How Much Wind And Solar Can Norway’s Reservoirs Balance?

The Skaggerak subsea power cable connects Norway with Denmark. The NorNed cable connects Norway with the Netherlands. By 2019 the Nordlink cable will connect Norway with Germany and by 2021 the NSN cable will connect Norway with the UK. And now Scotland wants to connect with Norway via the NorthConnect link:

Figure 1: Existing, in progress and planned interconnectors with Norway

Why are these countries so anxious to connect to Norway? Because Norway’s hydro reservoirs are regarded as a large-scale storage battery that can be used to smooth out large quantities of intermittent renewables generation. The 2013 Joint Norwegian-German Declaration says as much:

Thanks to its natural endowments and previous investments, Norway possesses 50% of Europe’s entire power storage capacities. Therefore, Norway is in a position to provide large-scale, cost-effective, and emission-free indirect storage to balance wind and solar generation in other countries ….. In times of high wind or solar production, Norway can import cheap electricity from abroad, thereby saving water in its reservoirs. In times of low wind production, Norway can use the stored water to export power at higher prices. In this way, excess wind or solar production can be stored and used later.

On the face of it this looks like a win-win proposition. Germany and its renewables-heavy, storage-challenged neighbors get to store the intermittent wind and solar power they couldn’t otherwise use in Norwegian reservoirs and Norway makes money selling it back to them. But how is it going to work out in practice? Here we look into this question.

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Blowout week 83

With all the recent focus on Saudi Arabia, OPEC and oil it’s easy to forget that the Middle East is also distinguished by its climate, which is very hot in summer. So in this week’s Blowout we feature the ongoing Middle Eastern heat wave, which is breaking all regional records since ….. since, well, 2003:

Telegraph:  Scorching ‘heat dome’ over Middle East sees temperatures soar to 165F in Iran

Iran is buckling under the pressure of a massive heatwave passing across the Middle East, with temperatures soaring to nearly 70C. Scorching heat levels of 50C have already paralysed nearby Iraq, where officials were forced to call a four day public holiday because it was too hot to work. But the word “hot” has taken on an entirely new meaning in Iran’s city of Bandar Mahshahr, where it was claimed that the city’s heat index, or “feels-like temperature”, was among the highest ever recorded. The heat index was recorded by a group of astonished weather experts who predict the country could be enduring some of the hottest urban temperatures ever endured by mankind. ‘That was one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world,’ said AccuWeather meteorologist Anthony Saglia. It is just a few degrees lower than the highest ever recorded heat index, which was 178F (81C) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on July 8, 2003.

The usual potpourri of news from around the world below the fold, including layoffs at Shell and Centrica, BP still paying for Deepwater Horizon, an Australian coal mine sells for $1, Fukushima executives charged, possible lawsuits over green subsidies in UK, nuclear expansion in China, Iran to peddle oil projects, politics and climate change in the US, wind power in Europe and five amazing environmental scientists. And immediately following, two conflicting stories that highlight the difficulties of making sense of oil production statistics that are constantly being revised.
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Oil Production Vital Statistics July 2015

The US oil directed rig count was up 31 for the month of July and WTI is down about $11 for the month at time of writing. Global total liquids production was up 540,000 bpd in June. The production momentum built in recent years is proving very difficult to switch off. Amongst other things, an inventory of over a thousand wells drilled but uncompleted in the US shale oil patch will continue to be switched on for several months to come. The IEA sees global oil stocks rising at 3.3 Mbpd in 2Q 2015, that is close to 100 Mbbls per month.

  • World total liquids production up 540,000 bpd to 96.64 Mbpd. The recent trend remains sharply upwards.
  • OPEC production up 340,000 bpd to 31.71 mbpd (C+C)
  • N America production up 50,000 bpd to 19.66 Mbpd.
  • Russia and FSU down 60,000 bpd to 13.98 Mbpd
  • Europe up 140,000 bpd to 3.26 Mbpd (compared with June 2014)
  • Asia up 110,000 bpd to 8.20 Mbpd.
  • Middle East rig count is stable. The international oil rig count continues to decline while the US oil rig count is rising slowly.

Figure 1 The oil directed US rig count has turned a corner and has begun to rise slowly for the time being. The low point was 628 on 26th June and the latest was 659 on 24th July, up 31 for the month. This is bearish for the oil price and the survival of US shale oil companies. The gas directed rig count has been stable at 220±10 since the end of March (4 months).

The June 2015 Vital Statistics are here. EIA oil price and Baker Hughes rig count charts are updated to end July 2015, the remaining oil production charts are updated to June 2015 using the IEA OMR data.

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Decarbonizing UK Electricity Generation – Five Options That Will Work

At the end of my recent post on the National Grid’s energy future scenarios I mentioned that I was working on a plan for decarbonizing the UK electricity sector that works in practice and which gets the UK least some way down the road towards an increasingly elusive green energy future. The work is now complete, and here I present five future energy options that employ nuclear, gas and variable amounts of wind to achieve large reductions in CO2 emissions while at the same time meeting UK demand in a typical winter month.

Assumptions:

The options are designed to meet hourly electricity demand in February 20XX, where XX is an unspecified year in the future. Basic assumptions are:

  • Demand in February 20XX is the same as it was in February 2013. (The February 2013 generation data are from Gridwatch.)
  • Wind conditions in February 20XX are the same as they were in February 2013, allowing hourly wind generation in February 20XX to be estimated by factoring February 2013 wind generation.
  • Hydro and “other” generation is the same as it was in February 2013.
  • 20GW of the 28GW of the nuclear capacity currently in operation, planned or being considered will be on line in 20XX. Operating at a capacity factor of 90% this delivers a constant 18GW of baseload power.
  • Gas-fired capacity remains substantially the same as it is now.
  • All existing coal-fired capacity is decommissioned.
  • In February 20XX there will be no significant amount of electricity available from imports, CCS, biomass, biogas or solar and no significant amount of energy storage capacity.

Generation mixes for the five options are quantified as follows:

  • Nuclear plus hydro/other generation is the same for all options.
  • Wind generation is progressively increased.
  • Wind generation is added to nuclear plus hydro/other generation. If the sum exceeds hourly demand the surplus wind generation is curtailed. Shortfalls are filled with load-following gas and “peaking” generation.

Installed wind capacity increases from 10GW in Option 1 to 20GW in Option 2, to 50GW in Option 3, to 100GW in Option 4 and to 200GW in Option 5 assuming a capacity factor of 20%. Increasing wind capacity does not lower the requirement for gas capacity because peak load for gas is about the same in all five options.

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US Shale Oil: drilling productivity and decline rates

Summary

  • The EIA drilling productivity report has been used to estimate decline rates in the Bakken, Eagle Ford and Permian light tight oil (LTO or shale) plays (Figure 1). The objective is to estimate how far production will fall in these plays in light of the sharp decline in US rig count. The rationale is to calculate the production level at which new oil production capacity added will cancel the declines and equilibrium is reached.
  • The shale drilling industry is highly dynamic. While rig count has fallen by about 60% in the 3 plays since end 2014 this is in part offset by rig productivity that has more than doubled in recent years. The rig count decline has more recently stabilised. Improved productivity should help profitability, but this is cancelled by the collapse in oil price.
  • The estimated recent annual decline rates are 47% for the Bakken, 55% for the Eagle Ford and 22% for the Permian. These declines are not constant. Since year one declines are often of the order 70% and the smaller number of wells now being drilled means that the number of fast declining year one wells in the production pool is falling. Play decline rates are therefore also falling with time.
  • With these declines and current rig count and productivity levels, production in the Bakken will stabilise at around 870,000 bpd, down 330,000 bpd on current levels. Production in the Eagle Ford will stabilise at around 1,140,000 bpd, down 560,000 on current levels. The lower decline in the Permian means that production there will continue to rise. It is estimated that the net effect will be an LTO production decline of the order 830,000 bpd spread over several months.
  • It is questionable whether a  decline in LTO production on this scale will be sufficient to bolster the flagging oil price and may, for example, be offset by production gains in Iran and elsewhere. Since much of the global oil industry cannot survive at current price levels a second and more brutal round of cuts to OECD companies is to be expected. This may in part take the form of company insolvencies that are just getting underway in the US shale industry. Ultimately, a balance between global oil supply and demand must be restored and, without a production cut by OPEC, this must then occur within the non-OPEC companies and countries.

Figure 1 The main shale oil and gas plays of the USA [1]

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Blowout week 82

This week’s Blowout features the proposed North Sea Supergrid, which when completed will allow wind power to be stored in Norwegian fjords and provide jobs to Scotland whenever the wind blows in the North Sea:

Herald Scotland: EU to pledge billions for North Sea supergrid

(Image credit Nature)

A “supergrid” across the North Sea that could bring thousands of jobs to Scotland appeared a step closer last week after the EU energy commissioner said that European funds will be used to pump-prime the project. Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete has told the Scottish Tory MEP Ian Duncan, a member of the European Parliament’s energy committee, that the building of the grid – which would be the world’s largest sub-sea electricity system – is now a “top priority” for the European Commission and that “it was now for member states and devolved administrations to work with the EU to make the grid a reality”. Cañete said that the seed funding would come from Brussels’ recently established €315 billion (£220bn) Investment Plan for Europe, to which the UK last week pledged £6bn. The bulk of the finance for the third of a trillion euro project is, however, required to come from the private sector. As Scotland’s renewable electricity generation industry continues to grow the need to tackle the intermittency of production also grows and could lead to energy being wasted unless a commercially viable storage means can be found. A North Sea grid would allow green energy produced in Scotland to be stored in Scandinavian pump storage hydro schemes until demand peaked elsewhere in Europe.

Stories below the fold on the second US oil boom, the Iran nuclear deal, shale oil, Hinkley on track, UAE cans fuel subsidies, UK cans the “Green Deal”, France to roll back nuclear, a strong El Niño predicted, Rudd on left wing politicians, Pennsylvania to distribute potassium iodide pills, the Bern model discredited and an expedition to study melting Arctic ice postponed because of too much ice.

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A Quick Look at the National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios

National Grid has just published its 2015 Future Energy Scenarios report, which gives  four different NatGrid visions of what the UK energy mix might look like in 2035/36. The scenarios are documented in a long report which is heavy on projections and assumptions and light on engineering – in fact I think it would be true to say that there isn’t any. The level of detail (which goes down to “number of appliances by type”, “take-up of cavity wall insulation” and “shorter distance EV charging profile”) also defies analysis in any reasonable time frame. So here I document the results of a quick-and-dirty review conducted by subjecting Gone Green – the most aggressive of NatGrid’s scenarios – to the “February 2013 treatment”. Does NatGrid’s February 2015/36 generation mix fill February 2035/36 electricity demand if weather conditions in that month are the same as they were in February 2013? As might be expected it doesn’t:

Figure 1: National Grid “Gone Green” scenario for February 2035/36, generation deficits factored from February 2013 hourly National Grid data.

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Molten Salt Fast Reactor Technology – An Overview

With a few exceptions [1], environmental lobbies have tended to oppose nuclear power with a vengeance similar to their opposition to coal and natural gas. In certain quarters [2] this has changed with the promise of abundant, cheap and safe electricity that may be produced using thorium (Th) fuelled molten salt reactors. This guest post by French physicist Hubert Flocard places the status of molten salt reactor technology within the historical context of how the nuclear industry has evolved and examines some of the key challenges facing the development and deployment of this magical and elusive energy source. We have both written the extended summary below based on Hubert’s article that follows on after the summary. Hubert’s impressive bio is at the end of the post.

[1] James Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia
[2] Baroness Worthington, Why Thorium Nuclear Power Shouldn’t be Written Off

Extended Summary

The world nuclear industry currently runs on Generation II and Generation III reactor technology. The presently active reactors (whether moderated by pressurised water – PWR – or boiling water – BWR) are said to belong to the GII generation while more modern versions such as the EPR or the AP1000 correspond to GIII. At the beginning of the twenty first century a forum was convened to establish an international collaboration to prepare the next generation of reactor technology (GIV). A number of design options were on the table (see below) among them molten salt reactors.

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Blowout week 81

This week’s blowout features the alarming decrease in the UK’s reserve margin over the last four years. Don’t forget to put candles on your shopping list:

BBC:  Electricity blackouts risk up, says National Grid

The risk of blackouts this winter has increased compared with a year ago, according to National Grid. It says the closure of some power stations will have left spare capacity on the system at just 1.2% – the worst for a decade. The grid has secured extra supplies by paying £36m to have several plants on standby and by asking some industries to switch off power. However, it also means overall spare capacity is now expected to be about 5%. “It’s clear that electricity margins for that coldest, darkest half hour of winter are currently tighter than they have been, due to power stations closures”, said Cordi O’Hara, National Grid’s director of market operations. To ensure the lights stay on, for the second year running, National Grid will pay firms like Centrica and SSE to keep power plants in reserve. It is also paying large energy users, such as Tata Steel, to switch off. A total of 2.56GW of power has been secured, which National Grid said would increase overall margins to 5.1%.

Stories below the fold on the Iran Nuclear deal, Mexico’s lease sale, gas overtakes coal in the US, the nuclear iron curtain, Tories to junk more renewables subsidies, a wind generation record in Denmark, no progress towards Paris, wind, solar, snow & coal in Australia, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, what global warming will do to your loaf of bread and how pot growers are sabotaging Colorado’s energy targets.
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Climate Change and Carbon Emissions – The Case for Business-As-Usual

At the end of last year in what if the world can’t cut its carbon emissions I presented the graph reproduced below, which summarized the then-current position on the world’s attempts to cut its carbon emissions to the levels necessary to keep global warming below the 2 degrees C “dangerous interference” threshold. The world was nowhere close to meeting its target:

Figure 1: Status of efforts to cut global carbon emissions as of December 2014

The lack of progress reflected the inability of the nations of the world to agree on legally-binding reductions large enough to have a measurable impact on global emissions, which had been a recurring problem since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol exempted the developing countries from emissions cuts and placed the entire burden on the developed countries. So in advance of the make-or-break climate conference in Paris this December a new approach is being tried. Instead of committing to legally-binding targets countries are being invited to submit plans that set out what they think they might be able to achieve in the way of emissions cuts by the year 2030 while being under no compulsion to achieve them, with the hope being that this would encourage countries to submit ambitious plans that would at least get the Paris negotiations off to a good start even if they didn’t quite bring the red line down to match the blue line (Figure 1). And so far 36 countries accounting for 64% of 2014 global emissions have submitted quantifiable Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), and here I estimate how these and other yet-to-be-submitted INDCs might change the picture.

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“The bottom of the market may still be ahead”

I have become an avid reader of the International Energy Agency Oil Market Report. A”free” synopsis is published mid month with the full report and data tables made public at the end of the month. Here are the bullets from the report summary published on 10th July:

  • Crude oil prices fell to their lowest in nearly three months in early July, pressured by ever rising supply while financial turmoil in Greece and China unsettled world markets. At the time of writing, Brent was around $59/bbl and US WTI at $53.10/bbl.
  • Global oil demand growth is forecast to slow to 1.2 mb/d in 2016, from an average 1.4 mb/d this year, with strong consumption expected in non-OECD Asia. World oil demand growth appears to have peaked in 1Q15 at 1.8 mb/d and will continue to ease throughout the rest of this year and into next as temporary support fades.
  • Global oil supply surged by 550 kb/d in June, on higher output from OPEC and non-OPEC. At 96.6 mb/d, world oil production gained an impressive 3.1 mb/d on 2014, of which OPEC crude and NGLs accounted for 60%. Non-OPEC supply growth is expected to grind to a halt in 2016, as lower oil prices and spending cuts take a toll.

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Blowout week 80

This week’s Blowout features the UK summer budget, which has not been well received by the renewable energy industry:

The Conversation:  Whatever happened to the greenest ever Conservative Party?

(Image credit: Tidal Power)

In a year when the all-important UN climate change summit will take place in Paris and the UN’s sustainable development goals will be finalised, one would have thought the government of one of the world’s most powerful nations might seize the moment to put forward progressive environmental policies. Unfortunately the summer budget introduced by UK chancellor, George Osborne, has failed to do just that. But the new, fully Conservative, government has signalled a rollback of green policies. In his summer budget, Osborne promised continued tax breaks and subsidies for North Sea oil and gas – which, understandably, delights the industry. Osborne’s budget continued the onslaught on renewable energy, as he announced the removal of the climate change levy (CCL) exemption for renewables, which might cost the green energy industry up to £1 billion by 2020/21. This comes after the Queen’s Speech announcement to end subsidies for onshore wind projects. Not to forget the chancellor’s new commitment to road building, financed by a new system of green car taxes. New roads will not help reduce the significant share of the UK’s private transport system in carbon emissions and will increase the pressure on UK cities’ air quality, which is among the worst in Europe. The government has also ditched its pledge to ensure all new homes were zero carbon.

More below the fold on the UK budget fallout, plus the increasing US rig count, decreasing US shale oil production costs, Iran plans to double oil exports, Rosatom in bed with South Africa, Greece doing pipeline deal with Russia, Gazprom not paying its bills, 2,100 new coal plants planned worldwide, UK’s last underground coal mine closes, New England states having difficulty meeting emissions targets, Prince Charles sounds off again, Bill Gates trashes renewables, a new all-electric truck from BMW, another CCS project down, 20ft of sea level rise swallowing America and the end of rare earth mining in the US.

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Greek Tragedy

After several years, several months, several weeks and several days of crisis, it looks like things are about to come to a head for Greece and its banks. It becomes easier to understand exactly what GREXIT may mean for the Greek people. What happens when the banks and the government completely run out of money?

Greece has some indigenous coal production (lignite) but no oil or gas to speak of which means that all oil and gas are imported (Figure 1). This is linked to a structural trade deficit that contributes to the country’s dependency on debt. If Greece runs out of Euros, will it be able to buy oil and gas on the international markets? Greece held 90 days of oil stocks in 2010 [2]. Once that is gone then the tourist industry may collapse?

Figure 1 The chart shows the difference between oil, gas and coal production and consumption figures providing a proxy for imports as reported by BP 2015 [1].

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The DECC Pathways Calculator – A False Prophet

In a comment on the recent power-to-methane post I made the following observation:

It would be an interesting exercise to take a high-renewables-penetration DECC scenario that meets UK emissions targets, convert it to hourly generation by factoring actual Gridwatch generation and compare it to demand for, say, 2013 or 2014. I’d be willing to bet the UK would be freezing in the dark for much of the time during the winter.

Well, the interesting exercise is now complete and this post documents the results. They are based on a DECC Pathways Calculator scenario that meets the UK’s 80%-by-2050 emissions reduction target and uses the Centre for Alternative Technology’s (CAT) 100% renewables generation mix listed in the power-to-methane post. And to eliminate any suspense as to the outcome Figure 1 previews what we get when we compare February 2050 generation for this scenario with February 2050 demand, with both projected using factored February 2013 data from Gridwatch and other sources:

Figure 1: Generation deficits using DECC 80%-emissions-reduction-by-2050 and CAT 100% renewables generation mix scenario, February 2050 simulated hourly data.

I would have won my bet.
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Blowout Week 79

After interminable delays:

Reuters: Solar Impulse 2 finally makes it to Hawaii:

A Swiss man attempting to circumnavigate the globe with an aircraft powered only by the sun’s energy landed in Hawaii on Friday, after a record-breaking five-day nonstop solo flight across the Pacific Ocean from Japan. The Solar Impulse 2 is the first aircraft to fly day and night without any fuel. Pilot Andre Borschberg’s 120-hour voyage shattered the 76-hour record for nonstop flight by late American adventurer Steve Fossett in 2006 on the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer. Borschberg, who took off from Nagoya, Japan, on Monday on the seventh leg of the journey, landed at 5:55 a.m.(1155 EDT) on Friday in Kalaeloa after five days and nights. The aircraft, piloted alternatively by Swiss explorers Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, set off on its 22,000-mile (35,000-km) journey around the world from Abu Dhabi on March 9. The plane was created in order to encourage governments to replace pollutants with clean technology. “Our airplane has not been built to carry passengers but to convey a message,” says Piccard.

The usual eclectic assortment below the fold, including record OPEC production, Russia cuts off gas to Ukraine again, electricity bills to rise in California, Greenpeace sues Hinkley, Mexico auctions oilfields, EPA asked to regulate CO2 as a toxic substance, Japan checks out Hebrides renewables, Rosatom dominating world nuclear market, climate talks moving at a snail’s pace, robots at Fukushima, Scots fed up with wind farms, and dwarf cows, a new weapon in the fight against global warming:
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Oil Price Crash of 2014 / 15 Update

Towards the end of last year I had a couple of posts, the first explaining the oil price crash of 2014 in terms of a simple supply – demand model and the second using this model to anticipate where the oil price may head in 2015 and 2016. In light of the supply, demand and price action of the last six months both of these posts now need to be updated and revised.

The 2014 Oil Price Crash Explained
Oil Price Scenarios for 2015 and 2016

In my Price Scenarios post I forecast a Brent price of $56.50 for December 2015 and with Brent spot currently around $60 this is looking quite good. So far this is panning out in the right direction but for the wrong reasons which does not count as being correct in my book.

Figure 1

The raw oil price and production monthly data that lies behind the model can be divided into 7 legs. 1) Jan 2002 to April 2004 oil supply was elastic allowing demand to grow with little impact on price……

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Geothermal Energy in Perspective

Geothermal is presently a minor player in the field of renewable energy and for the reasons discussed here is likely to remain one, but Energy Matters has never featured it before and it deserves its fifteen minutes of fame. Besides, I worked in geothermal a number of years ago and haven’t revisited it since, so it’s time I updated myself on what’s been going on.

I start with a bit of personal memorabilia. Below is an aerial view of the Hudson Ranch 1 plant in the Salton Sea geothermal field, California, a three-stage flash plant with an installed capacity of 49.9MW that was commissioned in 2012. I show it because I bought the land the plant sits on for my then employer Kennecott Copper Corporation in 1980, knowing that a high-temperature geothermal resource was present there. What I didn’t figure on is that it would take 32 years to put it into production.

Figure 1: Hudson Ranch 1 plant, Salton Sea geothermal field, California (image credit Leidos)

But such is geothermal.
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Oil Production Vital Statistics July 2015 – equilibrium reached

During May and June the oil price has stabilised and both WTI and Brent spot prices have converged on $60 / bbl; the US oil rig count is still falling, but slowly; oil production from all regions is stable hence global total liquids production is trending sideways on the back of recent sharp rises. It appears that oil market equilibrium has been reached. Past experience tells us that this is unlikely to last long.

  • The IEA have once again revised US production upwards by around 300,000 bpd, backdated to March and this clouds recent movements in the global and US data.
  • World total liquids production down 150,000 bpd to 95.96 Mbpd. The recent trend remains sharply upwards.
  • OPEC production up 50,000 bpd to 31.33 mbpd (C+C)
  • N America production down 320,000 bpd to 19.48 Mbpd after upwards revisions of about 300,000 bpd in the USA
  • Russia and FSU down 30,000 bpd to 14.04 mbpd
  • Europe up 140,000 bpd to 3.32 Mbpd (compared with May 2014)
  • Asia down 50,000 bpd to 7.95 Mbpd (after revisions).
  • Saudi Arabia oil rig count was sharply lower, down 10 in May. The international oil rig count continues to decline while the US oil rig count has stabilised at around 628 units.

Figure 1 Daily Brent and WTI spot prices from the EIA, updated to 22 June 2015. The oil price has fallen asleep in June as both Brent and WTI have converged on $60, the spread has once again closed.

This is the July 2015 edition of Oil Production Vital Statistics. The June 2015 Vital Statistics is here. EIA oil price and Baker Hughes rig count charts are updated to end June 2015, the remaining oil production charts are updated to May 2015 using the IEA OMR data.

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Blowout Week 78

This week’s Blowout features an intriguing new power generation concept – the offshore floating nuclear plant, which in the example shown below would generate five times as much electricity as the Swansea Bay tidal lagoons while taking up only 0.01% as much sea room:

ECN Magazine:  The floating nuclear power plant

A novel nuclear power plant that will float eight or more miles out to sea promises to be safer, cheaper, and easier to deploy than today’s land-based plants. In a concept developed by MIT researchers, the floating plant combines two well-established technologies — a nuclear reactor and a deep-sea oil platform. It is built and decommissioned in a shipyard, saving time and money at both ends of its life. Once deployed, it is situated in relatively deep water well away from coastal populations, linked to land only by an underwater power transmission line. At the specified depth, the seawater protects the plant from earthquakes and tsunamis and can serve as an infinite source of cooling water in case of emergency — no pumping needed. An analysis of potential markets has identified many sites worldwide with physical and economic conditions suitable for deployment of a floating plant.

The proposed Offshore Floating Nuclear Plant structure is about 45 meters in diameter, and the plant will generate 300 megawatts of electricity. An alternative design for a 1,100 MW plant calls for a structure about 75 meters in diameter. In both cases, the structures include living quarters and helipads for transporting personnel, similar to offshore oil drilling platforms.

Below the fold: OPEC market share at 12-year low, Baker Hughes rig count finally increases, electricity price riots in Armenia, Austria to file Hinkley suit next Monday, Indiana defies the EPA, how the wind is always blowing somewhere in Europe, Australia slashes its renewables target, a Dutch court orders the Netherlands government to cut emissions, Russia eyeing Balkans gas pipelines, the SNP feels betrayed, Lancashire rejects Cuadrilla’s fracking application and how civilization as we know it could end as soon as 2040.

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Renewable Energy Storage and Power-To-Methane

In recent posts here, here and here Euan Mearns and I have published estimates of the amount of storage needed to integrate intermittent renewable energy with the UK grid in meaningful quantities. All of them point to the same conclusions:

1. The volume of storage needed to convert intermittent renewable energy into dispatchable energy is very large, with estimates running in the 1 to 5 terawatt-hour range even at modest levels of renewables penetration. (Note that these estimates are confirmed by an independent estimate from David Mackay detailed in this comment.)

2. Pumped hydro is the only large-scale, commercially-proven technology that has the potential to handle such storage volumes, but there’s no realistic prospect that the UK could add anything like this much new pumped hydro (total UK pumped hydro storage capacity is presently only 0.03TWh).

In short, the UK will have very considerable difficulty integrating large amounts of intermittent renewable energy into the grid if a solution to the storage problem can’t be found.

And most other countries are in the same position.

Yet there are studies which claim to have developed scenarios that allow the UK and other countries to be powered largely or entirely by renewable energy by or before the middle of the century. The authors of these studies are aware that an energy storage problem exists, so clearly they believe they have found a solution to it. What might it be? To find out we will briefly review the results of two such studies, one for France and the other for the UK:

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