Author Archives: Euan Mearns

Playing the Trump Card: a Tale of Golf, Wind Turbines and Political Expediency

To say that US President elect Donald Trump is a controversial character would be an understatement. Not so widely known, he is also 50% Scottish, his mother Mary Anne Macleod being born in Stornaway on the Island of Lewis on May … Continue reading

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Blackout

Last week I gave a talk at The Scottish Oil Club in Edinburgh that was well received. The slide deck can be down loaded here. Since then we have been on high blackout alert since the UK weather has turned cold, wet and snowy with little wind at times. And there are 20 nuclear power stations closed in France creating an import shortage. This post summarises my talk using 14 out of 36 slides. Continue reading

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Oil Production Vital Statistics October 2016

The post-November 2015 production decline was accentuated by the Fort McMurray wild fire in Canada in May 2016. But overprinting all this is Iran coming back to full production with a YOY rise of 760,000 bpd combined with large rises in Saudi and Russian production.

The oil price is pressing on its $51 / bbl resistance. With OPEC spare capacity approaching lows and global production fast approaching balance, we can look forward to a rally in the oil price towards $65 / bbl (perhaps higher) some time in 2017. Continue reading

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The BN-800 Fast Reactor – a Milestone on a Long Road

The BN-800 fast breeder reactor was commissioned in Russia this week. This guest post by Russian commenter Syndroma provides an overview and history of the Russian fast breeder reactor program. Continue reading

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UK Electricity 2050 Part 2: A High Nuclear Model

Guest post by Energy Matters’ commentators Alex Terrell and Andy Dawson. In part 2 of their trilogy, Alex and Andy examine how the UK 2050 electricity demand may be met by a nuclear dominated supply model. It requires 85 GW of nuclear capacity in the UK. The model is founded on existing technology and existing UK nuclear sites. But as the decades pass goes on to include new UK nuclear sites previously occupied by coal fired power stations and clusters of small modular reactors (SMRS) that have yet to be built, licensed and tested. It concludes by introducing the concept of nuclear islands built in very shallow water off the English coast. Continue reading

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LCOE and the Cost of Synthetic Jet Fuel

The technology to make liquid fuel from CO2 and H2 has existed for nigh on 100 years. The main barrier to wide-spread deployment is the uncompetitive cost of fuel that is produced. The main cost centre is the electricity consumed where, for example using onshore wind as the source would lead to Jet A1 costing over $200 / bbl compared with $62 / bbl today. This is a show stopper.

The cost of synfuel can be attacked from two directions. The first is to make the process more efficient to reduce the amount of energy consumed. But this will inevitably at some point meet a thermodynamic barrier that cannot be crossed. The other approach is to tackle the cost of the electricity consumed. < $20 / MWh is the magic number that would make Audi's e diesel and Extra Virgin Jet Fuel competitive with fossil fuels. High altitude wind power is the only show in town that holds out this promise. Continue reading

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UK Electricity 2050 Part 1: a demand model

Guest post by Energy Matters’ commentators Alex Terrel and Andy Dawson. Alex Terrell is a business consultant in the area of Vehicle Telematics. He has also consulted in Energy and Manufacturing, and has a degree in Engineering. Andy Dawson is an energy sector systems consultant and former nuclear engineer.

This lengthy post is in three parts and aims to provide greater sophistication to a UK 2050 electricity model than can be achieved using the DECC 2050 calculator. Part 1 (below) presents the demand model. Parts 2 and 3 (to follow) will look at how demand may be met by a high nuclear option and from a renewables option. Continue reading

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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