BY ELISE KALFAYAN
Tapping into U.S. reserves of shale gas is criticized as environmentally risky, even though it offers potential for boosting U.S. energy production, creating jobs, and emitting fewer greenhouse gases than other hydrocarbon fuels. Glendale library patrons who want to learn more about shale gas extraction and its growing importance in the energy sector as a whole can check out The Energy Imperative, a new book on the shelves.
My family received a signed copy from the book’s co-author Leonard Kalfayan. A 1st/2nd generation Armenian-American, he grew up in La Canada, attended Crescenta Valley High School, and did school report research at the Montrose branch of the Glendale library. After graduating from Occidental College, he completed his masters in chemical engineering, and went on to develop several well extraction technique patents.
This is his third published book; the first two were written for professionals who design and operate oil wells.
When he presented The Energy Imperative, he told us this one was written for a wide audience. In fact, he and his co-authors (also experts in the field) made it their goal to publish a book for the public on the science, economics, politics, and logistics of this critical sector of the global economy. They also wanted present their case that domestic reserves of natural gas offer great benefits to the U.S.
I put the book on my reading table, and finally began reading it four months later. The book provides a very relevant guide to understanding resource exploration, drilling, and refining agreements around the world and around the country. (Just last week, a fascinating deal between Russia and Exxon to explore for oil in the Arctic continental shelf was announced, and it highlights business, political, and technological trends in the industry.)
Kalfayan and his co-authors pushed the book’s publication deadline ahead after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, so they could include an extensive critique of that disaster. Finalized in late 2010, it does not contain any analysis of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster and its literal fallout. Still, there is an extended discussion about nuclear power generation, as well as chapters on alternative energy, solar power, biofuels, and more.
Along with an overview of all major types of hydrocarbons and the reasons for their dominance as energy sources, and analyses of various alternative technologies, The Energy Imperative emphasizes the benefits of shale gas, and explains the extraction technique known as “fracking.” Controversy about the technique and its use in the northeast U.S. has been a front-page news topic through this entire year.
Here’s a bit more about the book, from the Sunroom Desk review published in May:
At a level any educated reader can understand, the book explains the organic properties of oil, coal, and gas; where deposits of each are around the world; the methods used to extract, transport and refine them; the political dynamics of energy resource ownership; and the current infeasibility of replacing hydrocarbons with alternative/renewable energy sources on a large scale…
The authors provide a condensed history of oil refining and a cogent list of current challenges, including declining U.S. capacity and the tremendous challenge of assuring ROI and finding qualified people to run facilities. With respect to gas refining, the authors list its many component products, describe the process with illustrations, and conclude:
The most favorable aspect of natural gas processing relative to oil refining is that the adverse effects of oil refining are largely non-existent in natural gas processing. Gas processing is of lesser complexity than oil refining. Gas processing facilities are also of substantially lower cost than new refineries, more environmentally ‘benign,’ and expansion of capacity and capability (including in the US) is thus more realistic, worldwide.
The chapter on Power Generation discusses how coal and natural gas are used by power plants, and the technical and physical challenges of wind, solar, and geothermal alternatives. The authors suggest that energy could be saved and efficiency improved by using High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) lines carrying electricity from new power plants located right next to coal mines.
Back to the Glendale library and family connections: I sent the online review to other relatives, and one wanted to read the book. Not wanting to request another free copy, and without realizing that a signed copy was on its way, I placed an order online. What could I do with an extra, unsigned copy? Donate it to the Glendale library, of course. In a note, I asked that the copy be placed at the Montrose branch, which the author visited frequently during his student days. The acquisitions librarian replied that it would be more appropriate for the main branch as books there have a longer shelf life and wider readership. There it sits. Asbarez readers who would like a great introduction to the energy sector today, and a better understanding of the shale gas boom, should check out The Energy Imperative.
Elise Kalfayan is a Glendale resident, a native Southern Californian, and a combined first/second generation Armenian-American. She has produced or edited print and online pieces on topics ranging from urban development to Armenian Church history. She is the publisher of a Glendale community news blog, and works as a contract writer, editor, and publishing consultant for clients including businesses, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and memoirists.