. If anything, we understated the resource most expect to be found, and possible production rates.

    IER has done exhaustive research on the relative costs of energy produced from various sources, using EIA and other data [3]. Offshore wind is one of the most expensive options available to Americans. If the government is going to induce, coerce and compel consumers to pay for and purchase this energy source, it is IER’s position that they should know the relative size of the endeavor.

    [1] http://www.factcheck.org/2009/04/hot-air-on-wind-energy/
    [2] http://library.witpress.com/pages/PaperInfo.asp?PaperID=17822
    [3] http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/2009/05/12/levelized-cost-of-new-generating-technologies/

  • Buck

    That Offshore WindPower is really costly! Why doesn’t the government ever mention that at their press conferences? Isn’t it against the law for the government to deliberately lie to the citizens who pay the salaries of these characters?

  • Buck

    That Offshore WindPower is really costly! Why doesn’t the government ever mention that at their press conferences? Isn’t it against the law for the government to deliberately lie to the citizens who pay the salaries of these characters?

  • Exasperated

    Ontario Hydro in Canada has been aquiring 20 year leases from farmers to erect wind turbines throughout the province, especially in Southwest Ontario. They have overestimated the resultant generated power and are actually generating at only 30% efficiency. Ontario Hydro continues to erect these turbines and are now attempting to erect a considerable number in Lake Erie.

    The locals are up in arms but the Canadian government doesn’t listen as well as the U.S. politicians. They bank on the national apathy of Canadians. Farmers are now stuck with the turbines on their land at the end of the leases when Ontario Hydro walks away. This comes from an insider in Ontario Hydro. Nothing will change unless someone’s “Uncle Earl” quits lining his pockets conducting business with SIEMENS. The more things change….the more…

    Exasperated in Ontario.

  • Exasperated

    Ontario Hydro in Canada has been aquiring 20 year leases from farmers to erect wind turbines throughout the province, especially in Southwest Ontario. They have overestimated the resultant generated power and are actually generating at only 30% efficiency. Ontario Hydro continues to erect these turbines and are now attempting to erect a considerable number in Lake Erie.

    The locals are up in arms but the Canadian government doesn’t listen as well as the U.S. politicians. They bank on the national apathy of Canadians. Farmers are now stuck with the turbines on their land at the end of the leases when Ontario Hydro walks away. This comes from an insider in Ontario Hydro. Nothing will change unless someone’s “Uncle Earl” quits lining his pockets conducting business with SIEMENS. The more things change….the more…

    Exasperated in Ontario.

  • John Capresecco

    Why do we need wind platforms? Washington has enough wind to supply the entire universe for all of eternity!

  • John Capresecco

    Why do we need wind platforms? Washington has enough wind to supply the entire universe for all of eternity!

  • http://www.cleanpowernow.org Barbara Hill

    You fail to take into account the amount of emissions that occurs from the entire life cycle of using natural gas including the drilling, transportation, the building of plants as well as the CO2 released when burned. Why does the fossil fuel industry so fear the offshore wind industry? The ocean is a big place and room for us all. Why don’t you take on King Coal with your creative use of video and facts? There would be some honor in that fight but not this one.

  • http://www.cleanpowernow.org Barbara Hill

    You fail to take into account the amount of emissions that occurs from the entire life cycle of using natural gas including the drilling, transportation, the building of plants as well as the CO2 released when burned. Why does the fossil fuel industry so fear the offshore wind industry? The ocean is a big place and room for us all. Why don’t you take on King Coal with your creative use of video and facts? There would be some honor in that fight but not this one.

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