Author Archives: Euan Mearns

Primary Energy in The European Union and USA Compared

The EU has a larger population and smaller land area than the USA resulting in a population density 3.6 times that of the USA. European citizens therefore have less land available to service the energy needs of its citizens. This combined with different approaches to energy policy has led to the EU now importing 55% of it energy needs while the USA imports only 10%. The USA is well on its way to energy independence. This could have foreign policy and defence implications where the UK and USA has divergent priorities to Europe. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Aerodynamic Lift – something for nothing?

Readers may have noticed that I have been largely absent from these pages for a few weeks. That is because I’ve been doing a consulting job for KiteGen assisting with a presentation to be made to the CleanTech investor summit in Rotterdam in November (see disclaimer at end). In the course of doing this work certain things came to light that explains the power generated by kites, flight reliability and the move away from fabric to composite materials. I kick off with an amazing movie of a kite powered trimaran / hydrofoil (below the fold). Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 101 Comments

USA Energy Independence Day

It has been 3 years since I last looked at US energy statistics and a recent conversation has prompted me to revisit the topic. Is the USA close to energy independence? The answer is surprisingly yes! In 2007 the USA imported 708 Mtoe (million tonnes oil equivalent) of energy, mainly crude oil. In 2015, that had fallen to 234 Mtoe. The rate of decline is 59.25 Mtoe per annum and if the trend continues the USA will be energy independent in 4 years. It is to be anticipated that the oil price crash will impact oil production in 2016 and 2017 but I wouldn’t bet against the US becoming energy independent in the early years of the next decade. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Imagining Fusion Power

Guest post by Robert L. Hirsch, Ph.D. Imagine you’re an electric utility executive with a strong background in a range of electric power generation technologies. As such, you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various options, and you have some “scars” from dealing with the challenges associated with nuclear power. Like many in your industry, you hope for a new electric generation technology that will make life better for your company and your customers. Hope springs eternal! Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

Atmospheric carbon dioxide – a tale of two timescales

One of the most controversial topics in understanding the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the question of timescales – the effect of the build-up depends not only on the amounts being released by human(-related) activities but also on how long the gas stays in the atmosphere.

In fact much of the controversy/confusion stems from the fact that there are two relevant timescales, one which determines how the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere equilibrates with other reservoirs (notably physical exchange with the oceans, and biological exchange via photosynthesis and respiration), and another which determines the exchange of carbon atoms. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

The Age and Future Size of the Global Nuclear Fleet

This is the last in my mini-series on global nuclear power. There are 441 reactors operational world wide today with an average age of 29.3 years. The current fleet is ageing. The oldest reactors in service today are 47 years old. By assuming that reactors will close aged 50 and by making simple assumptions about the commissioning of reactors under construction and those planned I estimate that come 2036 the fleet will comprise 424 units. The number is slightly down on today but the increase in mean power rating suggests that installed capacity will increase by about 25%. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged | 81 Comments

UK Wind Constraint Payments

Electricity generation from wind power has grown dramatically in the UK in recent years (Figure 2) and so has the challenge to balance the grid, especially when it is very windy. One of the balancing tactics deployed by National Grid is to pay wind farms to switch off when it is windy. This cost, borne by the consumer, is called a constraint payment. In 2015, UK consumers forked out £90 million to pay subsidy driven wind farms to switch off.

The amount of UK wind that is constrained is growing with the level of penetration. At 10% wind penetration, 6% of the wind power available is constrained. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | 78 Comments

Oil Production Vital Statistics August 2016

World total liquids bounced by a further 790,000 bpd in July partly on the back of continued recovery in Canada. Total liquids now stand at 97.01 Mbpd, down a meagre 70,000 bpd since July 2015.

The oil price staged a modest cyclical rally in August to close at $48.5 (Brent) on August 19th. Robust production from OPEC and Russia combined with large inventories hanging over the market makes me inclined to agree with Art Berman who speculates that prices will remain range bound between £38 and $52 in the near term. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US Shale Oil Production Laid Bare

Enno Peters maintains a web site called Visualizing US Shale Oil Production. This is a wonderful resource for all those interested to understand the history and dynamic of US shale oil. This post is in two parts. It begins with a series of screen captures of Enno’s charts displaying production from the whole USA, the Permian, Eagle Ford, N Dakota (Bakken), Montana and Marcellus plays. Enno’s charts are interactive and readers are encouraged to visit his site to play.

Enno kindly sent me the data that underlies the charts and the second part of this post are a series of my own charts that interogates production, well numbers and decline rates. The legacy production, i.e. the underlying production without new additions, is declining at a rate of 38% per annum. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 27 Comments

What is the Real Cost of Oil?

Asking what it costs to produce a barrel of oil is rather like asking how long is a piece of string? The answer can be anything you want between $1 and $500. But of course the cost of producing oil in an ideal world should be well below the price of oil, leaving room for taxes and profits. The global oil market sets the price and producers need to adjust and adapt their strategies to maintain costs below prevailing prices from time to time. That is the theory at least. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Nuclear Options

With Hinkley Point C and nuclear new-build in the UK very much in the public eye, I have found the range of nuclear options being discussed rather confusing. This post provides an overview of the 6 main reactor designs that are vying for the global market today focussing on the large, >1 GW Generation III reactors. While the post focusses on the UK, the part on generic designs should be of interest to all readers. [image from the “The Heroes of Telemark” a British – Norwegian raid during WWII aimed to prevent the Nazis gaining heavy water reactor technology. Or was it? Keep reading to CANDU to learn more.] Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 104 Comments

Oil Production Vital Statistics July 2016

Global total liquids bounced by +600,000 bpd in June as Canada partially recovered from the Fort McMurray wild fire and Saudi Arabia flexed its muscles raising production by 200,000 bpd compared with May.

Not surprisingly the oil price has wilted to the vicinity of $43 / bbl. But Bull and Bear forces are beginning to equilibrate. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Hinkley Point C Pantomime

The board of EDF, the French State controlled owner of UK and French power stations and vendor of the new Gen 3 EPR (European Pressurised Water Reactor) voted narrowly to approve the Hinkley C reactor project on Thursday (by 10 votes to 7). Contracts were supposed to be signed today (Friday). But then in an unexpected move the UK Government has called the project in for re-evaluation. Clearly, they did not expect the French to proceed. What on Earth is going on? Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , | 116 Comments

How long does it take to build a nuclear power plant?

Cost and time overruns of the Areva EPR reactors at Olkiluoto in Finland and Flamanville in France are seldom out of the energy news. Olkiluoto began construction in 2005 with planned grid connection in 2010. The original build cost of €3billion has risen to €8.5 billion. And the grid connection has been pushed out to 2018 – 8 years late (13 years construction time) and €5.5 billion over budget.

So how long should it take to build a nuclear reactor? 5, 10 or 15 years? The answers are below the fold. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , | 66 Comments

Global Nuclear Power Snapshot

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) has an informative web site with a mine of data that I’ve wanted to extract for some time. This is a first pass to try and capture some of the headlines which are: deployment of nuclear power has in the past depended upon a combination of three factors 1) the size and level of technology development of any country (the leading producers in 2015 were the USA, France, Russia and China) 2) the desire to acquire nuclear weapons that may be linked to large advanced countries wanting to defend themselves and 3) a shortage of fossil fuels (France, Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia etc. have the greatest penetration of nuclear in power generation). Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , | 51 Comments

The Peak Oil Paradox

Back in the mid-noughties the peak oil meme gained significant traction in part due to The Oil Drum blog where I played a prominent role. Sharply rising oil price, OPEC spare capacity falling below 2 Mbpd and the decline of the North Sea were definite signs of scarcity and many believed that peak oil was at hand and the world as we knew it was about to end. And yet between 2008, when the oil price peaked, and 2015, global crude+condensate+NGL production has risen by 8.85 Mbpd to 91.67 Mbpd. Peak oilers need to admit they were wrong then. Or were they? Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 63 Comments

Oil Production Vital Statistics June 2016

The big news in May’s production figures is Canada down 620,000 bpd in the wake of the Fort McMurray wild fire, Nigeria down 250,000 bpd in the wake of civil unrest on the Niger Delta and Libya down 80,000 bpd as that country disintegrates in the wake of western intervention in its civil war.

Global total liquids production was down 760,000 bpd in May and while the oil price was perky, getting above $50 in early June, it has not really responded to any of those events. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

High Altitude Wind Power Reviewed

This post reviews the weird and wonderful world of high altitude wind power. It looks into the reasons for wanting to go high, explains tethered flight and explores the main competing technologies of 1) airborne generation (Google Makani) and 2) ground based generation (KiteGen) and compares their strengths and weaknesses. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 186 Comments

The ERoEI of High Altitude Wind Power

For several weeks I have been researching and writing a review post on high altitude wind power. It has grown into a 6000 word monster that should hopefully fly on Monday. While doing this it has been difficult to find time to write other posts. Hence this is a preview of one section on Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) which makes a nice post in its own right. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , | 53 Comments

Brexit and The Simple Solution

With a very high turnout of 72% the Brits took the Brexit vote very seriously and exercised their democratic right to speak on this issue while they still had it. Shame on all those politicians and commentators who do not respect our courage to speak out. Any hint of retribution smacks of dictatorship. Continue reading

Posted in Political commentary | Tagged | 114 Comments