Blowout Week 115

There seems to be a growing consensus that the oil price slump is finally nearing an end:

Reuters:  IEA says oil may have bottomed as non-OPEC producers cut output

Oil prices might have bottomed as production declines in the United States and other non-OPEC producers accelerate and an increase in Iranian supply has been less than dramatic, the International Energy Agency said on Friday. The IEA said low oil prices were beginning to take a toll on high-cost production and it believed non-OPEC output would fall by 750,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2016, compared to its previous estimate of 600,000 bpd. U.S. production alone would decline by 530,000 bpd this year, it said. “There are clear signs that market forces … are working their magic and higher-cost producers are cutting output,” the IEA said. The IEA said OPEC output fell by 90,000 bpd in February due to production outages in Nigeria, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, which lost a combined 350,000 bpd. “Meanwhile, Iran’s return to the market has been less dramatic than the Iranians said it would be; in February we believe that production in-creased by 220,000 bpd and, provisionally, it appears that Iran’s return will be gradual,” the IEA said.

More related stories below the fold, plus Obama’s plan to cut methane omissions, lawsuits threaten Japan’s nuclear revival, South Africa wants nuclear plant bids, France to close Fessenheim, Indonesia running out of coal, Hinkley finance chief quits, Britain’s “smart energy revolution”, the UK, Ireland and France still lagging on EU renewable targets, the Big Six losing even more money, tidal power from the Shetlands, US considers prosecuting “climate deniers”, the perilous state of the Mosul dam, the EP electric car tender and a feminist glaciology framework for climate change research.

CNBC:  Oil rout over, OPEC aims for $50 anchor

Major OPEC producers are privately starting to talk about a new oil price equilibrium of $50 a barrel, adding to signs that the market’s long, deep rout is officially over, says one of the industry’s leading prognosticators. Gary Ross, the founder, executive chairman and chief oil soothsayer at New York-based consultancy PIRA, told clients 2-1/2 weeks ago that he reckoned the “lows are in” for crude, which was then about $30 a barrel. U.S. futures have rallied since then to close at nearly $36 on Friday, with a handful of analysts also cautiously calling a bottom. In an interview with Reuters, Ross said oil should recover to $50 a barrel by the end of the year, potentially aided by eventual supply cuts from leading producers among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). “They want $50 oil, this is going to become the new anchor for global oil prices,” said Ross, one of the industry’s most respected forecasters for his bold price predictions and decades-long history of consulting with OPEC members.

Wall Street Journal:  Oil Prices Rise on Hopes Glut Will Ease

The U.S. oil benchmark set a new high for the year Friday after an international energy monitor said the market rout of the past two years may finally have bottomed out, as global oil supplies ease amid falling production and major producers talk of a coordinated output freeze. The Paris-based International Energy Agency said supply outages in Iraq, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates reduced output from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries by 90,000 barrels a day, in addition to declining production elsewhere around the world, perhaps signaling what the agency termed a “light at the end of the tunnel” for the global glut of crude that has overwhelmed oil markets. The market was also boosted by a research note from Goldman Sachs Group Inc.—which has had one of the more bearish outlooks since the market collapse took hold—suggesting the “green shoots” of a rebalancing between supply and demand appeared to be in the works, and that it had growing confidence that supplies would decline this year as long as prices remain low.

Reuters:  Oil up on bullish U.S. gasoline draw, OPEC speculation

Oil prices jumped 3 percent on Wednesday after a huge draw in U.S. gasoline inventories last week convinced the market that energy demand was improving despite U.S. crude stockpiles hitting record highs for a fourth week. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said crude stockpiles rose 3.9 million barrels to nearly 522 million barrels, as predicted by analysts in a Reuters poll. But gasoline inventories fell 4.5 million barrels, much more than the polled number of 1.4 million barrels. “Gasoline is the star of the show today. Ongoing strength in demand has yielded a large draw to gasoline inventories despite a rebound in refinery runs,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at New York-headquarter energy data provider ClipperData. U.S. gasoline futures hit November highs, rallying 4 percent. Earlier in the session, oil rallied after an Iraqi oil official told a state newspaper that producers in and outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries plan to meet in Moscow on March 20 to discuss an output freeze. But Russia’s energy ministry said no date or place had been set for the meeting.

CNBC:  Where has the oil gone? Missing barrels and market rebalancing

Global oil production exceeded consumption by just over 1 billion barrels in 2014/15, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Of the 1 billion barrels reportedly produced but not consumed, roughly 420 million are being stored on land in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Another 75 million barrels are thought to be stored at sea or in transit by tanker somewhere from the oil fields to the refineries. That leaves 550 million “missing barrels” unaccounted for, apparently produced but not consumed and not visible in the inventory statistics. The last time the miscellaneous to balance item was this large and positive (implying an oversupplied market) was in 1997/98 when the issue triggered fierce criticism of the IEA’s statistics.

Bloomberg:  Drillers See Dire Impact at Worst Time in Obama Methane Plan

The Obama administration’s decision to crack down on the methane leaking from nearly 1 million oil and gas wells across the country promises to reduce greenhouse gases but also imposes new costs on an industry that’s already reeling. Environmentalists cheered the approach, saying the focus on methane delivers big bang for the buck, with a more immediate climate payoff than slashing carbon dioxide from power plants. But industry leaders cried foul, saying new methane rules could quash domestic drilling, heaping more pain on energy companies that have idled more than 1,000 rigs and gutted more than 250,000 jobs since oil and gas prices started falling in 2014. “The administration is catering to environmental extremists at the expense of American consumers,” said Kyle Isakower, the American Petroleum Institute’s vice president of regulatory and economic policy. “Additional regulations on methane by the administration could discourage the shale energy revolution that has helped America lead the world in reducing emissions while significantly lowering the costs of energy to consumers.”

Guardian:  North Sea oil industry calls for rescue package of tax breaks in budget

The North Sea oil industry has urged the chancellor to hand it a rescue package of tax breaks in next week’s budget, warning that the sector is “fighting hard for its survival” amid rock-bottom prices. The lobby group Oil & Gas UK said about 14bn barrels of an estimated 20bn barrels of oil lying beneath the UK continental shelf in the North Sea would not be extracted unless conditions for the industry improved. Economics director Mike Tholen said this could result in a decline in production that “puts at risk hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs, billions of pounds of tax revenues and the UK’s energy security”. Among the measures North Sea explorers want to see is a large cut in the rate of tax on their production, which can be up to 67.5% on profit for older fields. Oil & Gas UK said the standard tax rate on oil profits of 50% should be cut by 20 percentage points, while petroleum revenue tax of 35% applied to older fields should be scrapped altogether.

Bloomberg:  Japan’s Nuclear Power Renewal Threatened by Court Challenges

A regional court on Wednesday restricted Kansai Electric Power Co. from operating two reactors in western Japan, the first time a court has forced plants that have already restarted to shut back down. The country’s utilities face more than two dozen lawsuits seeking to stop nuclear operations, according to the website of an organization of lawyers involved in the litigation. As of Thursday, only two of Japan’s 43 operable reactors were running. Twenty five have applied to restart. “This shows the judicial risk is bigger than previously thought,” Reiji Ogino, a Tokyo-based analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co., said by phone. “It’s tough because it shows there’s no sense of security even after a reactor resumes operations. One plaintiff and one judge could make a difference.” The Otsu District Court cited safety concerns in its decision this week to prevent Kansai Electric from operating the units at its Takahama plant. The ruling came less than two weeks after the utility restarted one of the reactors following more than two years of safety reviews by Japan’s nuclear regulator.

IOL:  South Africa to request proposals for nuclear power

The government planned to issue a request for proposals by the end of the month to add 9 600 megawatts of nuclear power to the national grid, Department of Energy director-general Thabane Zulu announced yesterday. Zulu said discussions were ongoing with the Treasury about the costs of the fleet of nuclear plants, adding that issuing the request for proposals was a critical milestone for the nuclear programme and responses would provide an indication of a possible funding model. Gaopalelwe Santswere, the chairman of the SA Young Nuclear Professionals Society, said yesterday that responses to the request for proposals would give an indication of whether the country could afford the programme. “The only way to know if the country can afford the programme is by testing the market. When the proposals come back we can decide if it is affordable,” Santswere said. He added that issuing the request for proposals in the middle of unfavourable economic conditions was not necessarily a bad thing. “The market is also experiencing the crunch. People are also looking for business. So we may actually end up with a good deal,” he said.

Financial Times:  The Rise and Fall of Nuclear Power in Britain

In May 1965 Fred Lee, minister of power in Harold Wilson’s Labour government, announced that the next phase of Britain’s nuclear power programme would be based on the British-designed advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR), in preference to the water-cooled reactors that were available from the US. Britain, Lee said, had “hit the jackpot”, with a design that was clearly superior on economic and technical grounds to its American rivals. This judgment, like that of the officials in the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) who recommended the AGR, could not have been more wrong — an extreme example of the wishful thinking that has characterised British policy towards nuclear power since the second world war. The British-designed reactor was plagued by massive cost overruns and repeated delays. The AGR fiasco destroyed any chance of British leadership in what was seen at the time (erroneously, as it turned out) as a new industrial revolution. What Britain should have done, either in 1965 or later when the problems with the AGR had become evident, was to follow the example of France, which gave up its indigenous design and based its ambitious nuclear power programme on the American pressurised water reactor.

Deutsche Welle:  France to close nuclear power plant after German and Swiss criticism

French officials have announced plans to close Fessenheim power plant by the end of the year. The decision comes after an ongoing dispute with Switzerland and Germany over the plant’s safety. Green minister Emmanuelle Cosse said Monday that France would shut down the nuclear power plant, just days after reports surfaced suggesting a nuclear accident that occurred at the facility last year was more serious than authorities had claimed. “The timeline is one the president [Francois Hollande] has repeated to me several times, it’s 2016,” Cosse said. In September, Hollande said he would not shut down Fessenheim despite having promised to do so in 2012. Cosse emphasized that the president’s decision had nothing to do with safety issues, but rather was based on the government’s energy policy. France still depends primarily on nuclear power, but the government has been leading efforts to promote alternative sources of power.

Sydney Morning Herald:  Australian coal set for dramatic shake-out

The Australian coal sector is set for a dramatic shake-out this year with imminent asset sales pending, mine shutdowns increasingly likely and further job losses inevitable as mining companies struggle to deal with stubbornly low commodity prices, according to consultancy IHS. Uncertainty hangs over the future of Peabody Energy’s mines in Australia as administration looms for the US company, while Anglo American’s exit from coal has the potential to force a collapse of the quarterly benchmark pricing system for coking coal, according to Marian Hookham, senior manager at IHS’ coal arm. At a seminar in Sydney on Wednesday, Ms Hookham pointed to likely imminent deals, including the sale of Vale’s stakes in the Eagle Downs coking coal deposit and the Carborough Downs mine in Queensland, with AMCI, the private firm run by Hans Mende, the likely buyer. Meanwhile the sale of Anglo’s Foxleigh mine in Queensland, which has been on the market for some time, should be finalised within weeks, despite some major players who have studied the asset describing the mine as expensive and with heavy rehabilitation liabilities, she said.

The Diplomat:  Indonesia could run out of coal by 2033

Indonesia could run out of coal reserves by 2033, a study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released on Monday has revealed. Though Southeast Asia’s largest economy is one of the world’s top exporters of thermal coal, the report found that its output has been declining significantly over the past few years. Plummeting prices of power station fuel have forced miners to cut costs, thereby reducing exploration and stripping ratios. As a result, even though government data suggests that Indonesia had around 32.3 billion tons of coal reserves in 2014, Mizra Diran, PwC’s Indonesian advisory chief, said according to Reuters that coal reserves have dropped by 30 to 40 percent, with the survey finding coal reserves of between 7.3 billion and 8.3 billion tons. If this trend continues, in spite of Indonesian government’s ambitious goal to build 35 gigawatts of power stations by 2019 – 20 gigawatts of which will be coal-fueled – there is a possibility that the nation’s coal reserves could be depleted between 2033 and 2036.

Zacks:  JPMorgan Backs Clean Energy to Avoid Financing Coal Mines

JPMorgan will stop financing all new coal mines and coal power plants in rich countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”). As per the OECD, over 30 countries including the U.S., most of Europe, Japan and Australia qualify as rich countries. JPMorgan will not finance new coal mines in other countries as well, while at the same time will provide finance to coal-fired power plants in developing nations such as India, Indonesia and China. Nonetheless, the power plants should be using the most efficient technology which is there to burn coal. Further, JPMorgan intends to lower its credit exposure in coal mining companies, although details were not provided. The bank will maintain its corporate relationship with coal mining firms but it will not finance projects to develop new coal mines. In the policy document JPMorgan stated, “We believe the financial services sector has an important role to play as governments implement policies to combat climate change.”

BBC:  E.On reports €7bn annual loss

German energy firm E.On has said its annual net losses more than doubled in 2015 to €7bn (£5.4bn) after it wrote down the value of its loss making power plants by €8.8bn.The energy firm blamed record low wholesale electricity prices. E.On also reported a 9% fall in underlying earnings at its UK supply business to £267m, from £294m in 2014. The company said the fall in UK earnings was the result of its 3.5% cut in gas prices in January 2015. In its home market of Germany, E.On said the government’s move towards renewable energy hurt profits. It is the second year consecutive year that E.On has reported a loss. In 2014, the energy firm reported a loss of €3.16bn. On Tuesday, rival German energy firm RWE reported annual losses of €637m (£493m) blaming the collapse in commodity prices and, in particular, the continuing depression in the price of coal that has caused German wholesale electricity prices to plummet, All four of Germany’s main large energy firms have written down the value of their power plants as a result of the slump in electricity prices. Wholesale electricity prices are at their lowest level since 2002.

BBC:  Npower job losses ‘devastating blow’

Unions have reacted angrily to the announcement that energy firm Npower is to cut 2,400 jobs in the UK by 2018. Unison warned the job losses would deal a “devastating blow” to communities across the UK. The job losses come as Npower announced annual losses of €137m (£106m) compared with €227m profit in 2014. The “big six” energy firm also lost 351,000 customer accounts in 2015 and has been plagued by complaints over billing. In December, Npower was fined a record £26m by the energy industry’s regulator, Ofgem for its failure to bill customers correctly and deal with complaints effectively. The energy firm’s parent company, Germany’s RWE, warned that billing issues at Npower would continue throughout 2016. Npower currently employs 11,500 people in the UK, of which 6,668 are full time posts. It said the job losses would be among both its directly employed staff and contractors.

BBC:  EDF finance chief quits ahead of Hinkley Point decision

EDF has confirmed that its finance director has quit ahead of an expected final investment decision on the £18bn Hinkley Point nuclear power plant. Thomas Piquemal stepped down because he feared the project could jeopardise EDF’s financial position, according to reports. EDF shares are trading 6.6% lower. Last month, Chris Bakken, the director of the project that could produce 7% of UK electricity by 2025, said he was leaving to pursue other opportunities. Jean-Bernard Levy, chairman and chief executive of EDF, said Mr Piquemal told him of the decision to leave last week and that he regretted the “haste” of Mr Piquemal’s departure. The company’s board is expected to finalise in April how it will fund the project after postponing the decision a number of times. Mr Levy said the board was studying the investment in Hinkley Point to ascertain the best way to finance the power plant. He added that EDF aimed to announce a final investment decision “soon”.

Guardian:  £18bn Hinkley nuclear power project is a good deal, says Davey

The deal to provide a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point would have cost even more if George Osborne had had his way, the former energy secretary Ed Davey has said. The Lib Dem former member of the coalition cabinet said the £18bn plan to build Hinkley Point C represented a good deal, and claimed the cost would have been higher without his involvement. Speaking on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “We need lots of low-carbon electricity in the future. And I negotiated a good deal. My Conservative colleagues would have shaken at a much higher price.” Davey claimed Osborne was so keen to strike a deal, particularly one involving Chinese investment, that he would have agreed to pay more. He said: “They were gagging for nuclear. George Osborne in particular was wanting to have Chinese investment, big infrastructure projects to show off to the Tory backbenchers. It was me saying I’m going to walk away from this deal if we don’t do what we promised parliament, and that meant we had to get the price down to below £90 per megawatt hour, which I did.” The government disputes Davey’s account of events.

UK Government:  The NIC report on UK’s coming “smart power” revolution at a glance

Climate scepticism:  Roger Harrabin on the UK’s coming “smart power” revolution

Well, the solution, they say – we have to really revolutionise things, this, we’ve got to look at flexibility on the grid and we’ve got to look at storage. So storage is kind of obvious – we build batteries and we build all sorts of other devices, maybe storing energy in liquid air or perhaps in compressed air, there’s all sorts of ideas, some of them which we’ve featured on the programme already. But I think the thing that will really interest people is they envisage a really entirely new system in which your fridge, your freezer, your washing machine, your dishwasher, your car battery will in some way via an internet of energy be linked to all my gadgets, some solar panels on my roof if I had one, my wind farm if I had one, a nuclear power station, all of those things will be linked together. And in order – that will happen in order to let us use electricity more flexibly, so when power is cheap, you will be able to turn on your washing machine – in fact, it will turn on, itself – and then when power is scarce, the internet will ask your freezer “Justin’s freezer, do you mind if we turn you off for half an hour so Mrs Bloggs next door can put on the supper?” and your freezer will say “Yes”. And this is – this is the future they envisage.

Businessgreen:  UK, Ireland and France lagging on EU renewable targets

The UK, France, Ireland and the Netherlands are lagging behind other EU Member States in the rush to meet legally-binding renewable energy targets for 2020, according to new 2014 data released yesterday by the European Union. The statistics show that in 2014 nine Member States had already met their national 2020 targets for renewable energy, including Croatia, Estonia, Italy and Sweden. However, France, the Netherlands, the UK and Ireland were shown to be furthest away from their goals, raising fears some countries will fail to meet the targets, running the risk of multi-million euro fines. The statistics show that in 2014 the UK was eight percentage points away from achieving its target of renewables contributing 15 per cent to its total energy mix. In contrast, some countries have already cruised past their targets. For example in Sweden, which has a 2020 target for sourcing 49 per cent of energy from renewables, renewable energy already accounted for 52.6 per cent of the total energy mix in 2014. Meanwhile, Croatia’s target for 2020 is 20 per cent, but by 2014 the total contribution of renewables already surpassed this, hitting 27.9 per cent. Overall, the EU is still four percentage points away from its bloc-wide target of achieving a 20 per cent share of renewable energy in its total energy mix by 2020.

Edie:  MPs launch fresh enquiry into UK’s renewable heat and transport targets

The Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECC) of MPs has launched a new enquiry into the UK Government’s progress – or apparent lack of it – on its self-imposed targets for meeting heat and transport demands from renewable energy sources. Launched yesterday (9 March), the enquiry will investigate concerns raised by the Committee on Climate Change, among others, that the Government’s ambitions on renewable heat and transport may no longer be achievable. The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive sets a mandatory target for the UK to achieve 15% of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. The Government proposed to achieve this across the electricity, heat and transport sectors by ensuring that 30% of electricity, 12% of heat and 10% of transport demand are met by renewable sources. While progress towards the share of renewable electricity is on track (15% of the UK’s electricity came from renewable sources in 2013), Eurostat data reveals that green energy sources only provided 4.5% of the UK’s heat and 4.9% of the UK’s total transport energy in 2014 – meaning both would need to more than double over the next five years in order to meet the Government’s targets.

Businessgreen:  Renewables could give Scottish islands’ economies a £725m boost

Scotland’s islands could enjoy a £725m boost to their economies over the next 25 years from renewables projects, according to a new report released yesterday by energy consultancy Baringa. The report, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government, found if investments were made in grid infrastructure and generating assets, the amount of renewable energy deployed on the islands could be growing rapidly by the early 2020s. At its peak, renewables deployment could provide an extra five per cent boost to local economic output on average across the islands, the report said. The economic benefits would include up to £225m in community benefits and revenues of up to £390m for community-owned island generation projects, according to the report, while up to 2,000 jobs would also be created in the peak development phase. “This report confirms the potential of the vast renewable resources of our islands,” said Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s energy minister, in a statement. “They are arguably the best places in Europe to deliver renewable energy. The wind speeds are the strongest and they have the best potential for wave and tidal energy in the future.”

Telegraph:  Wind and solar have destroyed the ability of the market to signal price

Before the election, high electricity prices made the Big Six energy companies everyone’s favourite whipping boys. A report by the competition watchdog exonerated them. Government-driven social, environmental and network costs were the main drivers of rising electricity bills, the Competition and Markets Authority found. Now the Big Six have put themselves squarely back in the frame. A 125-page report by the electricity industry lobby group, Energy UK, supports phasing out cheap coal power and demands more subsidies for wind and solar. It is a high-risk strategy. In capitulating to “Big wind” and solar, the Big Six energy companies have no one to blame but themselves for the heightened political risk caused by rising electricity prices and the inevitable consumer backlash. Weather-dependent wind and solar power is inherently unreliable and high cost. In addition to subsidies, wind and solar need more grid infrastructure. When the wind blows and the sun shines, they swamp the grid with zero marginal cost electricity, forcing gas, coal and nuclear to reduce their output. Lower prices and lower output demolish the investment case for building the gas-fired power stations the Government says are vital.

RE news:  First power from Shetland tidal array

Edinburgh tidal developer Nova Innovation has deployed the first 100kW turbine that forms part of the Shetland Tidal Array in the Bluemull Sound. Nova said the first M100 turbine of the array is now delivering power to the Shetland grid following operations and testing. The Shetland Tidal Array is a joint enterprise between Nova and Belgian renewables developer Elsa. Phase 1 of the array consists of three M100 turbines, with two more turbines planned in following phases. Nova expects to deploy the fourth and fifth units of the £3.75m Shetland Tidal Array, which has £1.9m of grant and loan funding from Scottish Enterprise, by 2018. Nova director Simon Forrest said it has delivered a project with over 80% Scottish supply chain content, and over 25% of the spend in Shetland. “This milestone represents a huge achievement and the culmination of a tremendous amount of work from our team in Scotland and Belgium. I would especially like to thank Scottish Enterprise and Elsa for their support and advice which has enabled us to build such a strong, pan-European project rooted in Scotland,” said Forrest.

Energy Voice:  Vattenfall insists it has the cash for £230m wind farm off Aberdeen

Swedish energy firm Vattenfall said it is confident that cash reserves are in place for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) testing and demonstration site, although an investment decision has yet to be taken on the scheme. Assurances came after Vattenfall announced the next step in the project. It said offshore survey group Fugro has started assessing the seabed in Aberdeen Bay ahead of the construction stage, which is slated to start in late 2017. Politicians and green groups hailed the development and said the wind farm would make the north-east an international centre for renewables expertise. In 2014, the Scottish Government granted final planning consent for the project, which has been held up by legal challenges from US businessman Donald Trump. Interventions from Mr Trump, who argued the 11-turbine wind farm would spoil the view from his championship golf course, have set the project back two years. Mr Trump’s oppositions appeared to hit the buffers in December, however, when the Supreme Court in London rejected his appeal against Holyrood’s decision.

Phys Org:  Record leap in carbon dioxide seen in 2015

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased at a record pace last year, US government scientists reported, raising new concern about one of the top greenhouse gases and the effects of global warming. The measurement came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.”The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide… jumped by 3.05 parts per million during 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of research,” said a NOAA statement. Last year also marked the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than two parts per million. As of February, the average global atmospheric CO2 level was 402.59 parts per million. This is a significant rise over pre-industrial times. Prior to 1800, atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280 ppm. “Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. “It’s explosive compared to natural processes.”

GWPF:  Australia Fires Climate Scientists & Outsources Their Work To Britain

The country’s science bureaucracy is considering having all climate modeling work done in Britain after announcing the firing of some 350 employees, including 100 climate scientists. Alex Wonhas, executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) told Australian lawmakers the science agency “was considering contracting some work to counterparts in the British Met Office,” The Hepburn Advocate reported Wednesday. It’s speculated CSIRO contracting with the British Met Office — the U.K.’s top climate agency — is part of an effort to cut the country’s funding of climate science while also showing the international community they still care about the issue. “It is part of consultation and discussions with stakeholders about how research in the climate area can be maintained and maximised in the future,” a CSIRO spokesman said, adding that Aussie officials secretly planned to layoff hundreds of employees. “There was concern that distress may be caused to staff if options for staff reduction, which are not yet finalised, were leaked or distributed,” he added.

Breitbart:  US considers prosecuting climate change deniers

The US Department of Justice has been considering whether people should be prosecuted for the offense of climate change denial. “This matter has been discussed. We have received information about it and have referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action on,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch, responding to a question from green activist Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) at a Senate Judiciary Hearing. Whitehouse said:“The similarities between the mischief of the tobacco industry pretending that the science of tobacco’s dangers was unsettled and the fossil fuel industry pretending that the science of carbon emissions’ dangers is unsettled has been remarked on widely, particularly by those who study the climate denial apparatus that the fossil fuel industry has erected. Under President Clinton, the Department of Justice brought and won a civil RICO action against the tobacco industry for its fraud. Under President Obama, the Department of Justice has done nothing so far about the climate denial scheme,”

Media Matters:  US Network Coverage of Climate Change Decreases In 2015

ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox collectively spent five percent less time covering climate change in 2015, even though there were more newsworthy climate-related events than ever before, including the EPA finalizing the Clean Power Plan, Pope Francis issuing a climate change encyclical, President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, and 195 countries around the world reaching a historic climate agreement in Paris. The decline was primarily driven by ABC, whose climate coverage dropped by 59 percent; the only network to dramatically increase its climate coverage was Fox, but that increase largely consisted of criticism of efforts to address climate change. When the networks did discuss climate change, they rarely addressed its impacts on national security, the economy, or public health, yet most still found time to provide a forum for climate science denial.

Athens Banner-Herald:  Finding climate fingerprints in wild weather is valid

Climate science has progressed so much that experts can accurately detect global warming’s fingerprints on certain extreme weather events, such as a heat wave, according to a high-level scientific advisory panel. For years scientists have given almost a rote response to the question of whether an instance of weird weather was from global warming, insisting that they can’t attribute any single event to climate change. But “the science has advanced to the point that this is no longer true as an unqualified blanket statement,” the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported. Starting in 2004, dozens of complex peer-reviewed studies found the odds of some extreme events — but by no means all — were goosed by man-made climate change. This new field of finding global warming fingerprints is scientifically valid, the academies said in a 163-page report released Friday. “The fog of uncertainty that obscured the human role in individual events is finally lifting,” said Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer.

ABC:  US Raises Alarm Over Mosul Dam

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations today left a “chilling” briefing about the danger posed by Iraq’s Mosul Dam and called on the international community to realize the “magnitude of the problem and the importance of readiness to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.” The briefing from geotechnical experts said the dam, already described nearly a decade ago as the “most dangerous dam in the world,” now faces a “serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning.” The Mosul Dam lies approximately 30 miles north of Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and has been a danger ever since it was constructed in the mid-1980s on unstable foundation. But officials fear that in recent years the problem has gotten much worse as the terror group ISIS was able to temporarily take control of the dam and may have interfered with the constant, massive grouting operation that is necessary to keep the dam functional. In a worst case scenario, should the dam breach, it could send a flood wave several stories high into Mosul and inundate cities with devastating effect as far down the Tigris as Baghdad, more than 200 miles away, according to a 2007 warning letter from top U.S. officials to the Iraqi government and contemporary estimates by experts.

Autoweek:  EP Tender could give electric cars unlimited range

Electric car owners, you finally have a solution for range anxiety. For those long trips where you can’t just appropriate some random building’s electricity, the EP Tender will get you to your destination. The only issue? It involves a gasoline generator that you tow behind your EV. Inventor Jean-Baptiste Segard has really brought the EV journey full circle with his EP Tender. It’s essentially a gasoline engine inside a small trailer that can provide extra electricity for electric cars on long journeys. Segard has plans on pitching the EP Tender technology to Volkswagen, BMW, and Ford of Europe, though he himself has admitted that the demand for this type of device is not all that great at the moment.

Sage Journals : A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research

Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.

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42 Responses to Blowout Week 115

  1. Gaznotprom says:

    Smart = rationing

  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    Re Shetland tidal power:

    5 by 100 kW generators for £3.5 million (£7 billion equivalent for intermittent 1,000MW puts it beyond Hinkley in cost) doesn’t seem a bargain unless one considers what conditions they are expected to work under.

    The Shetlands depend on a diesel power plant for electricity which is used also for household heating. Output varies from 11 to 48 MW with a nominal capacity of 67MW. There is a separate power station at Sullom Voe which can export into the Shetland system up to 22MW if needed.
    Also about 4MW of wind capacity but the 3.68MW Burradale wind farm is connected to the district heating system in Lerwick. The rest may not be connected but serving isolated residences.

    With no interconnection to other locations and the introduction of variable sources such as this tidal and wind schemes it is no wonder they are trialling demand management schemes. Basically large tanks of heated water, which is circulated for household heating, thus cutting down the load on the (ageing) diesel power plant in Lerwick. A 4MW heater with a tank “holding 130MWh” of water, able to “respond instantly” to variations in supply. They also have a 1MW sodium sulphur battery at the power station for load regulation.

    It looks very much like a trial run for further south. Those of you will be delighted to know that you future needs for heating in summer are assured.

    • I’m intrigued by the concept of a hot water tank that stores no less than 130MWh of energy. Does anyone have any details?

      • Graeme No.3 says:

        Me too. Assuming that they meant that
        1MWh = 3.6 gigajoules
        For a 130,000Litre tank and 4MW heater, it would take just over 2 hours to raise the temperature by 60℃ and store 130MWh, if I can put it that way.

        • nukie says:

          Here a small version in Nürnberg with 1500 TWh
          Or in FLensburg :
          Not the size finally needed, but for testing real life.
          To store excess electricity, and to store excess heat if there is need for electricity from the gas power station, but not fro heating.

          • robertok06 says:

            “Here a small version in Nürnberg with 1500 TWh”

            Sorry… but you are off by a factor of one million… it is 1500 MWh, not TWh… “der 1500 Megawattstunden (MWh) Wärmeenergie speichert”… i.e. the energy equivalent of ~2 hours of excess production from 1 GW of off-shore wind power at 80% capacity factor.
            This simple calculation shows the futility of such storage schemes… the volumes of hot water to store under a 80 or 100% renewables scenario are so large that there would be no practical way to implement it.

            Only storage for electricity which is viable and, to some minor extent, scalable is pumped hydro… all the other technologies are and will be in the also-ran category, good at best for niche applications, but not for mass storage… it is physically/technologically/economically impossible to do it.

      • robertok06 says:

        I believe that it has been done since a few years already in Denmark… but that is of no use when electricity production is necessary, no way to convert it back into that.
        What use, if any, would all that hot water have in summer? I really don’t understand all the hype about this…

        • Hugh Sharman says:


          In Shetland, the heating season is 365 days per year. Storing heat in hot water tanks for Lerwick’s Danish designed district heating system makes eminent sense, saving the Island’s dependence on (these days) low sulfur heating oil imported from the Scottish mainland.

          Nearly every Danish district heating system (there are hundreds) has a hot water reservoir, enabling the district CHPs to operate more efficiently and purchase electricity and gas when it is lowest cost.

          There is an irony of course! Just 18 km north, at Sullom Voe, the UK’s least wholesale cost gas has been exported to the UK mainland for the last 40 years and this is likely to continue for the next 20 years at least.

          Joined up thinking…?

          • robertok06 says:

            Yes, you are right, for the Shetland islands it could help/work… I was thinking about a global energy storage solution… you know… southern European countries, not much use for hot water for >6 months/year.

          • nukie says:

            What about storing 2° 0r -0,5° cold water for airconditioning most of the year in southern europe? Compressors have a lot of spare capacity due to redundant design and less than 40° ambient temperature outside.

        • wawa says:

          may be only warm swiming pool and publics building.
          it would be intelligent :
          instead of paying green craps to unproduce, heating building with melting parafin with overproduced electricity could avoid burning oil, or be a low price factor for oil price.

      • Roger Andrews says:

        So I’m correct in assuming that this is 130MWh of heat storage and not 130MWh of electricity storage?

    • Rob says:

      Re Shetland tidal power:

      Does anyone know what sort of load capacity you get out of tidal power

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I’m actually enthusiastic about the concept of using hot water as a means of storing surplus renewables and as a means of load balancing. Most UK houses are heated by nat gas and hot water circulation through radiators. It is therefore simple to convert these to run on hot water produced from wind. And with well-insulated storage tanks the system would be highly efficient. But it makes more sense to have the storage local to homes rather than gigantic centralised silos that would then require a hot water distribution system, that may of course already exist in district hearing systems.

      The approach to the storage problem has been all wrong IMO. Trying to store electricity in various forms is expensive and simply cannot scale. Low grade heat is the way to go. Leo Smith did a lengthy comment on this some weeks ago, I’ll see if I can find it.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Here is Leo’s comment:

        Sure thing Euan.

        Typical floor plan of small house – say 8 x 8 meters

        Let’s assume a meter of depth below it excavated to form a thermal store, lined with polystyrene and reinforced concrete, and probably capped as well.

        That’s 64 cubic meters.

        Now for temperature. To suit a typical CH and DHW situation we probably don’t want that water to go below 60C, and we probably have an upper limit of 90C before it boils.

        That gives us 30°C usable ΔT.

        So the total storage is 64 x 30 x 4.2 x 10^6 joules = 8064 MJ = 2240 kWh

        Or at 10p a unit, £224 worth of electricity..

        It’s worthwhile looking at a typical modern well insulated house with a U value of – say – 0.3, that is a 8metre square 4 meter high cube.

        Total surface area is 64 x2 + 4 x 32 = 256 sq meters

        @0.3 U value, and ΔT around 15°C total heat loss would be 256 x 0.3 x15 = 1.152 kilowatts and our heat bank would last a shade under 2000 hours.

        Now this is absolutely enough to use night storage electricity for daytime heating even in inefficiently insulated houses.

        This is as you can appreciate 64 tonnes of water. That’s a helluva mass. And you can dig a deeper tank.

        It MAY be almost enough to store summer electricity from solar panels for winter heating, but there the actual heat-loss of the heat-bank itself is an issue.

        However the idea scales well. At a given U value , the bigger the tank, the less percentage loss there is and the surface area goes up as the square, whilst the storage goes up as the cube, of the linear size.

        Which is why the earth is still hot from its formation, as well as from nuclear decay.

        So in terms of space heating, large heat banks are an excellent way of adding ‘capacitance’ – or storage – locally, to a power network. We can store large amounts cheaply and efficiently for long periods of time.

        What we cannot do is turn it back into electricity efficiently. 30°C usable ΔT at 280°K gives a conversion efficiency of less than 10%.

        Which is why you hear talk of molten salt heat-banks operating up at 600°C or more.

        However there the technology ceases to be simple and cheap and within the abilities of any general builder.

        Personally I dont see this solution being a huge amount of use for intermittent renewable energy, because by and large space heating is not the main user of electricity, and its more expensive than fossil fuels.

        BUT it has tremendous traction for a nuclear grid where overnight electricity is at rock bottom prices : you may not be able to smooth out seasonal variations in demand, but you could absolutely use this in a smart grid situation to clip peak demand and fill in times of low demand. Let’s face it, if you have a weeks worth of heat in the bank, you can charge it only when there is surplus.

        And there is a possibility of using a heat-pump to charge it with, up to a point anyway. That might pull the electricity costs down even further.

        Note that also the heat-bank doesn’t have to be water either. It could be concrete, or even the soil that you excavated to make the bank, but a liquid tends to be easier as convection spreads the heat quickly, and it can be drained if the heat exchanger needs maintenance.

        • Ampere says:

          Yes, this way it is often used already in germany to use surplus power of PV installations (70% regulation), or in combination with heat pumps to make better use of soalr power in winter.
          The installations in district heaters are a bit more complex, they are a multi-purpose Tool.
          Without them the combined generation of district heat provides non-dispatchable baseload power at most. (beside the possibility to switch to some often also existing gas boiler, which produces no electricity.) Operated only following heat demand they are a nuisace in a grid without baseload (->residual load)
          With the storage a multidude of different ways of operation are possible:
          – the gas powered station can be run a maximum capaxity (electric output) with low heat demand, and store the excess heat in the storage. (heat emand in Flensburg is around 100MWh / day in summer for hot water)
          – if wholesale electricity price is below wholesale gas price per kWh, genereted electrisity is not to be sold, but put in the storeage, so reducing gas demand for heating and so saving money (and/or replacing the need for a parallel gas boiler otherwise used for this task)
          – if Wind /solar power is curtailed due to grid restrictions, power can be redirected into the heat storage (E.g. Flensburg owns a lot of wind farms around the city, which sometimes in winter have to be curtailed)
          – the Resistor can also be sold as negative reactive power to balace the grid.
          This changes the district heating from a non dispatchable power producer, to one that 8in case of Flensburg can produce anything between. +147MW and -30MW.
          In germany the installed electic power generation in district heating / combined generation is just above 30GW., so it’s usefule to makt this sector fully despatchable.

        • A C Osborn says:

          Like Leo I can’t see the point in trying to use it for wind power, but then as you know I can’t see the sense in wind full stop.
          Along with night time energy, Solar Thermal would help to top it up during the day.
          However I am not sure how this would fit in with the pressurised Combi Boiler situation in the UK, unless Leo thinks it could totally replace it.
          You would also need some kind of heat exchanger to transfer the heat to Domestic Water.

      • Euan

        It is costly even if my below costs are out by a factor of 10.

        We recently built a section braithwaite tank to hold circa 200 m3 of soften water at atmospheric conditions. The tank alone cost in the region of £90K.

        So a tank the size Leo suggests will cost circa £30K say. Then you have to add in foundations, site prep, insulation and increased cost due to temperature and some amount of pressure.

        • Ampere says:

          Yes, but it is also too big…. If you want to look for such systems in practice google for “Jenni” But within a electric grid, this would mean that there is a thermal storage of about 200 million buildings * 2260kWh= 452 TWh of thermal energy. Or filled with a heatpump about 100TWh of electric enegy, – roughly all electric power produced in europe within 9 days. No concept I know seriously in discussion needs so much buffer. But it shows the heat market in buildings can consume any temporary overprduction by nuclear or renewables without wasting it, if the market rules alow it to do so in a economical reasonable way.

          • Hence the rise of heat networks as opposed to storage tanks around the place. As I said the installed cost even if my figures are too high, will likely require a tank, insulation and foundation costing in the region of 10K. I do not see anything happening at that price.

          • Ampere says:

            @donoughshanahan Yes, some bigger warm water storage and variation of building temperature adrgeree up or dowen which most people will never notice, will already balance european power supply a lot. (by increasing consumption when there is a lot of electricity, and again decreasing it when there is few). Something around 20TWh thermal energy without investment outside software is already something to play with.
            But if the market allows to get heating cheaper by storing low temperature heat, maybe someone will have some good idea about it sometimes. Nubody knows what market produces if it is allowed to optimize things.

      • GeoffM says:

        I have doubts about this idea Euan. I used to leave the immersion heater in my all-electric house switched on constantly. I was using 8,000 kWh annually. Then in 2010 I turned it off permanently and started heating water as I needed it eg in my kettle. My annual usage fell to 5,000 kWh. This suggests that perhaps 4,000 kWh annually was going into keeping that tank of water hot, as I was probably using 1,000 kWh to heat water when needed after 2010. This suggests that storing and moving large volumes of hot water will see enormous energy wastage.
        Bear in mind that I had double insulation on the tank.

  3. jim brough says:

    Feminist glaciology ? Ice-maidens ?
    Ideology, not science.

  4. GV says:

    “There seems to be a growing consensus that the oil price slump is finally nearing an end”

    The consensus is usually a good contrarian indicator.

  5. robertok06 says:

    ““Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. “It’s explosive compared to natural processes.””

    Freaking liars!… they know exactly why CO2 has risen this fast last year… El Nino.

  6. robertok06 says:


    “European Commission clears EDF, CGN partnership
    11 March 2016
    The European Commission has announced its approval of the partnership between EDF and China General Nuclear (CGN) for the development, construction and operation of three new nuclear power plants in the UK. The partnership complies with EU merger regulations, it said.”

    • Roberto: What this basically illustrates is the extent to which the EU controls UK energy policy. In this case things turned out OK, but the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive has already shut down a number of fossil plants the UK can ill afford to lose, including Cockenzie units 1-4. Didcot A, Ferrybridge units 1&2, Ironbridge unit 1, Kingsnorth, Tilbury units 7-10, Fawley, Grain and Littlebrook. If these plants were still operating the UK would have about 10GW more dispatchable capacity than it presently has and no one would be worried about blackouts.

      • nukie says:

        Why is UK the contry which has “problems” with this directive? I have no news from other countries like this – were those power stations more ditrty than coal power stations elsewhere?

        • robertok06 says:

          I think it’s because other countries did not have as many old/outdated stations like the UK does… but certainly there are other cases abroad. Germany, Italy for sure, others probably.

          • Golf says:

            Which power plants in Germany/Italy do you have in Mind? The only one which comes to my mind is Shamrock, a completely outdated plant which should have been replaced by Datteln IV about a decade ago. All other old stations which are mothballed / cloed down at the moment do not seem to have any problems with emissions (@Osborne – I am not a coal fan, but please explain the difference in CO2 Emissions between a BOA+ Lignite plant which digs the coal next to the boiler, and a hard coal plant where the coal needs to be transported 10.000km.

          • robertok06 says:

            Italy has recently (last few years) mothballed a coal power station near Savona (Liguria, northern Italy), trying to close one in Monfalcone (near the Slovenian border), and at least one in Puglia (souther Italy, in front of Albania)…

          • A C Osborn says:

            Golf says: March 16, 2016 at 5:57 am “(@Osborne – I am not a coal fan, but please explain the difference in CO2 Emissions between a BOA+ Lignite plant which digs the coal next to the boiler, and a hard coal plant where the coal needs to be transported 10.000km.”

            I have absolutely no interest in CO2 output as I believe it “greens” the world.
            However I do have an interest in economics, so I find your question relevant in that respect, the first option is the better option, although it may not be for overall polution levels.
            Just like the option for the UK DRAX plant is to burn the coal from the coalmine that it was built on and not Wood Pellets shipped all the way from the USA.

        • A C Osborn says:

          It has a lot to do with the age of the plants and the position that the industry was in when the start period was “declared” with regard to the reductions of CO2.
          Some countries were much cleverer than others in choosing their start points.
          Plus of course some just totally ignore the so called rules, how can opening new Lignite Plants to replace Nuclear be “cutting CO2”?
          Not that I believe in cutting CO2 at all.

          • Gaznotprom says:

            LCPD had nothing to do with co2 emissions, it was particulate emissions etc and the plants had to install scrubbers to remove sulphur and reduce nox – cost many millions and many companies choose not to bother, due to economics… The perfectly serviceable plants had so (10000?) many hours to run then shutdown…

            Completely insane but here you go…

  7. Hugh Sharman says:

    Re the Mosul Dam , “…may have interfered with the constant, massive grouting operation that is necessary to keep the dam functional — though an Iraqi official told ABC News in 2014 that the work continued, even under ISIS control.”!!!!


    Why is this not Headline News…in 2016? Who is doing what to avert what sounds to me like a 100% certain catastrophe…?

    I hope I am wrong, of course!

    • robertok06 says:

      Actually I am surprised about this news, because a few weeks ago an italian company has been awarded the contract to refurbish the Mosul dam, and Italian troops will be sent there, alongside other troops, to protect the workers… if I find a site in English I’ll post it here.

      In Italian, this is one of the articles on the web:

      450 servicemen, not much but should work if integrated by others properly…

      The Italian company is “Trevi”, and the contract is for 230 million US $.

  8. Aslangeo says:

    a bit off topic but interesting animation of drilling counts on – puts the decline into a bit of context

  9. robertok06 says:

    Very interesting:

    “Electricity generation mix and economic growth: What role is being played by nuclear sources and carbon dioxide emissions in France?”

    Energy Policy Vol.92, May 2016 (in progress), Pages 7-19

    António Cardoso Marques, José Alberto Fuinhas, André Roque Nunes


    The gradual trend towards the electrification of economies has raised new challenges. Focusing on France, this paper uses monthly data from January 2010 to November 2014, to study the challenge of the simultaneous integration of various sources of generation, and their relationship with economic growth. For the analysis of the dynamics of interaction between electricity sources, the auto-regressive distributed lag (ARDL) bounds test approach was shown to be appropriate, as it allows short- and long-run effects to be distinguished.

    The results showed that nuclear energy has been a huge driver of economic growth in France and, at the same time, leads to an environment with lower CO2 emissions.

    Renewables were shown to exert a negative effect on economic growth, which could be due to lack of investment in other sources of production, due to the resilient position held by nuclear sources. The substitution effect among sources is noticeable.

    The robustness of the results was checked using annual data, from 1970 until 2012, and the results were comparable to those from the monthly data.


    Any comments?

Comments are closed.