The oil just keeps on coming:
ARAMCO oil refinery, Dahran, Saudi Arabia
The world’s biggest oil exporter, having abandoned last year its role of keeping global markets in balance, now has incentive to maximize output and undermine rival producers by using its reserve capacity, according to Citigroup Inc. and UBS AG. Just meeting its own domestic demand this summer will require a lot more fuel, others estimate. The increase — a snub to fellow OPEC members calling on the kingdom to cut production — will heighten tensions when the organization meets in June. Oil plunged to a six-year low near $45 a barrel in January, six weeks after the Saudis overcame opposition within the group to keep up output despite surging U.S. shale supplies. “Increasing production and exports is the clear implication of Saudi’s new oil policy,” Seth Kleinman, head of European energy research at Citigroup in London, said by e-mail. “If you want to pressure high cost producers, why hold oil back on spare capacity? Use it all and use it now.”
More on the oil glut below the fold, plus fracking and earthquakes in the US, grass-to-gas conversion in UK, Drax pellet demand, nuclear in Japan and China, coal miners march in protest in Germany, Pakistan bans wind and solar, the Yellowstone “supervolcano”, the zero-carbon airliner of the future (complete with CO2 scrubber), the GWPF launches an enquiry into adjustments to temperature records (h/t A.C. Osborn) and how the tragic deaths in the Mediterranean are precisely in line with the predictions of climate security analysts.
This Day Live: OPEC Increases Crude Oil Production by 810,000bpd
Contrary to the expectations that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will reduce the flow of crude oil to the global market to reduce the current oversupply and stabilise the plummeting prices, the organisation increased production by 810,000 barrels per day in March, according to the Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) released at the weekend. OPEC has also stated that it will continue increasing output, despite an oversupply, projecting an increased demand of 80,000 barrels per day higher for this year than anticipated. For the month of March, OPEC produced an average of about 30.79 million barrels per day, representing an increase of 810,000 barrels per day.”Crude oil output increased mostly from Saudi Arabia and Iraq, while Libya saw a return of about 165, 000 barrels per day from shut-in wells in active oil fields,” OPEC said in MOMR report.Non-OPEC oil supply is expected to grow by 680,000 barrels per day, up from the previous month. The organisation projects US shale oil and Canadian oil sands output is expected to see lower growth due to declining rig counts.
Contrary to what many investors may assume, Russian oil production has remained relatively stable despite low oil prices and tough sanctions from the United States and Russia, said Kamil Zakirov, CEO at Targin Oilfield Services. Daily oil production in Russia has remained “quite stable” and there haven’t been many job cuts, he added. Capital expenditure budgets haven’t changed much either. However, Zakirov did acknowledge that some long-term projects would probably be pushed back. The sanctions have had an impact on many companies in Russia because of the financial restrictions. However, he claimed, the energy field has been a different story because financing can be done locally. While the sanctions curb shale and Arctic oil production, almost all of the country’s production still comes from its traditional oil fields, he concluded.
Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) should prepare for extra Iranian crude production when Western sanctions on Tehran are lifted, Iran’s oil minister was quoted on Tuesday by state news agency IRNA as saying. “We expect the members of OPEC to pave the ground for (an) increase of Iran’s oil production that will reach global markets when sanctions are lifted,” Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said during a meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart Asdrubal Chavez in Tehran, the agency reported. Iran, once OPEC’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia, hopes to boost crude exports by as much as 1 million barrels per day (bpd) if Tehran and six major powers finalize a nuclear agreement by a June 30 deadline. Iran says an increase of its oil production will not cause a price crash. However, so far there is no sign of any willingness of other OPEC members to cut supply.
Venezuela has launched talks this month on a novel plan to blend the country’s heavy crude with light oil from other OPEC allies, seeking to create a new variety that can compete against swelling U.S. and Canadian supplies. The proposal, which would expand on a pilot scheme involving Algerian oil last year, envisions supplying refineries built for medium-grade crudes rather than the light oil that has become plentiful as a result of the North American shale boom, said the head of state oil company PDVSA, Eulogio del Pino. The talks suggest that PDVSA’s new leadership is eyeing creative ways to retain its U.S. market share at a time of intensifying competition, and to ride out a deep slump in global oil prices that has worsened a recession in Venezuela. The plan, if agreed, could help Venezuela get more value from its heavy grades, which are under pressure from the rapid rise in shipments of Canadian crude to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, while giving a similar advantage to OPEC members whose lighter oil has been pushed aside by U.S. shale.
“Extreme market forces” are in play in the global energy sector, oil services company Baker Hughes said Tuesday in announcing widespread layoffs. The company said it was cutting about 17 percent of its workforce, or around 10,500 jobs, as it works to streamline its finances amid the drop in exploration and production. During the first quarter, Baker Hughes reported revenue of $4.59 billion, a 20 percent decline year-on-year. “Our first quarter results are a reflection of the extreme market forces faced by our industry since late December,” Baker Hughes Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Martin Craighead said in a statement. “Consistent with past downturns, many of our customers have curtailed or canceled projects.”
Christian science Monitor: Fracking adding to seismic activity in US
Earthquakes are becoming more frequent and more intense in the US, including “man-made” earthquakes in areas not near a fault line, according to two studies released this week. The new earthquake hazard map from researchers at the US Geological Survey points out 17 typically dormant areas where wastewater injections from hydraulic fracturing operations might be the root cause of high seismic activity. Oklahoma is leading the way, registering more quakes of magnitude 3 or higher than California last year, according to the report released earlier this week. The state’s seismicity rate was 70 times greater than the background seismicity rate observed prior to 2008, according to state officials. Moreover, Oklahoma’s sharp rise in quakes is “very unlikely to represent a naturally occurring process,” since the quakes are occurring over the same area that saw a big jump in wastewater injections over the last several years, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Oklahoma Geological Survey. “These earthquakes are occurring at a higher rate than ever before, and pose a much greater risk and threat to people living nearby,” said Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS’s National Seismic Hazard Modeling Project and lead author of the report, in a statement with Thursday’s release.
A plant that turns grass into gas could be Britain’s answer to fracking, according to its operators. The anaerobic digestion system will be one of the first such plants to feed gas directly into the British grid and the first to be fed solely on grass. The development in Gloucestershire by Ecotricity, a green energy company, would heat 6,000 homes. It will enter the planning stages within months and could be operating before 2017, should it receive approval. Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, said the company’s system of turning grass into methane could be a game-changing addition to the UK’s energy mix. “It’s a great concept. And it could be the answer, you know, to how we power the country and fight climate change at the same time,” said Vince. “It’s certainly the answer to fracking because I think we could deploy it more quickly, actually, than fracking can get up and running. With none of the risks. And it’s not going to run out, which fracking will eventually, even if we can afford to burn it from a carbon point of view.”
Oil Price: Solar Could Be UK’s Biggest Loser This Year
Last year was a record for UK solar, with the sector nearly doubling from 2.8GW at the end of 2013 to almost 5GW at the end of 2014, official statistics show. Now, the British government threatens to slam the brakes on the growth, due to a shift in policy that limits the subsidies paid to large land-based solar farms, and instead, encourages more roof-top solar. Starting this month, under a new directive known as “contracts for difference,” large solar farms over 5MW will have to compete with other sources of renewable energy such as onshore wind turbines, hydroelectric and waste-to-energy plants, for a limited amount of cash ultimately paid for by UK electricity consumers. Not surprisingly, the policy has solar industry advocates up in arms. The Solar Trade Association, which promotes the benefits and adoption of solar energy in the UK, predicts a major decline in the sector as a result of contracts for difference. While the current financial year will still see significant growth, from 2-3GW of large-scale solar, next year new installations will virtually stall, to just 32MW for both small and large PV – or around 1 percent of current levels, according to the association.
Maritime Executive: Drax drives demand for U.S. pellets
In 2014, almost three-quarters of all U.S. wood pellet exports were delivered to the United Kingdom (UK), mainly for the purpose of generating electricity. Overall, U.S. wood pellet exports increased by nearly 40% between 2013 and 2014, from 3.2 million short tons to 4.4 million short tons, as the United States continues to be the largest wood pellet exporter in the world. Data from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change indicate that electricity generation from plant-based biomass (which includes wood pellets) increased 47% from 8,933 gigawatthours (GWh) in 2013 to 13,138 GWh in 2014, driven by the continuing conversion of the Drax power plant in north-central England from coal to biomass. In 2014, the Drax plant’s wood pellet supply alone accounted for more than 80% of all of the United Kingdom’s wood pellet imports from the United States, and almost 60% of all U.S. wood pellet exports to all countries. While the United States is the largest supplier of pellets to the UK, it is not the UK’s sole supplier; in 2014, imports of U.S. pellets only met 58% of Drax’s demand. Canada provided another 22% of the wood pellet supply. Only 2.8% of Drax’s wood pellet supply was domestically produced.
Solar Power Portal: UK Political parties failing renewable energy sector, survey says
A survey conducted by the Renewable Energy Association found that almost all of its membership felt political parties in the UK have failed the renewable energy industry during the current election campaign. The REA surveyed 136 members and found that 95% agreed that political parties are “not addressing the needs of the renewable energy industry during this election campaign”. “These figures show first-hand the concern of renewable energy companies up and down the country at how the political parties are failing to adequately address the needs of our industry,” said Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive at the REA. “The next government will need to show much more leadership early on and face-up to the challenge of ensuring that the UK meets its ambitious renewables targets, which will allow our industry to play a key role if the regulatory environment enables us to expand, innovate and thrive,” she added.
The Diplomat: China’s Coming Nuclear Power Boom
The China Nuclear Energy Association (CNEA) predicts that eight new nuclear reactors will begin operation this year. If so, that will mark the largest single-year increase in nuclear power production in China’s history. China is looking to more than double the number of nuclear power plants in operation — there are currently 23 operating, with 26 under construction. If all the projects are completed as planned, it would bring China’s nuclear energy capacity up to 49.9 gigawatts, compared to the current capacity of 21.4 gigawatts. Plus, CNEA expects an additional six to eight nuclear energy projects to be approved this year. Zhang Huazhu, the chairman of CNEA, called 2015 “an important yet for China to resume its nuclear power program.” Like many countries, China slammed the brakes on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in Japan; the industry in China is just beginning to regain its footing. A rapid expansion of nuclear power is critical for weaning China off of coal and reaching emissions reduction targets, but safety concerns (and public fears) continue to plague the industry. In 2014, China didn’t approve a single new nuclear power project, and investment in the industry dropped by 6.6 percent, Zhang said, speaking an industry conference in Beijing.
A Japanese court has rejected a legal bid to block the reopening of the Sendai nuclear power station on safety grounds, removing one of the last big hurdles to switching reactors back on after the 2011 Fukushima crisis paralyzed the industry. Wednesday’s ruling by the Kagoshima District Court is a boost for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who wants to reboot nuclear power to help cut reliance on expensive fossil fuel imports. The Sendai ruling said that based on the latest scientific knowledge the court found nothing wrong in the regulations set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority and that evacuation plans were also reasonable. The Sendai reactors, operated by Kyushu Electric Power, are “very close” to getting final regulatory approval to being operations, an official from Japan’s nuclear regulator said earlier this month. The reactors, on the coast of Kagoshima prefecture in southwestern Japan, could begin starting up as early as June. A court order stopping the move would have risked tying up the industry in legal battles for months or years.
Climate News Network: World group seeks ban on uranium and nuclear power
Uranium mining across the world should cease, nuclear power stations be closed and nuclear weapons be banned, according to a group of scientists, environmentalists and representatives of indigenous peoples. Three hundred delegates from 20 countries that produce uranium for nuclear power, weapons and medical uses called for an end to all uranium mining in a declaration launched on Earth Day this week at a meeting in Quebec, Canada. The city of Quebec is also symbolic because this is where Canada, the US and the UK made a co-operation agreement in 1943 that led to the building of the world’s first nuclear weapons. But the symposium was more concerned about the damage that existing uranium mining is doing to the welfare of indigenous peoples, and the “erroneous view” that nuclear power can help solve the problem of climate change. The declaration applauded the expansion of renewable energy and the significant strides in phasing out nuclear power following the growing awareness that “nuclear power is not a cost-effective, timely, practical or safe response to climate change”.
Wall Street Journal: The battle between coal and gas
In 2007, coal powered almost half U.S. electricity production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Last year, its share dropped to 39% and due in large part to climate-change regulations proposed by the Obama administration, that percentage will fall to 30% by 2030. Natural gas, which fueled 21% of U.S. electricity in 2007, rose to 26% last year and could account for close to 40% by 2030. A decade ago, natural gas was considered to be in short supply in the U.S. and therefore was relatively expensive. The advent of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a glut of cheap gas from American shale rock formations. The price of competing coal has been battered, leading money-losing companies to close mines.
Germany will make no decision on a proposed coal levy before a review is conducted regarding possible job losses, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has told energy unions in a letter seen by Reuters on Friday. Germany is looking to safeguard its energy supply while reducing its CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2020 and exiting nuclear power two years after that. The government has proposed penalties for the oldest and most polluting coal-fired power plants to help cut emissions. But energy companies and German states fear the measure will damage coal generation and cost jobs. Mining unions plan mass demonstrations on Saturday in Berlin against the proposed coal levy, which union IG BCE says could put 100,000 jobs at risk. Germany’s largest power producer, RWE, and other energy groups have said the levy would lead to the immediate closure of RWE’s lignite-fired power plants. “We need certainty about the numbers and consequences,” Gabriel said in the letter to IG BCE and another union Verdi dated April 24. “Nothing will be decided prior to that. Should this in fact confirm the misgivings expressed by IG BCE and Verdi of an industry meltdown with a considerable loss of jobs, then the Economy Ministry will of course change its proposals to achieve its climate targets,”
RE News: Germany puts offshore wind on hold
German maritime regulator BSH has warned developers planning some 30 North Sea farshore wind farms that consent applications are being put on hold. The offshore wind projects, representing gigawatts of capacity, were not included in the country’s latest offshore grid development blueprint as drafted by the federal network agency BNA. The sites are at least 130km offshore and are not necessary to meet revised 2030 German offshore targets of 15GW, down from 25GW. Ronny Meyer, head of industry group Offshore Wind Industry Alliance, said: “Some wind farm developers have put their trust in Germany’s previous expansion goals and invested millions in their farshore projects. This economic value must be preserved.”
Pakistan Tribune: Pakistan bans new wind & solar projects
As the focus rapidly shifts towards liquefied natural gas (LNG)-based power plants, the government has slapped a ban on new solar and wind energy projects, saying they are unfeasible because of being expensive compared to conventional electricity production projects. The decision was taken in a meeting of the cabinet committee on energy on April 8. The government has admitted for the first time that these renewable energy sources were expensive compared to the conventional means. The Ministry of Water and Power told the energy committee that power generation through solar and wind plants would be pricey because of their high tariffs compared to conventional energy projects. Therefore, no new solar and wind projects should be proposed and sponsored until a further decision on the issue, it suggested.
Christian Science Monitor: Scientists find huge magma reservoir in Yellowstone ‘supervolcano’
Beneath Yellowstone’s surface, seismologists at the University of Utah have discovered a huge reservoir of hot, partly molten rock – more evidence that Yellowstone with its earthquakes and geysers is a ‘supervolcano.’ The researchers, whose findings were published in the journal Science this week, emphasize that Yellowstone’s plumbing system is no larger – nor closer to erupting – than before. Now, however, they have used advanced techniques to make a complete image of the system that carries hot and partly molten rock upward from the top of the Yellowstone hot-spot plume – about 40 miles beneath the surface – to the magma reservoir and the magma chamber above it. There’s evidence that Yellowstone had major eruptions 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago – implying that another big one might be “due” sometime within the next 90,000 years. But as the United States Geological Survey (USGS) points out, such calculations are statistically meaningless. “Nevertheless, we cannot discount the possibility of another such eruption occurring some time in the future, given Yellowstone’s volcanic history and the continued presence of magma beneath the Yellowstone caldera,” according to the USGS.
Starting 28 April, 2015, the University of Queensland is offering a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) aimed at “Making Sense of Climate Science Denial”. The course includes climate science and myth debunking lectures by the international team of volunteer scientific contributors to Skeptical Science, and interviews with many of the world’s leading climate science and psychology experts. Making Sense of Climate Science Denial is a seven-week program featuring interviews with 75 scientific experts, including Sir David Attenborough, Katharine Hayhoe, Richard Alley, Michael Mann, and Naomi Oreskes. The course incorporates lessons in both climate science and psychology to explain the most common climate myths and to detail how to respond to them. Research has shown that myth debunking is most effective when people understand why the myth originated in the first place. For example, cherry picking (focusing on a small bit of convenient data and ignoring the rest) is one of the most common fallacies behind climate science myths.
Popular Science: Is This Weird 3-Story Solar Powered Jet The Airliner Of The Future?
The Progress Eagle is meant to be large enough to carry 800 passengers, and its planned 314-foot wingspan would make the plane only smaller than the 320-foot wingspan of the Spruce Goose. But as envisioned it will have zero carbon footprint. At the back of the plane, a wind turbine will draw energy from the flight and turn it back into power for the plane, while solar cells on the wings will draw in extra power and reduce the plane’s impact. The engine will be completely electric, and the plane will run on hydrogen fuel cells, as well.
BusinessGreen: What the climate crisis really means
The tragic deaths in the Mediterranean are precisely in line with the predictions of climate security analysts, without urgent action they could herald an era of mass migration and international tension. When the world’s political and business leaders gather in Paris later this year to discuss the urgent need to slash global greenhouse gas emissions and enhance climate resilience they will be motivated by the compelling financial reasons for averting dangerous climate change and shifting to a greener and healthier global economy. But there is another reason. Without a rapid and successful global effort to tackle this existential threat the heart-breaking scenes of the past week and the sadness and rancour they unleash will only become more commonplace. After all, this is what climate crisis really means.
Global Warming Policy Forum: Inquiry Launched Into Global Temperature Data Integrity :
Questions have been raised about the reliability of the surface temperature data and the extent to which apparent warming trends may be artefacts of adjustments made after the data are collected. The inquiry will review the technical challenges in accurately measuring surface temperature, and will assess the extent of adjustments to the data, their integrity and whether they tend to increase or decrease the warming trend. Launching the inquiry, Professor Kealey said: “Many people have found the extent of adjustments to the data surprising. While we believe that the 20th century warming is real, we are concerned by claims that the actual trend is different from – or less certain than – has been suggested. We hope to perform a valuable public service by getting everything out into the open.” To coincide with the inquiry launch Professor Kealey has issued a call for evidence: “We hope that people who are concerned with the integrity of climate science, from all sides of the debate, will help us to get to the bottom of these questions by telling us what they know about the temperature records and the adjustments made to them. The team approaches the subject as open-minded scientists – we intend to let the science do the talking. Our goal is to help the public understand the challenges in assembling climate data sets, the influence of adjustments and modifications to the data, and whether they are justifiable or not.”