The verdict is in. 2014 was the warmest year on record:
New York Times: 2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics
Last year was the hottest on Earth since record-keeping began in 1880, scientists reported on Friday, underscoring warnings about the risks of runaway greenhouse gas emissions and undermining claims by climate change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped.
Or was it?
Berkeley Earth: 2014 Ties For Warmest Year
The global surface temperature average (land and sea) for 2014 was nominally the warmest since the global instrumental record began in 1850; however, within the margin of error (0.05C), it is tied with 2005 and 2010, and so we can’t be certain it set a new record.
Climate scientists John Christy and Roy Spencer with the University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH) said, ”2014 was third-warmest, but barely.” Christy said, “2014 was warm, but not special. The 0.01 degree Celsius difference between 2014 and 2005, or the 0.02 difference with 2013 are not statistically different from zero. That might not be a very satisfying conclusion, but it is at least accurate.”
Stories on oil prices, OPEC, layoffs in the petroleum industry, Russia losing its natural gas clout in Europe, France wanting more nuclear plants, blades falling off wind turbines in Scotland, the US Senate voting on whether climate change is real, energy storage using methane and a hybrid wind/solar generator below the fold:
Bloomberg: America’s Going to Lose the Oil Price War
The financial debacle that has befallen Russia as the price of Brent crude dropped 50 percent in the last four months has overshadowed the one that potentially awaits the U.S. shale industry in 2015. It’s time to heed it, because Saudi Arabia and other major Middle Eastern oil producers are unlikely to blink and cut output, and the price is now approaching a level where U.S. production will begin shutting down.
U.S. drillers have taken a record number of oil rigs out of service in the past six weeks as OPEC sustains its production, sending prices below $50 a barrel. The oil rig count has fallen by 209 since Dec. 5, the steepest six-week decline since Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) began tracking the data in July 1987. The count was down 55 this week to 1,366. Horizontal rigs used in U.S. shale formations that account for virtually all of the nation’s oil production growth fell by 48, the biggest single-week drop. Analysts including HSBC Holdings Plc say the decline shows that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is winning its fight for market share and slowing the growth that’s propelled U.S. production to the highest in at least three decades.
Economic Times India: Oil price could fall to $25 per barrel: Lukoil
Russian oil company Lukoil on Friday predicted that oil prices, which have more than halved since June last year, could plunge as low as $25 per barrel. The oil price “could fall to $25,” said Vagit Alekperov, the chief executive of the private oil producer, quoted by RIA Novosti. Alekperov said such a low price would not last long but was a possibility, as Saudi Arabia, the kingpin of the OPEC cartel has insisted that it will not cut crude production. Asked how long the volatility on the oil market could go on for, Alekperov said: “For the next year for sure… Yesterday, you saw, they fluctuated 10 percent. That has never happened before.”
Qatar Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) ended plans to build a $6.5 billion petrochemical plant in the emirate, one of the biggest casualties of slumping oil prices so far as producers scrap projects to conserve cash. The two companies, which formed a partnership for the al-Karaana project in 2011, said yesterday that they decided not to proceed with building the plant because it was “commercially unfeasible” in the current energy market. The crash in crude oil from more than $100 a barrel in July to less than $50 today has forced producers to cut billions from capital budgets. As projects from the Arctic Ocean to the Middle East come under scrutiny, total industry spending is likely to fall 20 percent this year, according to analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein.
Oil & Gas Financial Journal: Apache, Schlumberger, ConocoPhillips, BP to cut jobs amid oil price slide
Apache, Schlumberger, ConocoPhillips, and BP are all implementing job cuts in the midst of slumping oil prices. Their actions follow oilfield companies like Halliburton, which began layoffs from its global operations in December 2014. Halliburton Chairman and CEO Dave Lesar has indicated that additional job cuts would be made in 2015. While Halliburton is currently in the process of acquiring Baker Hughes, the company’s job cuts seem related to market conditions and not the merger. Apache plans to lay off 5% of the company’s approximately 5,000 employees worldwide. Schlumberger will be cutting 9,000 of its employees; these job cuts, which began in the fourth quarter of 2014, represent 7.5% of Schlumberger’s global workforce. In the North Sea region, with oil prices below $50 a barrel, ConocoPhillips plans to cut 230 jobs in the UK by March, reducing its workforce there to just over 1,400. BP has also announced that it will cut 200 onshore staff and 100 contractors in the region, where the company employs approximately 4,000 people in the North Sea and another 11,000 across the UK.
Non-OPEC oil producers will increase output this year at a slower rate than previously forecast, aiding a recovery in crude prices, the International Energy Agency said. The adviser lowered its non-OPEC supply growth estimate by 350,000 barrels a day, the first cut since the 2015 forecast was introduced in July. Half the cut is from Colombian output while effects on U.S. production are so far “marginal,” it said. The slow-down in non-OPEC output will lead to a “rebalancing” of currently over-supplied global markets in the second half, reviving prices, the agency said. “Companies have been taking an axe to their budgets, postponing or cancelling new projects,”. “A price recovery, barring any major disruption, may not be imminent, but signs are mounting that the tide will turn.”
The chief executives of Saudi Aramco, Pemex and Total will face questions about their future in a warming world at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week. Crumbling oil prices and soaring greenhouse gas emissions feature heavily in the agenda for the annual event in the Swiss Alps, which attracts national leaders, heads of business and civil society representatives. According to the WEF, the fossil fuel chiefs will be joined by Abdalla Salem El Badri, head of the OPEC oil cartel and will discuss, among other issues, the impact of falling oil prices on climate change. Speaking at the media launch of the meeting, Richard Samans, a former White House official who runs the WEF’s Global Agenda arm said the group had been asked by the French government to help drive momentum ahead of this year’s UN climate summit in Paris.
EU Observer: Russia to cut EU gas transit via Ukraine
Russia has said it will stop EU gas transit via Ukraine and do it via Turkey instead in the second shock announcement on energy in as many months. It said on Wednesday (14 January) that the EU should build new infrastructure to link up with a future Russia-Turkey pipeline or lose access to supplies. Gazprom head Alexei Miller issued the ultimatum during a visit to Russia by EU energy commissioner Maros Sefcovic, who said he was “very surprised” by the statement. The latest announcement comes after Russia said in December it won’t build the so-called South Stream pipeline via Bulgaria and Hungary to Italy in favour of a new project with Turkey. The European Commission blocked South Stream construction on grounds of non-compliance with EU energy law.
Business Insider: Russia Is Losing Control Over The European Gas Market
Back in 2009 the European Union passed the Third Energy Package, which said Russia could not both own and control pipelines on the EU territory. Additionally, the EU has been putting taxpayers’ money into new inter-connectors, so if Russia decides to cut off supplies, the affected countries can still get gas from somewhere else, according to The Economist. Lithuania started importing liquefied natural gas from Norway. Ukraine is importing more gas from the West. The EU has brokered a deal on debts and prices between Ukraine and Russia, which will keep gas going to Ukraine at least for the first quarter of 2015.
The government is considering setting 20 percent as the amount of the total domestic electric power output to be generated using nuclear energy in 2030, almost the same level as renewable energy resources, according to sources. In line with a policy to minimize reliance on nuclear power plants, the government will aim to lower the percentage from 28.6 percent in fiscal 2010, before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. A government source said: “If the number of nuclear power plants is reduced excessively, that could be detrimental to the electric power supply. But considering public opinion, which has been negative toward nuclear power generation, it would be difficult to utilize nuclear power generation at a higher percentage than that of renewable energy resources.”
France should build a new generation of nuclear reactors to replace the country’s ageing plants, Energy Minister Segolene Royal said on Tuesday, the first time a government member has clearly approved this option. France, the country most reliant on nuclear power, must decide in the next few years whether to continue down the nuclear route as about half of its 58 reactors will reach their designed 40-year age limit in the 2020s. Royal’s so-called energy transition bill, which is being reviewed by the Senate after parliament’s lower house passed a first version last year, aims to cut the share of nuclear energy in France’s electricity mix to 50 percent from 75 percent. But that does not mean France wants to exit atomic energy, as it is part of the country’s history and expertise, Royal told L’Usine Nouvelle magazine in an interview, in contrast with Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power.
Financial Times: Hinkley Point nuclear agreement expected in March
French nuclear power developer EDF said it expected to sign a long-awaited investment agreement with its Chinese partners for a new reactor at Hinkley Point in southwest England by the end of March, helping pin down procurement for the £24.5bn project. The plant would be the first overseas venture for China General Nuclear Power Corp, which has negotiated for Chinese companies to get a share in supplying components to the project. EDF and the British government had initially envisioned the Chinese partners would primarily help with providing financing.
During the debate on a bill that would force the President to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, Senate Democrats plan to offer an amendment that would put senators on the record regarding their recognition of basic mainstream climate science findings. The amendment, offered by Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, asks senators to agree or disagree that “climate change is real” and is “caused by human activities,” among other findings. There is, however, language in the Sanders amendment that some mainstream climate scientists might disagree with, which is the statement that climate change “has already caused devastating problems in the United States and around the world.”
The Conversation: Court challenge will test coal mining’s climate culpability
A new legal challenge to the proposed Carmichael coal mine – Australia’s largest – will test in the federal court whether climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions should be taken into account when assessing prospective coal licences in Australia. The challenge, by the New South Wales Environmental Defenders Office on behalf of the Mackay Conservation Group, will argue that federal environment minister Greg Hunt failed to take into account the climate impact of greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of coal from the Carmichael mine when assessing whether to grant its licence. It cites the impact of global warming on the Great Barrier reef, an area of world and national heritage, as a relevant consideration which the minister should have been taken into account.
U.K. opposition leader Ed Miliband said he’ll push world leaders to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 if elected this year. The target proposed by the Labour Party leader means fossil fuels would have to be phased out completely unless technology to trap emissions and pump them permanently underground — known as carbon capture and storage — is deployed at sufficient scale. “Tackling climate change is the most important thing I can do in politics for my children’s generation,” Miliband said in a speech today in London.
Installing more wind turbines will make the UK’s energy market more resilient to global fossil fuel price shocks, an independent report has concluded. Dwindling domestic gas and coal supplies mean the nation would become dependent on volatile imports, it adds. The report, by Cambridge Econometrics for RenewableUK, said wind power saved the UK £579 million in fossil fuel costs in 2013. “One of the main messages from this report is that in a scenario with a higher content of wind energy, you are less reliant on fossil fuels,” explained co-author Sophie Billington, a researcher from Cambridge Econometrics. “This is a key message, particularly when you consider that the UK – for the past five years or so – has imported more gas than it has produced domestically.”
Southern Reporter: Safety fears close Longpark wind farm in Scottish Borders
A windfarm in the Scottish Borders has been shut down after part of turbine was found lying by the roadside. All 19 turbines at the Longpark farm above Stow have been switched off and an investigation is underway. The fibreglass component from a blade was found by Stow businessman Graeme Steel – and he says he’s spotted another three of the same components – believed to be spoilers – missing from turbines. It’s thought it may have been ripped off during high winds. He told The Southern: “I found it on the side of the road. It could easily have caused severe injury or even a fatality.”
Researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in German have demonstrated a novel method of converting the outputs of biogas facilities into methane. The new type of methanation plant can fit inside a standard shipping container, and could be combined with renewable energy production as a means of storing the excess and intermittent supply that is inherent to wind and solar power. The concept takes the products of biomass gasification—hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide—and uses a nickel catalyst to produce methane and water. When connected to the electricity grid or production facilities using wind or solar power, this mobile plant can use that power for electrolysis and production of additional hydrogen. That means almost all of the carbon stored in the initial biomass feedstock can be used, and the volume of the biomass plant can double. Even the waste heat produced by the catalyst could be used.
The Snohomish County PUD dedicated its first battery system Thursday designed to store power from wind or solar generation for later use during high demand. On Thursday the Snohomish PUD dedicated its first battery, a lithium-ion system about the size of a shipping container. The one-megawatt system, developed by Mitsubishi and GS Yuasa, is able to store enough power for about 400 families for one hour.
The SolarMill hybrid energy system, from Windstream, integrates solar panels and vertical axis wind turbines into modular units that can be installed on rooftops or other appropriate locations, promising to be an easy-to-install “highly efficient, low-cost, renewable energy hybrid device for any environment.” The company supplied 50 of their SolarMill modules to what was billed as “the world’s largest hybrid renewable energy project” on the roof of a building in Kingston, Jamaica. The installation, which is on the roof of a law firm, is expected to generate 106,000 kWh of renewable energy per year (25kW from wind and 55kW from solar) and to pay for itself in just four years (photo credit Windstream).