After interminable delays:
A Swiss man attempting to circumnavigate the globe with an aircraft powered only by the sun’s energy landed in Hawaii on Friday, after a record-breaking five-day nonstop solo flight across the Pacific Ocean from Japan. The Solar Impulse 2 is the first aircraft to fly day and night without any fuel. Pilot Andre Borschberg’s 120-hour voyage shattered the 76-hour record for nonstop flight by late American adventurer Steve Fossett in 2006 on the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer. Borschberg, who took off from Nagoya, Japan, on Monday on the seventh leg of the journey, landed at 5:55 a.m.(1155 EDT) on Friday in Kalaeloa after five days and nights. The aircraft, piloted alternatively by Swiss explorers Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, set off on its 22,000-mile (35,000-km) journey around the world from Abu Dhabi on March 9. The plane was created in order to encourage governments to replace pollutants with clean technology. “Our airplane has not been built to carry passengers but to convey a message,” says Piccard.
The usual eclectic assortment below the fold, including record OPEC production, Russia cuts off gas to Ukraine again, electricity bills to rise in California, Greenpeace sues Hinkley, Mexico auctions oilfields, EPA asked to regulate CO2 as a toxic substance, Japan checks out Hebrides renewables, Rosatom dominating world nuclear market, climate talks moving at a snail’s pace, robots at Fukushima, Scots fed up with wind farms, and dwarf cows, a new weapon in the fight against global warming:
Reuters: OPEC oil output hits three-year high in June
OPEC oil supply in June has climbed to a three-year high due to record or near-record output from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, a Reuters survey found, underlining the focus of the group’s top exporters on market share. The boost from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries puts output further above its target of 30 million barrels per day (bpd) and comes despite outages in Libya and Nigeria that curbed supplies. OPEC supply has risen in June to 31.60 million bpd from a revised 31.30 million bpd in May, according to the survey, based on shipping data and information from sources at oil companies, OPEC and consultants. The group has raised output by more than 1.3 million bpd since it decided in November 2014 to defend market share rather than prices. A final deal between world powers and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear work could add to supplies. “If sanctions were to be eased, additional oil from Iran would flood onto the already oversupplied oil market,” said Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.
Oil and Gas Insight: OPEC winners and losers
We have compared OPEC production from the month of July 2014 – prior to the beginning of the fall in oil prices – with May 2015, in order to assess which countries are benefiting most from OPEC policy. In July 2014, OPEC produced 30.14mn b/d. Over the 10 months to May 2015, this increased by nearly 1.5mn b/d to 31.58mn b/d. In terms of crude oil volume, five of the 12 OPEC members increased production over this time: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE, Angola and Algeria. However, it is Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Angola that have made the largest volume increases, adding 870,000b/d, 430,000b/d and 170,000b/d respectively. Most other members saw flat production or a marginal decline from July 2014 to May 2015.
Oil headed for the biggest weekly decline since March as a rebound in U.S. drilling added to signs that producers will pump into an oversupplied market. Futures in New York fell for a third day and were down 5.2 percent for the week. The number of active rigs seeking oil climbed by 12 to 640, the first gain since December, according to data from Baker Hughes Inc. U.S. crude stockpiles increased 2.39 million barrels through June 26, a government report showed Wednesday, boosting supplies further above seasonal average levels. Oil’s recovery from a six-year low in March has faltered amid speculation that rising prices will spur production and prolong a surplus. OPEC’s output expanded last month to the highest level since August 2012 as Iraq joined Saudi Arabia in pumping at a record pace, a Bloomberg survey showed this week.
Bloomberg: Mexico to auction 244 oilfields
Mexico plans to auction 914 onshore and offshore oil areas in the next five years as the historic opening of the country’s energy industry aims to add 1 million barrels of produc-tion by 2025. The areas are estimated to have prospective resources of 107 billion barrels of oil equivalent, Deputy Energy Minister Lourdes Melgar said Thursday in a presentation. Of the 914 fields, 670 will be auctioned for exploration projects with 244 for production, with 68.2 billion barrels of crude equivalent available in areas designated for extraction, Melgar said. Mexico finalized legislation last year to end Petroleos Mexicanos state-run monopoly and to open the oil industry to private investment in an attempt to increase output and generate as much as $62.5 billion in investment by 2018. The bulk of the estimated oil and gas production is forecast to come from the Chicontepec basin, which holds an estimated 42.1 billion barrels of oil equivalent in 12 fields, according to the Energy Ministry.
Russian gas firm Gazprom has confirmed it has halted gas supplies to Ukraine after a breakdown on pricing talks. It comes a day after Ukraine’s state energy firm Naftogaz announced it was suspending gas purchases from Russia. That announcement came after EU-brokered talks aimed at keeping supplies running for three to six months broke down without agreement. Gazprom said it halted the supply because Ukraine did not make an “advance payment” for July’s delivery. CEO Alexei Miller said Russia stopped delivering gas to Ukraine at 10:00 local time (07:00 GMT) on Wednesday. “Gazprom won’t deliver gas to Ukraine at any price without prepayment,” he was quoted by Russian media as saying. Naftogaz said on Tuesday: “Since the additional agreement between Naftogaz and Gazprom is expiring on 30 June, and the terms of further Russian gas deliveries to Ukraine were not agreed at today’s trilateral talks in Vienna, Naftogaz is suspending purchases from the Russian company.” The Ukrainian firm said it would continue transporting Russian gas supplies to other European customers.
Sputnik News: Rosatom World Leader in Nuclear Reactor Design
Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear corporation is the world leader in nuclear power plant reactor projects with 30 being designed in 2014, according to a report from the company’s reactor design subsidiary Atomproekt. The total number of projects Rosatom worked on in 2014 amounts to 41 percent of the world’s planned reactors. US energy company Westinghouse was the second-biggest with 17 reactors being designed and South Korea’s Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power was third with 12 reactors. Rosatom’s successes continued in 2015, with new memorandums for nuclear power plant construction signed with Argentina, China, Indonesia and other countries on reactor construction and nuclear power cooperation. Rosatom also signed a contract to build a new plant in Bangladesh and expects to sign a contract with Egypt for its new power plant. Rosatom also began the construction of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant after a breakthrough in Iranian nuclear talks. During the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum, Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia also approached Russia for the construction of 16 reactors valued at $100 billion.
Wall Street Journal: Toshiba Robot to Enter Fukushima Nuclear Reactor
Toshiba Corp. and the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning unveiled a new scorpion-shaped robot that will be sent inside a containment vessel at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in August. The robot, which is approximately 54 centimeters long and nine centimeters wide, weighs about five kilograms. It will be powered via a wire and carry two cameras, LED lights, a radiation counter and a thermometer. The robot will be dispatched to confirm the level of damage inside the nuclear containment vessel at Fukushima Daiichi’s No. 2 reactor and locate fallen objects. The work is required to be finished before a complete study of the nuclear containment vessel, which will begin sometime after April 2016, Toshiba said. Two crawler robots have been sent inside the crippled nuclear power plant’s No. 1 reactor so far. They succeeded in taking the first images from a reactor’s inside since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear crisis. Both haven’t been retrieved due to radiation damage and technical issues.
Guardian: Greenpeace launches suit against Hinkley
Greenpeace and nine German and Austrian utilities selling renewable energy said on Thursday they are launching legal action against state aid for a new British nuclear power plant, which was approved by the European commission. Greenpeace and the others in the group said at a news briefing that the lawsuit would be filed with the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg in the coming days, over the Hinkley Point C project in south-west England. It would be based on the argument that billions of euros of subsidies for nuclear energy would distort prices in mainland European power markets, which are linked to those in Britain via a small French interconnector. “We are complaining against these boundless nuclear subsidies, because from an ecological and macro-economic viewpoint, they appear senseless and bring substantial financial disadvantages for other energy suppliers, renewable energies and for consumers,” said Soenke Tangermann, managing director of the Greenpeace Energy co-operative.
President Barack Obama’s opponents won a Supreme Court skirmish in the “war on coal” Monday, but the ruling blocking his mercury pollution rule won’t do anything to reverse coal’s waning role in the nation’s power supply. And on top of that, legal experts don’t expect the decision to hamper the administration’s plans for landmark climate regulations that are set to further cement the decline of the fuel that only a few years ago dominated the industry. For utility giant American Electric Power and others in the power sector, the judgment on the mercury rule that started to take effect in April comes too late to save the dozens of plants that already closed, or are slated to in the next several months. “We’re not bringing them back,” Nick Akins, AEP’s CEO, president and chairman told POLITICO. “Once that ball gets rolling, it’s not going to change.” The ruling that clipped an administration regulation on mercury pollution stuck to a narrow path — whether EPA should have considered the costs of the rule in an early analysis rather than later in the rulemaking process — but didn’t reach into the issues expected in the courtroom battles to come over one of Obama’s priorities: battling climate change.
In a new study by Stanford University, a solid financial, technical and economical case for the U.S to convert its all-purpose energy systems to ones powered by wind, water and sunlight (WWS) has been made. Based on their calculations, the authors say solar PV could account for 38% of power generation in 2050, and create up to 2.3 million jobs. Furthermore, the researchers say that the conversion to WWS – onshore wind, offshore wind, utility-scale PV, rooftop PV, CSP with storage, geothermal, wave, tidal and hydro – should stabilize energy prices, since fuel costs will be eliminated. They calculate that each person in the U.S. could save an average of US$260 annually, with individual U.S. health and global climate costs decreasing by an average of $1,500 and $8,300 per year, respectively. Minimal land is also required for the conversion. Solar PV and concentrated solar power (CSP), combined, could account for over 45% of power generation in the U.S. in 2050. PV alone could account for 38%, comprising 4% residential rooftop, 3.2% commercial/government rooftop and 30.8% utility-scale. To meet these goals, the study says 75 million new residential rooftop PV systems would need to be installed, and 46,480 utility-scale plants.
Wall Street Journal: Hawaii Wrestles With Vagaries of Solar Power
With 21% of its power now coming from renewable sources like wind turbines and solar panels, Hawaii has become a laboratory for those intent on reinventing the grid. A new law mandates that renewables supply all of the state’s electricity by 2045. But Hawaii’s grid is already running into problems with its heavy helping of rooftop solar and other carbon-free renewables. Among them: sudden swings in the output of solar and wind, which force the state’s main utility to scramble to try to keep the overall supply of power steady. State officials concede that there are problems. “But we’re highly optimistic we’re going to work through these issues and become energy self-reliant,” says Mark Glick, head of the Hawaii State Energy Office. “We don’t lack confidence at all.”
EPA regulations are forcing hundreds of coal-fired generators to prematurely retire, but replacing the existing coal fleet with new wind farms and natural gas-fired plants will burden Americans with higher cost electricity, according to a new study. The free-market Institute for Energy Research has released a new report showing that electricity from new wind farms is three times more expensive than power generated from existing coal plants and four times costlier than electricity from today’s nuclear fleet. IER’s study also shows that electricity from new natural gas plants is nearly twice as expensive as power from existing coal plants. IER’s study is meant to serve as a policy guide for policymakers in the face of EPA regulations. The idea is to show government officials the true cost of retiring coal and nuclear plants and replacing them with new wind farms and natural gas plants — something government data doesn’t show.
Faced with tough opposition from trade unions, coal-reliant regions, the industry and a mix of political parties, the German government scrapped a planned coal levy aimed at closing the most polluting coal-fired power plants, instead replacing it with a more expensive but less ambitious alternative. The idea was to eliminate 22 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector (specifically, fossil fuel-fired plants) to keep the country on track to meet its 2020 climate targets. But the government’s plan to slap a penalty fee on coal generators that exceed a certain level of emissions sparked widespread concern about job losses, and drew thousands onto the streets in protest in recent months. The backlash forced a change, agreed to late Wednesday night, which is gentler in easing the coal industry towards plant closures. Those who supported the coal levy blame Chancellor Angela Merkel for failing to back Economic Affairs and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel when the levy became more contentious.
Center for Biological Diversity: Petitions EPA to regulate CO2 as a toxic substance
With the world’s oceans and sea life facing an unprecedented crisis from ocean acidification, the Center for Biological Diversity and former Environmental Protection Agency scientist Dr. Donn Viviani today formally petitioned the Obama administration to regulate carbon dioxide under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. The first-of-its-kind petition under the toxics act seeks widespread reduction of CO2 because it contributes to ocean acidification, driving the destruction of coral reefs and threatening nearly every form of sea life, from tiny plankton to fish, whales and sea otters. The petition seeks to regulate CO2 as a chemical substance under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which has been used in the past to regulate harmful chemicals such as PCBs and asbestos. The law requires the EPA to regulate chemicals that present an unreasonable risk to the environment and conduct testing for harmful effects of chemicals that are produced in large quantities. The novel approach of using the Act to regulate CO2 could complement other efforts to reduce the CO2 emissions that are contributing to ocean acidification.
Los Angeles Times: California electricity bills to rise
Most residential customers in California will see their electricity bills increase under a new rate structure passed Friday by state regulators. The Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved a plan that raises rates on more efficient users while giving a break to big energy users. It is the first overhaul of the rate system since brownouts roiled California 15 years ago. Legislators at the time expanded rate-paying tiers from two to four and froze lowest-tier rates to protect households from huge swings in energy bills. The new proposal calls for a return to two tiers, plus a surcharge for the highest electricity users. The rate structure would affect 75% of California’s residential customers, or more than 10 million electricity accounts held through Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. Utilities have long complained that the steeply tiered system means higher-use households have unfairly subsidized low-use households for years. They say that the gap has only increased, with low-use households not even paying for the cost of supplying electricity. “We’re trying to make things more affordable for those upper-use customers because they are paying far more than their share,” said Russ Garwacki, director of pricing design and research at Southern California Edison, which serves 14 million people through 5 million accounts. “It’s a matter of fairness.”
JAPAN is looking to the Outer Hebrides to help it harness wind and wave power in the wake of the destruction wrought by the country’s devastating tsunami in 2011. The Consul General of Japan will be visiting the Western Isles this week researching smaller-scale renewable energy projects – in what he says could be “one of the most significant” visits he has undertaken. Mr. Hajime Kitaoka will particularly look at wind and wave energy schemes during his two day visit, beginning on Tuesday. Mr Kitaoka, said: “I am very much looking forward to visiting sites relating to renewable energy, which is now of the utmost importance for the future of Japan since the nuclear disaster caused by the tsunami in 2011.”
Energy Voice: Scots “fed up” with wind farm developments
The Scottish Conservatives have claimed the SNP must acknowledge that people are “fed-up” with wind farm developments. The party’s energy spokesman Murdo Fraser said turbines “springing up all over the place” damaged the landscape for thousands of residents and tourists. “In pressing on with their wind farm obsession the Scottish Government are failing to recognise that the planning process for these developments is a complete mess,” he added. “With guidelines not being followed and local residents not prepared for the visual and noise impacts it is ludicrous for the SNP to put such emphasis on intermittent and unreliable energy sources.” Mr Fraser said it was now time for the SNP to rethink its energy policy and look at different options. “Our policy is to have a balanced energy provision, including renewables, nuclear, oil and gas,” he added. “This would create more opportunities, safeguard valuable jobs, and keep down costs to the consumer.”
If you were deliberately trying to obtain a record high temperature reading an international airport would be a good place to take your thermometer. With huge concrete aprons and planes spewing out large quantities of hot air, airports have a microclimate of their own. That is one reason not to get excited by today’s record July temperature of 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36.7 Celsius) measured at Heathrow. But there is another very good reason why the familiar clattering of broken weather records does little to reinforce the narrative of climate change. There are four countries in the UK, 12 months of the year and 4 main records to beat: hottest, coldest, wettest and driest. Given that reliable records go back little more 100 years, there is only a 20 per cent chance of getting through an entire year without one of those records being broken. Take into account that there are 200 other countries in the world and thousands of cities and other locations around the world with recording stations (a remarkable number of which are at airports, by the way), it is inevitable that we are constantly bombarded with new weather records. They are no guide to climate change.
Guardian: Climate talks moving at a snail’s pace
Negotiations for a deal to fight climate change were moving at a “snail’s pace”, the United Nations chief, Ban Ki-Moon, told a high-level meeting on Monday. A promise from China – the world’s biggest carbon polluter – for ambitious cuts to greenhouse gas emissions “very soon” could inject some much-needed optimism into the talks. But the UN and other leaders warned that time was running out to reach a strong climate change deal in Paris at the end of the year. The gloomy assessment from Ban contrasts with sense of building momentum following the G7 commitment to phase out fossil fuels, the Pope’s call for radical climate action, and a flurry of recent climate announcements from Barack Obama. Five months before the critical gathering, Ban said talks were bogged down, and that negotiators faced many challenges and controversies. “The negotiation pace is too slow, far too slow,” Ban told reporters. “It is moving at a snail’s pace.”
Daily Mail: Could dwarf cows beat climate change?
Rising temperatures, animal feed shortages and the threat of drought are forcing struggling dairy farmers in India to sell off their cows cheaply. But experts say the solution to the problem is simple and small: heat-tolerant dwarf cows. Scientists have found that two varieties of the small cows are particularly good at tolerating high temperatures because they carry a ‘thermometer gene’ and one farmer has described them as a ‘great weapon against climate change’. ‘High-yielding crossbreed varieties of cattle can faint or even die during hot and humid summer days,’ said E M Muhammed, an expert on animal breeding and genetics at the university. ‘Our natural breeds can better withstand the effects of climate change’.