Author Archives: Euan Mearns

Keeping The Lights On

It’s not very often that Energy Matters gets a mention in the “mainstream media” but last week Roger and I got a mention in UK satirical magazine Private Eye (no 1437). In his column, “Keeping the Lights On”, Old Sparky had commentary on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and says this:

“But painstaking tidal analysis by respected energy industry analysts Euan Mearns and Roger Andrews shows there is no practical combination of lagoons that could even out the bursts of electricity from this airily conjured “fleet”.”

The whole article is reproduced with consent from Private Eye below the fold. Continue reading

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New Renewable Energy Targets for Scotland

The Scottish Government recently launched a consultation on a revised energy strategy. The existing policy is to produce the equivalent of 100% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The new policy is to produce the equivalent of 50% of all energy consumed from renewable sources by 2030 – in 13 years time. Electricity currently represents 22% of energy consumption and we are now at 59% renewables, suggesting that 13% of all energy currently comes from renewable sources. The new plan calls for renewable output to increase approximately 4 fold. It is also planned that our two nuclear power stations will close in this time frame. Continue reading

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US GDP, Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions

A review of the structure of US GDP, imports and exports shows that none of these variables has contributed to the fall in US CO2 emissions post-2008 finance crash. The main contributions to reduced CO2 come from high energy prices and recession (36%), gas substitution for coal (20%) and growth in wind and solar (15%) which more or less corroborates the findings of Roger Andrew’s in his recent post on this topic. Continue reading

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Oil Production Vital Statistics January 2017

January was the month that OPEC was supposed to reduce production by 1.2 Mbpd and Russia + others were supposed to cut a further 0.6 Mbpd. None of the January production data has been released yet and the only real time indicator we have is the oil price that began the month of January on $55.05 and ended the month on $54.77 (Brent) (Figure 1). The only remarkable thing is how little market response there has been to the feeble OPEC deal. Continue reading

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Oil and Gas Production in N America

This post provides an overview of N American oil and gas production utilising the growing mountain of charts to be found in Global Energy Graphed. These charts show the parlous state of the Mexican oil and gas industry that will be the focus of this post. Oil production is down nearly to the point where Mexico will cease oil exports. Gas production is down and Mexico has already become a serial gas importer. Drilling has virtually come to a halt. Continue reading

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Green Mythology: adding different types of renewables smooths output

A favourite assertion of renewables enthusiasts is that intermittent supply can be smoothed by simply adding different types of renewable resource. How often have you heard “If it’s not windy then we can use tidal instead”. I present a simple renewable supply model for the UK that has 20 GW of tidal, 13.6 GW of wind and 8.8 GW of solar for a total of 42.5 GW installed capacity. When everything is on this outputs a maximum of 22.2 GW of power (52.2% load). When everything is off that falls to 0.9 GW (2.1% load). Those contemplating engineering the UK grid along those lines must surely be mad. Continue reading

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Green Mythology: Tidal Base-load Power in the UK

Scientists working at The University of Liverpool and the NERC Proudman Oceanic Laboratory have developed elegant computer simulations of electricity generation from tidal barrage and tidal flow power stations deployed in the Severn Estuary and the East Irish Sea. The models show that no combination of tidal system from this area can produce continuous and uniform base-load generation. Despite this, these workers conclude that it can. Adding pumped storage hydro provides an economical and practical way to smooth out daily fluctuations but cuts peak output by over 50%. Large-scale deployment of tidal stations will modify coastlines that deploying renewable energy is supposed to prevent. Continue reading

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Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and Baseload Tidal Generation in the UK

Charles Hendry, former energy secretary, published his long awaited report on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon power station last week coming down in favour of the project. Hendry’s report is comprehensive but has one key omission. It does not ask if tidal lagoons can provide renewable base-load power in the UK as is often claimed. I set out in a positive frame of mind to show that it could, but failed miserably in that attempt. Facts defeated me.

UK tidal lagoons will produce more intermittent electricity than any other form of renewable generation providing four spikes separated by four periods of zero production each day. It is often claimed that the predictability of tides is a virtue. This also means we can predict with certainty that this energy source will be a disaster for the public as well as the environment. Continue reading

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Oil Production Vital Statistics December 2016

Global total liquids production hit yet another record high of 98.24 Mbpd in November led by OPEC and Russia! Libya’s drive to restore production is a significant factor with production up 280,000 bpd from recent lows. The US oil rig count has risen for 32 consecutive weeks and US oil production has stopped falling. Production from the North Sea and Asia are in decline as the past low price and drive to restore profitability works through the system. Continue reading

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Energy Prices in Europe

A few days ago a link to a UK government report called Quarterly Energy Prices landed in my in box. At the end was a series of interesting charts comparing liquid fuel, natural gas and electricity prices across Europe. This post presents these charts alongside some simple but rather interesting observations. Continue reading

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Oil Price Scenario for 2017

Every year around this time I make an oil price “forecast” for fun and have a bet with a friend. A year ago my BAU scenario for Brent was $37 for December 2016. The current front month is $55.80. My friend wagered on $64 leaving $50.50 as the break-even point. It is time to concede defeat and examine why I did so badly?

To cut to the quick, my wag for December 2017 is $60 but we may see $80 some time during the year. Light tight oil (LTO) production has disturbed the historic price-supply dynamic adding uncertainty to predictions. Continue reading

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The State of the Blog and Sponsorship Appeal 2016

It is that time of year again when I unfortunately must pass round the begging bowl and ask readers to dig deep and make donations to keep me and the blog afloat. The donate button is to the right. It is simple to use via PayPal. In November the blog had over 50,000 unique visitors. At the end of this post their are links to all 129 posts for the year to date. Continue reading

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The Glenmuckloch Pumped Storage Hydro Scheme

Scotland is to get a new pumped storage hydro scheme, not in the Highlands but in the Scottish Borders. With a capacity of 400 MW and an estimated 1.7 GWh of storage this plant can make a meaningful 4 hour contribution to peak generation every day. But wooly arguments made about smoothing intermittent renewables makes it unclear if this commendable strategy is the intended use. Continue reading

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Blowout week 154

This week we kick off with the controversial appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the US Environment Protection Agency. Else where in the news non-OPEC exporters agree to cut production by 500,000 bpd; Glencore and Qatar buys a stake in Rosneft; Shell moves into Iran; National Grid sells a majority stake in the UK gas transmission system and 9 Yak herders are killed by an avalanche in Tibet to join the lengthening list of those killed by climate change. Continue reading

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Oil Production Vital Statistics November 2016

In October, global total liquids production hit a new record high of 97.84 Mbpd led by OPEC and Russia! This was caused largely by the scramble to boost production ahead of production cuts with a datum on October 2016. The US rig count continues to rise and US production has stopped falling. The rest of the oil production world outside of OPEC, N America and Russia continues to suffer under the weight of low oil price. Continue reading

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OPEC Production Data and the Feeble Deal

OPEC largely wrong-footed markets and expectations by announcing their first production cut since the financial crisis of 2008 last week. This sent Brent front month “soaring” toward $55 / bbl. This is certainly good news for producers and at face value bad news for consumers everywhere. But the deal and the way it is structured is far from straight forward. For example there is a 285,000 bpd “typographical error” in the record of Iranian production in October in the OPEC press release, equivalent to about one quarter of the whole feeble deal. This is the stuff of dispute and of feeble deals unwinding. Continue reading

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Oil and Gas UK 2016 economic report: “a sobering picture”

Guest post by Alan Foum who is a geophysicist with 26 years industry experience with a major operator. He has a BSc in geology from Imperial College London, and an MSc in geophysics from Birmingham University.

The 2016 Oil and Gas UK 2016 economic report is a sobering picture of the current state of Britain’s oil and gas industry. The full report is available here . A distillation and commentary on its key points is posted below. Continue reading

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Blowout week 153

There are two major stories this week. First, the agreement within OPEC to cut production in concert with some non-OPEC countries, notably Russia sent the oil price soaring, but it has so far failed to break resistance at $54. Second, 50% of the 2 GW England-France inter-connector was severed by a dragged anchor during storm Angus. Continue reading

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Blackout: the sequel

Reactor 1 (600 MW) of the Torness nuclear power station in Scotland tripped at 09:00 on 22nd November whilst reactor 2 was on half load for refuelling. Since then Scotland has been dependent on electricity imports from England for every hour of every day peaking at 2552 MW at 20:00 on 23 Nov as the mercury plunged towards -5˚C. At that point, Scotland was dependent on England for half of its electricity. In the past, Scotland was always 100% reliant on home-grown power. Continue reading

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The Aramco IPO and the Black Art of Estimating Oil Reserves

Saudi Arabia has announced that 5% of state owned Aramco is to be put up for sale perhaps as early as 2018. As part of the process, the country’s oil reserves will be subject to audit by western consultants, presumably to OECD standards. Given that Saudi Arabia has not adjusted oil reserves for production since 1980 there is a widely held view that the official figure of 267 billion barrels is a gross overstatement of reality. The audit will be interesting to say the least, especially since Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and UAE are all guilty of the same malpractice. Deducting the 156 billion barrels produced since 1936 leaves 110 billion bbls remaining. Only time will tell where reality lies. Continue reading

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