Blowout Week 78

This week’s Blowout features an intriguing new power generation concept – the offshore floating nuclear plant, which in the example shown below would generate five times as much electricity as the Swansea Bay tidal lagoons while taking up only 0.01% as much sea room:

ECN Magazine:  The floating nuclear power plant

A novel nuclear power plant that will float eight or more miles out to sea promises to be safer, cheaper, and easier to deploy than today’s land-based plants. In a concept developed by MIT researchers, the floating plant combines two well-established technologies — a nuclear reactor and a deep-sea oil platform. It is built and decommissioned in a shipyard, saving time and money at both ends of its life. Once deployed, it is situated in relatively deep water well away from coastal populations, linked to land only by an underwater power transmission line. At the specified depth, the seawater protects the plant from earthquakes and tsunamis and can serve as an infinite source of cooling water in case of emergency — no pumping needed. An analysis of potential markets has identified many sites worldwide with physical and economic conditions suitable for deployment of a floating plant.

The proposed Offshore Floating Nuclear Plant structure is about 45 meters in diameter, and the plant will generate 300 megawatts of electricity. An alternative design for a 1,100 MW plant calls for a structure about 75 meters in diameter. In both cases, the structures include living quarters and helipads for transporting personnel, similar to offshore oil drilling platforms.

Below the fold: OPEC market share at 12-year low, Baker Hughes rig count finally increases, electricity price riots in Armenia, Austria to file Hinkley suit next Monday, Indiana defies the EPA, how the wind is always blowing somewhere in Europe, Australia slashes its renewables target, a Dutch court orders the Netherlands government to cut emissions, Russia eyeing Balkans gas pipelines, the SNP feels betrayed, Lancashire rejects Cuadrilla’s fracking application and how civilization as we know it could end as soon as 2040.

Seeking Alpha:  OPEC vs. Team USA Oil Shalers: Cowboyistan Wins Round Two

In Round One, I argued that Team USA Oil Shalers won by increasing their relative mar-ket share. I have since learned that Harold Hamm has named the Team USA Oil Shalers the fictitious nation of “Cowboyistan.” Its oil output will swing up and down depending on how high or low oil prices go. Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Naimi has declared that OPEC will maximize its production at all times. Cowboyistan has therefore won Round Two by dethroning Saudi Arabia as the world’s swing producer.

Houston Chronicle:  OPEC crude market share at its lowest in more than a decade

OPEC said its share of the global crude oil market last year declined to the lowest level since 2003, underscoring the motive for the group’s current push to defend sales volumes. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ share of the global crude market dwindled to 41.8 percent in 2014, from 43.3 percent the previous year, according to the group’s Annual Statistical Bulletin. More than half the decline in OPEC output occurred in Libya, where fighting between the nation’s government and a rival Islamist-backed regime disrupted the oil industry. The African nation’s crude production dropped 52 percent to 480,000 barrels a day.

Business:  US Oil and Natural Gas Rig Count Increases by 2 to 859

Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by two this week to 859, the first weekly gain since December. Houston-based Baker Hughes said Friday 628 rigs were seeking oil and 228 explored for natural gas. Three were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago, with oil prices nearly twice the current levels, 1,873 rigs were active.

Oil Price:  2015 Could Be The Year Of Peak Oil

I am now more convinced than ever that 2015 will see the peak in world crude oil production. I have very closely studied the charts of every producing nation and my prognosis is based on that study. I see many nations in steep decline and most every other nation peaking now, or in the last couple of years, or very near their peak today. These include the world’s three largest producers, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the USA. Many other nations are at or have reached their peak in the last few years. These include other producing giants such as Kuwait, the UAE, Brazil and China. Other non-giants are peaking or have recently peaked include Colombia, Oman, and India. Only Canada, and Kazakhstan have any real upside potential and I am not too sure about Kazakhstan.

International Business Times:  Gazprom Courts European Union’s Southern Flank To Bypass Ukraine

Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned oil and gas conglomerate, has been working since 2007 to extend pipelines across the Black Sea and into the eastern Balkans, bypassing Ukraine and ensuring its domination of the natural gas supply in Europe through a new route into the south flank of the European Union. Nearly half of the natural gas consumed by Europe each year travels through Ukraine before it enters the union, and Gazprom’s deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev repeatedly has stated on the record that the company will not export gas via Ukraine after 2019. Gazprom’s European gas therefore needs a new route into Europe. The revival of Moscow and the West’s military rivalry is shifting the logistics of energy transport into a geographic battle of influence. The confrontation is now playing out in the southern Balkans, where governments find themselves torn between the pull of possible membership in the European Union and the promise of cheap Russian gas if they opt for Moscow’s orbit.

Irish Tines:  Electricity price riots paralyze Armenia

Thousands of demonstrators in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, faced down riot police yesterday as popular protests against a steep rise in electricity prices entered a fifth day. Youth activists behind the “No to Plunder” protests say the action is not political, but reflects dismay among impoverished Armenians that their electricity bills are to rise for the third time in two years. However, Russia is closely watching developments in Armenia amid concern that its closest ally in the former Soviet South Caucasus could slide into Ukraine-style political turmoil. No to Plunder began staging a peaceful sit-in in Yerevan last weekend after government regulators gave permission to the Russian company that monopolises supplies in Armenia to raise prices by 17 per cent. The scale of the protests is raising awkward questions for (Armenian President) Sargsyan, who took Armenia into the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union this year with a pledge that closer trading ties with Russia would bring lower energy prices. Instead, Armenia has been battered by the fallout from the Russian economic crisis. Both export revenues and remittances sent home by Armenian migrant workers in Russia have fallen, prompting many people to question the benefits of EEU membership.

Nuclear Street:  Germany’s Nuclear Power Retreat Enters Final Phase

Germany’s nuclear power phase out begins its final phase with the closing of the 1.3 GW Grafenrheinfeld nuclear power plant this Saturday. The plant is the first of the final nine plants scheduled for decommissioning, which represent the nine newest plants in the country, according to German media. The reactor in the southern state of Bavaria is only 33 years old, about half of its potential operational life expectancy. But German utility E.ON decided to close the plant ahead of the government’s phase out time schedule due to economic reasons. At the same time, concerns have arisen that Germany’s electricity grid is threatened by the closing nuclear power plants and the sudden reliance on renewable energy sources. “The closure of Grafenrheinfeld can be handled, but only with additional intervention by our network engineers,” said Urban Keussen, chairman of the German division of TenneT Holding BV. Reuters reported that 12 years ago, there were two or three “special incidents” per year in which engineers had to make adjustments to load flows to maintain a reliable grid in Germany. Now, while the country has admittedly made significant strides in renewable power, there are two or three load adjustments made every day, according to Keussen.

Yahoo News:  Austria to file EU complaint against Hinkley

Austria will next week officially file a legal complaint in Brussels against state subsidies for Britain’s planned new Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, the government in Vienna said Tuesday. “We cannot accept that a technology such as this being portrayed through subsidies as being modern, sustainable and future-oriented,” Chancellor Werner Faymann said after a cabinet meeting. The Hinkley Point project in southwest England, where France’s EDF is to build two reactors, is a major boost to the nuclear industry four years after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan. Despite opposition from activists and several member states, the European Commission approved the project in October after Britain modified funding plans for the £16-billion deal. A spokeswoman for Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “We are confident that the European Commission’s state aid decision on Hinkley Point C is legally robust and have no reason to believe that Austria will submit a challenge of any merit.”

Climate Central:  Google to Convert Coal Power Plant to Data Center

Google will convert an old coal-fired power plant in rural Alabama into a data center powered by renewable power, expanding the company’s move into the energy world. The technology giant said on Wednesday that it would open its 14th data center inside the grounds of the old coal plant, and had reached a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority, the region’s power company, to supply the project with renewable sources of electricity. Michael Terrell, who leads energy market strategy for Google’s infrastructure team, said the company saw clear benefits in taking over the old coal facility. “There is an enormous opportunity when you take over the infrastructure that is there – the transmissions lines and the water intakes – and use that to power a data center that is powered by renewable energy,” he said.

The Hill:  Indiana says it won’t follow EPA climate rule without changes

In a letter sent Wednesday to President Obama, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) used some of the strongest words yet from a governor on the regulation, though he stopped short of ruling out compliance. “If your administration proceeds to finalize the Clean Power Plan, and the final rule has not demonstrably and significantly improved from the proposed rule, Indiana will not comply,” Pence wrote. “I believe the Clean Power Plan as proposed is a vast overreach of federal power that exceeds the EPA’s proper legal authority and fails to strike the proper balance between the health of the environment and the health of the economy,” he continued. The regulation, as proposed in June, would rely on states to submit plans to the EPA on reducing their power sectors’ emissions by a rate determined by the agency. The rule has a total national goal of a 30 percent reduction by 2030. Indiana’s goal is a 20 percent drop. If a state does not submit a plan, the EPA would write its own rules for the state and enforce them, assuming the regulation is not blocked by Congress or the federal courts.

New York Times:  Is the American approach to combating climate change going off the rails?

Last year, President Obama set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by as much as 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, only 10 years from now. Now, environmental experts are suggesting that some parts of the strategy are, at best, a waste of money and time. At worst, they are setting the United States in the wrong direction entirely. That is the view of some of the world’s top environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club. On Tuesday, they argued in a letter to the White House that allowing the burning of biomass to help reduce consumption of fossil fuels in the nation’s power plants, as proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, would violate the Clean Air Act. It turns out that burning biomass for power produces 50 percent more CO2 than burning coal. And even if new forest growth were to eventually suck all of it out of the atmosphere, it would take decades — perhaps more than a century — to make up the difference and break even with coal. What this evidence suggests is that climate change strategies too often lack strong analytical foundations, and are driven more by hope than science. Policy makers would be making a mistake to proceed as if their favored methods are working, when the data shows they aren’t.

Nanowerk:  Europe: 50% renewable energies by 2030 possible with greater integration

Greater integration of Central Western European (CWE region) power systems can significantly help cut costs in balancing out weather-related electricity fluctuations, while reducing demands on other parts of the system. These are the key conclusions of a study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology commissioned by Agora Energiewende. The study evaluated whether a closer integration of the power network in the CWE region could reduce weather-related power fluctuations for all countries, as differences in weather across Europe cancel each other out. The study simulated power production from renewables over a full weather-year, taking into account the expected number of sun and wind facilities that will be available by 2030. The results show more closely networking power systems in France, Switzerland, Austria, the Benelux countries and Germany would reduce demands for flexibility commonly associated with swings in wind and solar power production. A closer meshing of power networks will make it possible to balance out regional weather differences and thus the differences in wind power production on a large scale.

Arstechnica:  Australia slashes its renewable energy target

Today, the Australian government drastically scaled back its renewable energy targets for 2020, dropping them by nearly 20 percent. The new target, 33 TeraWatt-Hours, ends an extended period of uncertainty. Australia’s initial target, 41 TW-hr, had been set in 2009 with the goal of having renewables contribute 20 percent of the nation’s electrical generation. But greater efficiency and reduced manufacturing has already pushed the fraction of renewables up over 13 percent. Solar and biomass generation, two leading sources of renewable energy in Australia, will not be affected by the deal. But wind power was singled out for added scrutiny. The deal would see a new wind power commissioner appointed to hear public complaints and create a scientific committee that would look into the environmental and health impacts of turbines.

Carbon Brief:  UK meets interim renewable energy target, says DECC report

Contrary to recent press reports, the UK met its interim renewable energy target for 2013/14, according to a report issued earlier this morning.The news came as ministers for the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) defended their approach in parliament, fending off questions about the decision to end support for onshore wind early despite it being the cheapest form of renewable power. Last week, the Guardian reported on progress towards the EU 2020 renewables goals under the headline, “UK misses interim renewable energy target”. The headline was later amended. ENDS Report also said the UK had missed its target. Today, a new update from DECC says the UK actually surpassed its interim target for 2013/14. Renewables supplied 7.0% of UK energy needs in 2014, it says, up from the previously reported figure for 2013 of 5.1%. That means the UK got 6.3% of its energy from renewables averaged over 2013/14, easily passing its interim goal of 5.4%.

The Conversation:  Dutch court orders government to cut emissions

A Dutch district court has ordered the Netherlands to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 25% lower than 1990 levels by 2020. This is several percentage points deeper than the 17% reduction the country had been envisaging. The judgment implies that failure to address climate change and the harm it may cause is seen as a civil wrong in the Netherlands, within the scope of the tort law that people can appeal to when they have been wrongfully harmed. True, the Dutch government had argued that it is fully complying with its international obligations. But the judges point out that, since the Netherlands agrees measures should be taken to limit global warming to 2℃ above pre-industrial levels, the presence of a gap between international obligations and what would actually be needed to meet the 2℃ target does not take away an independent duty of care. The judges rightly observed that at present the numbers do not add up to what is needed. They subsequently argue the Netherlands should do more: if you see a disaster coming but you don’t do enough to mitigate it, when you could have, you are liable.

BBC:  EU climate chief criticises UK wind farm policy

The UK’s decision to stop subsidising new onshore wind farms will make it harder to meet renewable energy targets, the EU’s climate chief says. Miguel Arias Canete said the EU had already calculated that the UK was not on track to meet legally binding goals. Asked by BBC News if the wind decision would make the task harder he replied: “Of course”. His officials have expressed bemusement at the decision to end subsidies for onshore wind energy a year early. They said onshore wind was by far the cheapest way to hit the target of 15% of all energy from renewables from 2020. After a media briefing on climate policy at the European Commission, one official told the BBC the decision was “mind-boggling in an economy that’s supposedly price sensitive.” The official said the EU would not interfere in the UK’s energy choices, but expressed doubt whether it would achieve renewables targets without more onshore wind, and whether future energy subsidy auctions in the UK would breach EU state aid rules if nuclear was included and onshore wind barred.

SNP:  Tory betrayal on wind “unacceptable duplicity”

The Scottish National Party has said that Prime Minister David Cameron must explain why he misled voters during the referendum campaign in Scotland regarding the UK government’s position on renewable energy. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Mr Cameron urging him to reconsider and said the decision – announced without any consultation with the Scottish Government – goes against the spirit of the provisions in the Scotland Bill. Rob Gibson MSP condemned the UK Government cut in support for onshore windfarms and made clear that this was the latest claim from the No campaign in last year’s referendum to be proven false. Mr Gibson, who is a Green Energy award winner, said: “The Tory plans announced this week are a huge threat to the renewables industry in Scotland – and represent a total betrayal towards people who were persuaded to vote No after being told that Scotland’s renewables sector was only safe if Scots rejected independence. Scots were told our vast renewable energy potential could only be realised by UK subsidies, but now – only nine months on from the referendum – the UK government is pulling the plug on our burgeoning industry. The duplicity is totally unacceptable.”

Guardian:  Lancashire county council rejects Cuadrilla fracking bid

Councillors have unanimously refused a planning application for fracking in Lancashire in a move which has been welcomed by environmental campaigners. Lancashire County Council’s development control committee turned down Cuadrilla’s application to explore for shale gas by drilling, hydraulically fracking and testing the flow of gas at Roseacre Wood, Roseacre, between Preston and Blackpool. The vote on Thursday was in line with recommendations by planning officials who said it should be turned down because it would cause an increase in traffic which would result in “an unacceptable impact” on rural roads and reduce road safety.

CBS News:  Climate change poses “medical emergency,” major report says

Climate change could undermine the last 50 years of gains in global health, according to a new report from The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change. The authors of the paper, published Monday evening, say that the potential risk to human health posed by climate change has been underestimated. But they also say tackling it presents one of the greatest global health opportunities of this century. “Climate change is a medical emergency,” Commission Co-Chair Prof. Hugh Montgomery, director of the University College London Institute for Human Health and Performance, said in a statement. “It thus demands an emergency response, using the technologies available right now.” The Lancet Commission, a collaboration between Europe and China, consists of climate scientists and geographers, social and environmental scientists, biodiversity experts, engineers and energy policy experts, economists, political scientists and public policy experts, and health professionals.

Cleantechnica:  Climate change impacts could collapse civilization by 2040

New scientific models supported by the British government’s Foreign Office show that if we don’t change course, in less than three decades industrial civilisation will essentially collapse due to catastrophic food shortages, triggered by a combination of climate change, water scarcity, energy crisis, and political instability. The model does not account for the reality that people will react to escalating crises by changing behavior and policies. But even so, it’s a sobering wake-up call, which shows that business-as-usual guarantees the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it: our current way of life is not sustainable. The new models are being developed at Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI), through a project called the ‘Global Resource Observatory’ (GRO).

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15 Responses to Blowout Week 78

  1. roberto says:

    About the floating nuclear power plant…

    “while taking up only 0.01% as much sea room”

    I’m afraid that the percentage would go up steeply once you factor in the need to keep the GreenPiss boats away from it, and fulfill the need to block any incoming torpedos from potential fanatic terrorists…


    • Euan Mearns says:

      You could hang an apron of torpedo nets around the thing. Islamic terrorists do not appear to have targeted offshore platforms etc. Its only Green Terrorists that have attacked such installations. The UK is to introduce new anti-extremeist legislation.

  2. Joe Public says:

    Your lead story is a very interesting & pragmatic concept.

    It’s virtual independence of deployment location makes replicability economically attractive. Virtually production-line manufacture.

    I can imagine a ‘why didn’t you think of that’ memo being circulated to many nuclear power-station manufacturers’ R&D directors by their CEOs.

  3. Euan Mearns says:

    A note on rig count: For last week, US oil rig count was still down by 3 while gas rig count was up by 5. Both have effectively stabilised.

  4. Hugh Sharman says:

    Ummm…I remember the floating, offshore nukes being promoted in the late 1960s when I had the privilege of working with the US marine architects who promoted the idea!

    • But at the time deep-sea oil platforms didn’t exist, and besides there was all kinds of room on land …..

      Another contemporaneous US Department of Defense undertaking was “Project Sloop”, which involved detonating what nowadays would be called a tactical nuke in the middle of Arizona to rubbleize an orebody so that it could be leached from the surface. That didn’t fly either.

  5. A C Osborn says:

    RE New York Times: Is the American approach to combating climate change going off the rails?
    This makes a mockery of the EU’s use of Bio mass and DRAX in the UK in particular as even Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club admit that the concept does not work as advertised.

    One thing that I do not see here is the Deaths in Pakistan blamed on “Climate Change” when in effect they were caused by lack of Energy, which is very germane to this Forum and your latest posts.

  6. Wm Watt says:

    Here’s another idea – wind fams on the arctic barren lands, that’s above the tree line where the winds are fierce and there are no humans around to be bothered by the noise.

  7. Syndroma says:

    The first Russian 70MW floating NPP is expected to be commissioned next year.

    This is how it looked in 2013:

    Installation of one of the two 150MWt reactors:

  8. Roberto says:

    @ ‘Germany’s nuclear power phase out begins its final phase with the closing of the 1.3 GW Grafenrheinfeld nuclear power plant this Saturday.’

    I’m just waiting to see how the Green Talibans’ spin off will turn this into a victory of the renewables, as soon as the new production statistics will show, at last, that 80 GW of wind and PV have finally generated more electricity than the evil nuclear.
    I bet the guys over at Fraunhofer Institut have already opened a bottle to celebrate…

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