Why is there a perception that the UK faces an ongoing risk of electricity grid failures? At the end of May 2013 the UK had 416 power stations, counting wind farms and hydro dams, ranging in nameplate capacity from 1 to 3870 MW. The combined capacity in 2013, following large combustion plant closures, was 80,514 MW down from 92,044 MW in 2012 (Figure 1). With peak winter demand roughly 55,000 MW there still seems to be ample spare capacity to guarantee electricity supplies (Figure 1). Why then is there so much talk on the media, blogs and from the CEO of National Grid about pending blackouts in Britain? The answer is not what many may presume it to be.
Figure 1 During the 1960s to the 1980s Britain was largely dependent upon coal and nuclear power for electricity supplies. Natural gas (CCGT) was introduced in the early 1990s and expanded year on year until 2004. At the end of that decade a second phase of CCGT building got under way adding a further 9,274 MW of capacity, which with hindsight appears to be an extraordinary investment decision. The closure of 11,530 MW of large combustion plants has resulted in the decline of UK generating capacity. The expansion of wind got underway in the early 21st century. Wind capacity is not varied into the future. It can be expected to grow some, but not at the historic rate since companies are becoming shy of investing in Britain’s chaotic energy market. Data from DECC table dukes5_11.
Utilities: RWE posts first ever loss; more UK wind projects cancelled; Marchant – offshore wind too expensive
Shale: Berman sceptical; BP sticks shale ops into separate company; N Dakota getting rich
Ukraine: we have loads of gas in storage; Sochi Paralympics get under way with spectacular fireworks
India: adapts 2050 pathways calculator
Europe: This Is What the Utility Death Spiral Looks Like
The German mega-utility RWE provided another dismal reminder today of the painful transition European power companies are undergoing.
According to 2013 financial results, the utility lost more than $3.8 billion last year as it cycled down unprofitable fossil fuel plants due to sliding wholesale prices. The yearly loss is actually quite historic; it’s RWE’s first since 1949 when the German Republic was formed.
20 stories below the fold…
Ukraine: Russia occupies Crimea without firing a shot; Ukraine looking for alternative supplies of gas; Russia cuts oil exports to country
Utilities: €billion write downs on legacy infrastructure; reduced subsidies hit wind producers; EU interfering; CCS gets Green light at Peterhead
Climate: Volcanoes and fragrant pines are implicated
OPEC: Iraq and Libya continue slide towards the abyss
World: Ukraine crisis: Russia vows troops will stay
Russia has vowed its troops will remain in Ukraine to protect Russian interests and citizens until the political situation has been “normalised”.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was defending human rights against “ultra-nationalist threats”.
28 stories in this bumper issue of Blowout.
This post provides a perspective on Ukraine’s energy status and economy in 8 charts.
Figure 1 The Ukrainian economy is dependent upon imports of oil and gas from Russia. Ukraine gained independence from The Soviet Union in 1990 and since then energy consumption, production and imports have all fallen steadily (Figures 2 and 3).
This is a guest post by Roger Andrews. Roger is a British born, naturalised American mining consultant who is now semi-retired and lives on the West coast of Mexico where he spends some of his time sitting under a wavy palm tree blogging and drinking tequila.
In a December 2013 article in the Guardian Nigel Williams, head of electricity systems operations at the National Grid, was quoted as saying “I don’t see an upper limit to how much wind we can accommodate (on the grid)”. This was a curious statement for a grid operator to make because there clearly are limits as to how much intermittent wind power can be accommodated on a grid that continuously has to match supply to demand. But what are the limits for the UK National Grid? Here I will attempt to quantify them.
The approximate contributions to coastal flooding, SW England, early January 2014 are shown in Figure 1. Any contribution from sea level rise over the last 100 years is minuscule compared with the other factors.
Figure 1 Approximate contributions to coastal flooding, SW England, early January 2014. Eustatic sea level is that component of sea level rise that may be attributed to melting glaciers and warming oceans. Image from Poleshift.
UK Floods: UK and EU parliaments blamed
UK Energy: chaos because policies are founded on non-science
Climate Change: opinion in chaos because it is founded on non-science
World: Venezuela may be joining Libya and Iraq in chaos. Ukraine that lacks indigenous energy resources is joining in.
Everyone should read Booker’s assessment of flooding the Somerset Levels which I feel is close to the truth.
UK: Booker: Somerset floods – a very European disaster
The project put climate change centre-stage, developed “to help manage deep and prolonged flooding, which is likely to become more frequent with climate change”. With the catchphrase, “A future when it rains”, one of its objectives was to review “the feasibility of spreading floodwater across the Somerset moors”.
I had a brief exchange with commenter Tim on Bishophill earlier today. He was asking how the different perspectives of the photographs (1 and 2 below) might affect what we are looking at. It was a good question. I then began to look in more detail at the arrangement of buildings on the far bank and doubts entered my mind if this was the same bridge. With this image of the River Parret in Burrow Bridge, Somerset, set to become an iconic image for the floods and government complicity in bringing them about, it would be poor form if somehow the two photographs were of different bridges.
Figure 1 Image 1 dated to early 1960′s, image 2 is recent and image 3 very recent during current floods. Building B in images 1 and 3 looks the same, but in image 1 it appears to the right of the bridge and in image 3 it appears over the centre of the bridge. I realised this could likely be explained by parallax but could not figure out in my head how to align these views. So I had a quick look at Google Earth which provides the answer – below the fold. Original photo from Wattsupwiththat based on a comment originally posted on Bishophill.
Last week the Met Office issued their Final Briefing of the recent storms. The report is good in parts and down right ugly in others. The report says this:
As yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change [manmade] to the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding. This is in part due to the highly variable nature of UK weather and climate.
So the official line is that it is not possible to link the storms to manmade global warming and it is good to get that controversial point cleared up. There are two serious omissions from the whole report 1) heavy snow fall in Scotland is not mentioned once and 2) the role of flood management in causing flooding is not mentioned. And exceptional high tides that are discussed in the main report are omitted from the summary. Including these data in the synopsis drives thinking about these storms quite firmly away from manmade towards natural causes (and vice versa). The main manmade contribution is locally inept flood management.
This post is based around the report summary where each paragraph is dissected and compared with reality and the main report. The Met Office summary in blockquotes below, my commentary in normal text.
Figure 1 Map from the Met Office showing rainfall distribution in December 2013 and January 2014. Scotland was exceptionally wet in December which is mentioned only once. Parts of England were dry in December as was northern Scotland in January. These short time scale regional variations are normally put down to weather.
With the Somerset Levels still flooded and the Thames Valley drying out, it is time to try and consolidate the evidence for the underlying causes of these events that are a catastrophe for those affected.
4 factors underpin the recent floods. Anthropogenic global warming is not one of them.
- Flood management engineering
- Heavy sustained rainfall
- Natural climate variability
- Exceptional tides
Figure 1 Composite image of the River Parrett in Burrowbridge in the early 1960′s (top left) when dredging was carried out on a regular basis, a recent picture before the current flooding event showing the encroaching river banks (bottom left) and during the recent flooding. Caption and Photo from Wattsupwiththat based on a comment originally posted on Bishophill.
This week I have a strong focus on the UK flooding of recent weeks. Was this caused by CO2 induced Global Warming? Were the floods unprecedented? Have they happened before? Were they caused by the ineptitude of The Environment Agency? Does getting facts and policies right matter any more?
UK flooding: The BBC reports on The Great London Flood of 1928; Lord Stern warns of global conflict; Ed Milliband talks of dither and denial; The Greens call for introduction of a totalitarian State; global warming brings great skiing conditions to Scotland.
World: US Lawrence Livermore Laboratory claims incremental breakthrough in fusion. 20 more stories below the fold.
Roy Spencer: 95% of Climate Models Agree: The Observations Must be Wrong
Whether humans are the cause of 100% of the observed warming or not, the conclusion is that global warming isn’t as bad as was predicted. That should have major policy implications…assuming policy is still informed by facts more than emotions and political aspirations.
This country has never experienced anything like this before
Jon Snow Channel 4 News 12 Feb 2014 commenting on flooding in England
Like many other climate sceptics, my immediate reaction to this was to think that this was a load of utter rubbish. And I went looking for evidence to refute this poppycock. My first port of call was Alastair Dawson’s book So Foul and Fair a Day that chronicles the history of Scotland’s weather from the year 1600 based on actual records. But first a look at some interesting evidence compiled by Paul Holmwood on his blog notalotofpeopleknowthat. Paul is in overdrive compiling data on historic flooding in England.
Back in February 2009 Scotland was enjoying one of its best ski seasons for many years. Undeterred by this “anomaly” Alex Hill (then chief government advisor with the Met Office) declared:
“Scottish ski industry could disappear due to global warming”
Glenshee ski resort Scotland around 31 January 2014. Frequently cursed by marginal snow conditions it is now suffering from a severe dose of global warming.
- In order to place some perspectives on social and environmental impacts of shale gas developments I have built a gas model for the UK.
- The model is based on a type shale well with 3 million cubic feet per day initial production declining 33% in year 1. This is an optimistic guess based on production history data for more productive shale plays in the USA.
- Drilling 100 such wells / year for 10 years may employ 17 drilling rigs and would stabilise UK gas production at around today’s levels.
- Drilling 200 such wells / year for 10 years would see production growing to 2.7 tcf per annum and the UK may once again become self sufficient in natural gas.
- There are huge uncertainties in these estimates. The Bowland shale where most hopes are pinned may turn out to be a dud. Productivity could be higher or lower than my assumptions. If productivity was 25% of my guesstimate and declines higher, 1000 wells over a decade could easily rise to 5000 wells for the same production. It is extremely important that the UK gets some real test data from exploration wells to delineate what the real prospects are.
Figure 1 The distribution of the Bowland-Hodder shale in England. The areas in red delineate land where the shale is present at depth in the sub-surface .
MENA: gas imports loom over Egypt; rebels continue to disrupt oil supplies from Libya; Iraq near implosion; tensions rise over oil exports from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey
Technology: new geothermal plant on its way in USA; algae + coal development in South Africa
Renewables: market reform in Germany threatens survival of the solar PV market; longest power line to be built in Germany; Goldman Sachs investing in renewables
UK: Scottish independence debate warming up a little.
19 stories below the fold.
- UK oil + natural gas liquid production was 3.789 million tonnes in December 2013, down 3.9% on December 2012.
- UK net gas production stood at 32611 GWh in December 2013, down 0.7% on December 2012.
- The annualised declines (12 month mean) for oil and gas both stand at around 7% per annum, much improved from the high teen values seen in recent years, but production is still falling.
- The improved oil and gas production statistics are positively impacted by the start up of the Jasmine HPHT gas condensate field in November 2013.
Figure 1 UK monthly crude oil + natural gas liquids production January 1995 to December 2013. Whilst the decline is slowing, the direction is still down. The annual cycles reflect planned maintenance shut downs that always take place during the summer months.
Every now and then a report gets published that makes me annoyed. Boeing reveals “the biggest breakthrough in biofuels ever”, published by Energy Post last week, and evidently read by >95,000 people in a single day was one them.
Oil companies watch out. Biofuels are on the verge of a breakthrough that will transform the oil market. Not only that: it will also green the planet.
Morgan is not some green dreamer. He is Director of Sustainable Aviation Fuels and Environmental Strategy at The Boeing Company in Seattle in the US. He has worked on Boeing’s biofuels program for 10 years. And he is convinced that researchers at the Masdar Institute, sponsored by Boeing, Honeywell’s UOP and Etihad Airways, have achieved a breakthrough in biofuels that will make it possible for countries all over the world to turn their deserts into biofuel-producing agricultural lands.
The consortium then decided to set up a pilot production facility which is now being built in Abu Dhabi right next door to Masdar City. There is yet one more element to this to complete the story, because what the researchers decided to do in this pilot project is also unique: they decided to combine the production of biofuels from halophytes with aquaculture.
I’m afraid that whenever I read about Green strategies designed solely to reduce CO2 emissions that otherwise show little regard for the natural environment and delicate ecosystems, my hackles rise. Continue reading
Big Oil: Is in big trouble. ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron report profits down, capex up and production flat
Nuclear: EC criticises Hinkley deal; radiation scare at Sellafield
Denmark: Government in trouble over energy deal with Goldman Sachs
Weather: Polar vortex continues to swirl in N America; snow affects deep south.
Capex and production comparisons for three of the Super Majors, courtesy of The Wall St Journal (pay wall). NB I suspect there may be significant time lags between capex on big projects and production coming through. If production does not rise in response to this expenditure and capex is reduced going forward then OECD oil production may decline. 18 stories from around the world below the fold.
- OPEC crude oil production spare capacity stood at just over 5 million barrels per day (Mbpd) in December 2013 according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
- OPEC total production capacity stands at 35 Mbpd, a plateau level first reached in 2009. Only Saudi Arabia has significant, tangible spare capacity that can be called upon to iron out the swings in global oil supply. In the supply crisis of July 2008, Saudi spare capacity stood at 1.1 Mbpd, in November 2013 it was 2.7 Mbpd.
- In 2005 and again in 2008, OPEC spare capacity dipped towards 2 Mbpd, a symptom of scarcity, that lead to the enormous run up in oil price last decade.
- The picture today is clouded by sanctions in Iran and turmoil in Iraq and Libya.
- With OPEC production capacity on a plateau, it is growth in N American shale oil and Canadian tar sands production that is meeting growing global demand and keeping prices in cheque.
Figure 1 OPEC spare production capacity according the IEA Oil Market Reports. Spare capacity is higher than the supply crisis years of the mid-2000s, but is still wafer thin compared to anticipated growth in crude oil demand. Data to November 2013.