For this week’s feature story we head north to the frozen wastes of Canada:
Money Morning: Canada’s New Shale Oil Field Could Rival the Bakken
Canada’s energy industry may be most famous for its world-class oil sands resources. But a new shale oil field could surpass the oil sands as Canada’s largest untapped oil reserve. In fact, it could even rival the massive Bakken shale of North Dakota in terms of recoverable oil. This area lies north of British Columbia and east of the Yukon. Recent data from the National Energy Board (NEB) and the Northwest Territories Geological Survey shows that this area holds as much as 200 billion barrels of shale oil reserves. That compares to U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Bakken shale formation will yield 4.3 billion barrels. Not all of this Canadian oil is necessarily recoverable. But the Canol and Bluefish shales contain a total approaching 7 billion barrels of economically viable resources.
Location of Canol and Bluefish shales (image credit MyYellowknifeNow)
The usual mix below the fold, including shale oil, the coal crisis in Germany, Austria now to sue the Czech Republic over nuclear, the doomed city of Hull, Exxon’s CEO speaks out on renewables, a solution to the energy storage problem, biofuels and water use, vanishing glaciers on Everest, an ice cream that increases climate change awareness and immediately following, are the EIA’s oil production numbers reliable?
Oil Price: The Great Divide Between EIA And OPEC Data
OPEC publishes monthly production data for all OPEC nations in their Monthly Oil Market Report. The data (shows) crude oil production only and does not include condensate. I have found the data to be highly accurate and any errors are corrected in the next month’s report or the month following that. The OPEC data is from OPEC’s “Secondary Sources”. The EIA also publishes OPEC production data in their International Energy Statistics. However the EIA does not publish crude only data. Their data includes condensate:
Almost 20% of Algeria’s production is condensate if the EIA is correct. Algeria does produce a lot of condensate but I have serious doubts about the accuracy of the EIA data. As you can see from the chart the EIA has Algeria’s production absolutely flat for 24 months, from January 2010 through December 2011.
Wall Street Journal: Oil Prices Extend Gains as Drilling Activity Drops Again
Oil producers have cut back sharply on capital spending and new drilling after surging U.S. shale-oil output helped push the global crude market into oversupply last year. As the number of rigs drilling for oil in the U.S. started falling in recent months, prices rallied on the expectation that U.S. oil output is due to slow. The number of oil-drilling rigs in the U.S. fell by 13 last week to 646, the lowest level since August 2010, oil-field-services firm Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday. Prices climbed on the news. However, a drop in production has yet to show up in government data, and some analysts warned in recent weeks that the rig count was nearing a trough. With U.S. oil prices hovering around $60 a barrel, some shale producers say they are ready to add rigs and increase production, which could keep oil prices lower for longer.
Oil production from the Eagle Ford shale basin in Texas continued its flat trajectory in April, growing only 1000 barrels per day (b/d) month on month. The marginal growth (less than 1% from the March levels), signifies the on-going impact resulting from the suppressed oil pricing environment. Bakken shale in North Dakota remained relatively flat in April, increasing about 2000 b/d, or less than 1%. In South Texas, Eagle Ford production averaged 1.6 million barrels per day in April, up 284,000 incremental barrels per day or nearly 22% higher than April 2014, said Sami Yahya, Bentek energy analyst. Additionally, crude oil production in the North Dakota section of the Bakken shale formation of the Williston Basin averaged 1.2 million b/d last month, Bentek data showed. This was 173,000 b/d higher than year ago levels.
Yesterday, the US Bureau of Land Management released its regional management plan for the Buffalo Field Office in Wyoming, which oversees most of the Powder River Basin, where the bulk of Western coal is located. Long story short: the government is going to lease lots more coal. Specifically, BLM “has estimated that it would issue 28 coal leases encompassing 106,400 acres with approximately 10.2 billion tons of coal.” According to a Greenpeace report, burning those 10.2 billion tons of coal would produce 16.9 billion metric tons of CO2.
Canada Free Press: German Government In Crisis Over Escalating Cost Of Climate Policy
Germany’s economics minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) wants to levy penalty payments onto coal plants if they produce CO2 emissions above a certain threshold. Against this plan intense resistance is growing in Germany: Within the Christian Democrat, within industry and – for especially dangerous for Gabriel – within the trade unions. The transition to renewable power generation is accelerating closures of coal and gas-fired power generation plants at a quicker rate than expected. According to UBS, policymakers may have to take measures to prevent widespread bankruptcies in the European electricity market. That’s the conclusions drawn by investment bank UBS, who have produced a report on the subject. According to their data, some 70 GW of coal and gas-fired power generation shut-downs have occurred in the last five years, and the pace is increasing, according to the analysis.
Financial Times: Germany’s decision on coal brings a clash of wills
The conflict at the heart of Germany’s energy policy is coming to a head. Can Germany claim to be an environmental leader while still burning more coal than any other developed country apart from the US? Emissions have risen over the past three years. Renewables have also grown, but 44 per cent of electricity still comes from coal, in particular carbon-intensive lignite or brown coal; coal-fired power plants account for a third of all emissions. The decision to close the nuclear sector after the Fukushima accident in Japan opened the door to a rise in coal consumption. Be¬¬tween 2011 and 2015, there will be more than 10GW of new coal-fired capacity. Nor has Germany supported the key steps that could cut emissions, such as the establishment of an effective carbon price. Finally, however, the problem is being addressed. The government is applying US-style regulatory tactics to reduce emissions from coal-powered plants by setting ever higher standards. Under the plan announced by Sigmar Gabriel, the economics and energy minister, the rules will eliminate some 22m tonnes of carbon emissions and allow the country to meet its targets for 2020. The question is whether the plan will go through or if Mr Gabriel, whose SPD depends on trade union support, will back down.
One of the top ten investors in the global coal industry, Norway’s estimated $850 billion fund — propped up by the country’s vast oil and gas reserves — has ties to companies that produce nearly a quarter of the world’s coal, and owns 1.3 percent of all companies listed globally. The country’s lofty divestment talk, framed as a commitment to responsible investing, garnered high praise from top environmental leaders. But a new report, Still Dirty, Still Dangerous, says Norway has instead invested more money into coal, increasing its holdings by $386 million in 2014. Despite dropping more than 50 coal companies last year, including American companies like Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, the fund shifted money toward other heavily coal-backed investments, according to Future in Our Hands, Greenpeace Norway, and Urgewald, a German NGO. “This shows the shortcomings of reports that focus only on divestment actions, but do not mention where funds have been re-invested,” wrote Heffa Schucking, the report’s lead author. “They serve to create the illusion that the Pension Fund’s coal portfolio has shrunken, while resources have, in fact, only been shifted from one coal company to the next.”
China’s plans for a rapid expansion of nuclear power plants are “insane” because the country is not investing enough in safety controls, a leading Chinese scientist has warned. Proposals to build plants inland, as China ends a moratorium on new generators imposed after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, are particularly risky, the physicist He Zuoxiu said, because if there was an accident it could contaminate rivers that hundreds of millions of people rely on for water and taint groundwater supplies to vast swathes of important farmlands. China halted the approval of new reactors in 2011 in order to review its safety standards, but gave the go-ahead in March for two units, part of an attempt to surpass Japan’s nuclear-generating capacity by 2020 and become the world’s biggest user of nuclear power a decade later.
Channel News Asia: Austria ready to sue over subsidised nuclear plants:
Austria will take legal action to block any subsidised nuclear power plants in an effort to discourage use of the technology in Europe and scare off investors, the country’s environment minister, Andrae Rupprechter, said in a newspaper interview. Rupprechter’s comments to business daily Wirtschaftsblatt reflect non-nuclear Austria’s tough stance, as evidenced by its intent to take the European Commission to court over approval of Britain’s plans for the Hinkley Point nuclear plant. Neighbouring Czech Republic also plans to extend its nuclear capacity. “Should other countries present similar subsidy plans, we will fight these in court,” the minister said in the interview published on Wednesday, saying such state backing hindered the rollout of renewable energy technology. “Giving preference to nuclear power is unacceptable. Nuclear energy is neither safe nor economical. A lawsuit may also make potential investors hesitant.”
Prague Monitor: Austria now to sue the Czech Republic?
Austria does not rule out filing a lawsuit against the Czech Republic at the European Court of Justice over the Czech plan to build two nuclear units in each of its two nuclear plants, the Austrian press agency APA quoted Environment Minister Andrae Rupprechter as saying yesterday. For the time being, Vienna is waiting whether the Czech government will definitively approve the plan. Situated in south Bohemia and south Moravia, respectively, both Temelin and Dukovany are not far from the border of the nuclear-free Austria. Mladek (Social Democrats, CSSD) said the Czech Republic is ready to negotiate with Austria. “We will be explaining things and we will negotiate,” Mladek said at the European Nuclear Forum in Prague yesterday. He said he will meet his Austrian counterpart over the issue in Cesky Krumlov, south Bohemia, on June 1.
Wall Street Journal: EDF Bids for Areva’s Reactor Unit
French state-controlled power utility Eléctricité de France SA, or EDF, made a preliminary offer for the reactor unit of nuclear-engineering firm Areva SA of €2 billion ($2.2 billion) as part of the latest attempt by the government to restructure the country’s nuclear industry. The French utility has stepped in to take over some of Areva’s assets following requests from Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron. The minister advocated a tie-up between the two companies after Areva sank deeper into losses last year, dogged by a tough market for nuclear reactors since the Fukushima disaster in Japan, poor investment decisions over the past decade and cost overruns on two projects in France and Finland. The initiative from the government is the latest in a long effort to reorganize France’s nuclear sector, which has lost ground to competitors from Russia, South Korea and the U.S.
The European Commission (EC) is starting a probe into solar imports from Taiwan and Malaysia to determine whether Chinese products bypass EU anti-dumping measures. The investigation will take up to nine months, the commission said Friday. The Governments of the China, Malaysia and Taiwan have been invited for consultations. With the start of the investigation, all cells and modules from Taiwan and Malaysia that enter the EU are subject to registration. This means that if the probe determines there is circumvention, these imports may get retrospective duties. The EC’s move follows a call by European solar sector association EU ProSun. “Up to 30% of Chinese solar imports bypass EU import measures through fraudulent circumvention,” Milan Nitzschke, EU ProSun president and spokesman for German solar equipment maker SolarWorld AG, said in April.
Wind Power Monthly: UK election bad news for onshore wind
The new government is moving quickly to honour its manifesto pledge to “halt the spread of onshore wind farms”, by introducing legislation that will rule out subsidies for any new projects and shift consent for large wind farms from central government to local planning authorities, which will be duty-bound to consult residents. Amber Rudd, the new senior minister of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), expects the legislation to be enacted by parliament in mid-2016. The legislation will not affect the onshore wind farms currently under construction, or the pipeline of consented projects, which amount to 1.45GW and 5.62GW respectively, according to trade association RenewableUK. But the prospect of any further onshore wind development being sanctioned looks unlikely during the lifetime of this government.
If you live in Hull and aren’t already in the advanced stages of trying to live somewhere else, here’s a bit of additional motivation for you — it might be completely under water within 100 years if we don’t do something about all those ice cubes melting away even further up north. The quotes resigning poor old Hull to the history of the future come from Dr Hugh Ellis, head of policy at the Town and Country Planning Association, who was speaking at The Hay Festival on the problems our towns and cities may face in the years to come. Dr Ellis said on the menace of rising sea levels: “There are one or two people in the Department for Communities and Local Government who are looking at this, but most are planning for a 60cm rise by 2100 but the science tells us that it is going to be at least double that. We need to think about moving populations and we need to make new communities. We need to be thinking, does Hull have a future?”
The International Energy Agency issued a report from the Clean Energy Ministerial meeting in Mexico, finding clean energy deployments are lagging behind what’s needed to keep temperature increases in check. IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said that, despite some positive signs in areas like electric vehicle and carbon capture and storage deployments, few renewable energy sectors were up to par. “As a result, our ability to deliver a future in which temperatures rise modestly is at risk of being jeopardized, and the future that we are heading towards will be far more difficult unless we can take action now to radically change the global energy system,” she said in a statement. “National commitments on climate change require strong action now by energy stakeholders that will reduce emissions in the near term and that will enable more significant, longer-term reductions,” the IEA’s report said.
Bioenergy production in particular requires vast amounts of land and water. Besides, with current energy-intensive agricultural practices, net energy output is far lower than gross energy production, sometimes even near zero. If only 10% of fossil fuels in the global transport sector were replaced by bioethanol from relatively efficient crops, global water demand would increase by 6-7%. The production of biofuels at the rate we are used to consuming fossil fuels will require more land and water than sustainably available. Already today we have land and water footprints beyond maximum sustainable levels and bioenergy increasingly competing with food. Per unit of energy, the water footprint of bioenergy and hydroelectricity is two to three orders of magnitude larger than that of fossil fuels and nuclear. The water footprint of photovoltaic (PV) and wind energy is one to two orders of magnitude smaller.
The CEO of one of the world’s largest oil companies downplayed the effects of climate change at his company’s annual meeting Wednesday, telling shareholders his firm hadn’t invested in renewable energy because “We choose not to lose money on purpose.” “Mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity,” ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson told the meeting, pointing to technologies that can combat inclement weather “that may or may not be induced by climate change.” The comments … met with applause.
Clean Energy: How much “backup power” is needed for solar and wind?
Answer: None. Not if the utility is planning correctly! (F)or a large utility, solar and wind power do not need a special “backup” generator. Utilities can plan their system to anticipate what additional generation they will need to ensure reliability, and it is very rare that they need a one-for-one generation backup for solar and wind. Rather than building power plants, utilities need to build better power plans. In those plans, there are four key ways that utilities can include solar and wind power while enhancing reliability. When planning for future needs, utilities need to: Rate solar and wind properly for peak demands; Recognize the contribution of above-average output from solar and wind to reducing power shortage risks; Proactively identify needs for upgrades to power lines and other transmission equipment; and Recognize the contribution of solar and wind to reducing system wear-and tear.
Wall Street Journal: Will Homeowners Shell Out Thousands for Super Batteries?
The market for electricity storage is very small, especially among homeowners, analysts say. About 62 megawatts of storage systems were installed last year at 180 properties, with 99% of the power going to utilities, businesses or government buildings, according to GTM Research. Most buyers tap generous state and federal subsidies aimed at cutting air pollution, because installing solar-battery combinations can cost tens of thousands of dollars for homeowners and industrial-size batteries can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even Mr. Musk concedes the battery doesn’t make much economic sense right now for individual homeowners; grid power is still cheaper than solar-battery combinations. But a trend toward sharply higher electricity prices may change that. The cost of traditional grid power is rising, while solar power costs are plunging.
China and India published a joint statement on climate change in which the two major economies express their full support for the success of the Paris UN Climate Change Conference, to be held in December 2015. In the statement, the two countries describe climate change as a common concern of mankind and one of the greatest global challenges of the century. They draw attention to their domestic actions to combat the challenge, and assure they are “fully engaged” in domestic preparations for their respective intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), which they would communicate “as early as possible and well before the Paris Conference.” They also: call for developed countries to lead in emission reductions and provision of means of implementation (MOI) for developing countries; and emphasize the urgency of implementing the Bali Road Map, and the need for developed countries to raise their pre-2020 emission reduction targets and provide US$100 billion per year by 2020 to developing countries.
In another bleak report on the state of the world’s glaciers, a recent study published in The Cryosphere estimates that the Mount Everest glaciers could diminish by as much as 99% by the year 2100. A new report put out yesterday in The Cryosphere journal reported on the results of a computer simulation created to determine how Mount Everest glaciers might respond to climate changes in the area. The computer model showed that glacier loss in the Dudh Koshi basin would range from 70% – 90% by 2100 as the area warms up due to global warming. Dudh Koshi basin is the area of the Himalayas that covers more than 1 million acres and holds many of the Earth’s tallest mountains, including the tallest, Mount Everest.
Ben & Jerry’s wants ice cream lovers to know their dessert isn’t the only thing in danger of melting. They announced new flavor Save Our Swirl, or SOS for short, to draw awareness to December’s UN Climate Summit in France. There, global leaders are expected to work toward establishing a universal climate change agreement. The flavor combines raspberry ice cream, marshmallow and raspberry swirls, and dark and white fudge ice cream cones. “We created a flavor to bring attention to this historic issue and to send out our own SOS for our planet,” the company said in a news release Wednesday.