Blowout week 82

This week’s Blowout features the proposed North Sea Supergrid, which when completed will allow wind power to be stored in Norwegian fjords and provide jobs to Scotland whenever the wind blows in the North Sea:

Herald Scotland: EU to pledge billions for North Sea supergrid

(Image credit Nature)

A “supergrid” across the North Sea that could bring thousands of jobs to Scotland appeared a step closer last week after the EU energy commissioner said that European funds will be used to pump-prime the project. Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete has told the Scottish Tory MEP Ian Duncan, a member of the European Parliament’s energy committee, that the building of the grid – which would be the world’s largest sub-sea electricity system – is now a “top priority” for the European Commission and that “it was now for member states and devolved administrations to work with the EU to make the grid a reality”. Cañete said that the seed funding would come from Brussels’ recently established €315 billion (£220bn) Investment Plan for Europe, to which the UK last week pledged £6bn. The bulk of the finance for the third of a trillion euro project is, however, required to come from the private sector. As Scotland’s renewable electricity generation industry continues to grow the need to tackle the intermittency of production also grows and could lead to energy being wasted unless a commercially viable storage means can be found. A North Sea grid would allow green energy produced in Scotland to be stored in Scandinavian pump storage hydro schemes until demand peaked elsewhere in Europe.

Stories below the fold on the second US oil boom, the Iran nuclear deal, shale oil, Hinkley on track, UAE cans fuel subsidies, UK cans the “Green Deal”, France to roll back nuclear, a strong El Niño predicted, Rudd on left wing politicians, Pennsylvania to distribute potassium iodide pills, the Bern model discredited and an expedition to study melting Arctic ice postponed because of too much ice.

Al Jazeerah:  OPEC, Get Ready For The Second US Oil Boom

What OPEC countries fear most is a follow-up technological revolution that will lead to a second oil boom in the U.S., and that fear is now being realized. It’s not only about shale now—it’s about reviving mature oil fields through advancements in enhanced oil recovery, potentially opening up not only new shale fields, but older fields that have been forgotten. Soon we are likely to see some new players in the field buying up oil assets and putting more advanced EOR technologies to work to re-ignite the revolution. There are two very interesting EOR advancements that have caught our attention in recent months: CO2 EOR and Plasma Pulse Technology (PPT). CO2, or carbon dioxide EOR, involves injecting CO2 into ageing oil fields to sweep residual oil to the surface. In some cases, it can extend the production life of a field by more than 25 years. Plasma Pulse Technology (PPT) creates a controlled plasma arc within a vertical well, generating a tremendous amount of heat for a fraction of a second, while the subsequent high-speed hydraulic impulse wave emitted is strong enough to remove any clogged sedimentation from the perforation zone without damaging the steel casing. The series of impulse waves also penetrates deep into the reservoir, which re-opens reservoir permeability for up to a year per treatment.

Sun Herald:  Oil drillers retreat from shallow U.S. gulf and turn to shale

Energy producers are retreating from the search for oil and natural gas close to shore in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as drilling budgets shrink and exploration migrates to land-based shale fields. The number of permits for new wells in seas less than 500 feet (152 meters) deep plunged 74 percent to nine during the first six months of this year from a year earlier, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Shallow-water drilling has largely targeted gas in recent decades because most of the crude in fields close to shore had already been discovered and harvested. The glut of gas from shale fields in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania that crushed prices for the fuel made offshore gas production less attractive. “A lot of the players operating on the continental shelf are financially distressed or significantly cutting back on capital spending,” J.B. Lowe, an analyst at Cowen & Co. in New York, said in an interview Monday. “There’s not the same amount of cash flow coming in to justify drilling some of these prospects when there’s better stuff to be had elsewhere.”

Rig Zone:  Wall Street Lenders Growing Impatient With US Shale Revolution

Bank regulators have issued warnings on the risks involved in lending to U.S. drillers, threatening a cash crunch in an industry that’s more dependent than ever on other people’s money. Wall Street has been one of the biggest allies of the shale revolution, bankrolling thousands of wells from Texas to North Dakota. The question is how that will change with oil prices down by half since last year to about $50 a barrel. “Lenders in general are increasing pressure on oil companies either to raise more equity or do some sort of transaction to pay down their credit lines and free up extra cash,” said Jimmy Vallee, a partner in the energy mergers and acquisitions practice at law firm Paul Hastings LLP in Houston. Banks are already preparing for the next reevaluation of oil and gas credit lines, reviews which typically take place twice a year in April and October. The loans are based on the value of drillers’ producing reserves, which has shrunk as oil prices fell. Many companies are also losing protection as hedges that locked in prices as high as $90 a barrel begin to expire.

Nigerian Bulletin:  UAE removes transport fuel subsidies

The third biggest OPEC producer, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will link gasoline and diesel prices to global oil markets, starting next month, becoming the first country in the oil-rich Persian Gulf to remove transport fuel subsidies. Fuel prices will be deregulated as from August 1, the Ministry of Energy said in a statement on Wednesday. Diesel prices will also be linked to global markets, and are initially expected to decline, it said. Prices for both fuels will be announced on the 28th day of each month, the ministry said. Gasoline is now subsidised in the UAE, the second biggest Arab economy and home to about 6 per cent of the world’s oil reserves. Unleaded gasoline 98 octane in the UAE sells for 1.83 dirhams (50 cents) a liter, according to prices on the ministry’s website.

Oil Price:  The Middle East power play no one is talking about

With all eyes currently transfixed on Iran’s nuclear future, there is seemingly little attention being paid to another landmark Middle Eastern nuclear trend, spearheaded by Russia. Moscow’s strategic investment in Middle Eastern nuclear-energy development is cementing long-term influence in capitals ranging from Tehran to Riyadh, Ankara, Cairo, and Amman. With Washington’s own relationships with those governments floundering since the rapprochement with Tehran, and relations with Moscow back at Cold War levels, is the lack of U.S. engagement on this issue hampering overall U.S. foreign-policy objectives? Sure enough, the rationale behind regional efforts to develop nuclear power can vary. It can signal a “coming out” into high society, where nuclear bling connotes economic and national prestige. It can also signal a forward thinking commitment to clean and consistent energy diversification. Or, it can even hint at the possibility that a country could move to weaponization. But, whatever the reasons are for the Middle Eastern countries to pursue nuclear energy, what is clear is that in making this decision, each country requires significant foreign assistance—assistance that in turn comes with significant political leverage.

Breitbart:  China to build two reactors in Iran

In the immediate aftermath of the Iran deal, and unanimous approval by the UN Security Council, China has reportedly committed to build two nuclear power plants in Iran, according to an Iranian news source relayed via the Nikkei Asian Review and Politico Europe. “These mark the first reactors China will build in Iran,” the Nikkei report states. “Iran now has only the Bushehr nuclear power plant, built with help from Russia in the country’s southwest.” China was already exempted from many Iran sanctions, but the nuclear plant is a bold new step. The spread of nuclear power, in a country whose energy needs can be more than met by oil and gas alone, is certain to make the task of separating Iran’s civilian and military nuclear programs more difficult.

PBS:  US building reactors in China

China’s record on nuclear proliferation is facing congressional criticism as the Obama administration seeks renewal of a 30-year agreement that enables American involvement in the Asian nation’s fast-growing atomic energy industry. This agreement facilitates the transfer of U.S. technology for civilian use, and blocking or delaying it could complicate already tense U.S.-China relations. In September, President Barack Obama will host Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the White House, amid growing strains over Beijing’s island-building in the South China Sea and alleged cybertheft of U.S. government and trade secrets. There are also major commercial implications. The U.S. nuclear industry is warning it needs swift renewal of the agreement, which expires at the end of this year. Four American-designed reactors worth $8 billion are under construction in China, and dozens more are planned or proposed that, industry advocates say, could support tens of thousands of U.S. jobs. The agreement has strong support from some lawmakers, mainly because of the economic benefits of nuclear trade with China, but has drawn stiff criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, particularly in the Senate.

Pennsylvania Health Department:  Pennsylvania issuing potassium iodide tablets

The Department of Health will offer free potassium iodide, or KI, tablets Thursday, August 6, to Pennsylvanians who are within 10 miles of one of the state’s five nuclear power plants. “If you live or work near a nuclear facility, KI tablets should be an essential part of your emergency preparedness plan and go kit,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy. “KI can help protect the thyroid gland against harmful radioactive iodine when taken as directed during radiological emergencies.” KI is also available for those who work within the 10-mile radius, but do not live there. Employers can contact the Department of Health to make arrangements to pick up tablets for their entire workforce.

Dispatch Times:  France to reduce reliance on nuclear

French lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at reducing the reliance on nuclear power in favour of greener sources of energy. France has relied on nuclear energy more than any other country, and the law would stipulate dramatic cuts to the number of nuclear reactors in the country, suggesting that they should provide half of all the country’s power output by 2025, according to Bloomberg. Environment minister Segolene Royal said she wanted France, which hosts a critical UN climate summit this December, to be a “nation of environmental excellence”. Overall energy consumption is to be slashed 20% from 2012 levels by 2030, with renewables increasing to 32% of the mix. The new law sets long term targets for France’s carbon tax, which will rise from €22 next year to €56 in 2020 and €100 in a decade. “It’s a long-awaited change, since no one, including the opposition, at any time denied the need to break the total dependence on nuclear”, said Socialist MP Francois Brottes, who headed the parliamentary group reviewing the law.

Bloomberg:  Good prospects for Hinkley deal this year

U.K. Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said it’s likely Electricite de France SA will finish a deal this year with Chinese companies to build a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in southwest England. EDF has been working out the details of the project with partners Areva SA, which will provide the reactors, and China General Nuclear Power Corp. and China National Nuclear Corp. “I have met the parties who are involved in the past 10 weeks,” Rudd told members of Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee on Tuesday. “It looks to me like there is a very good prospect of it reaching a happy conclu-sion later this year.” The guaranteed payments to EDF for the power from the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear plant have been approved by the European Commission. Austria is challenging that decision, arguing that state aid should only be directed at new technologies, rather than established ones such as nuclear. “Austria’s move is very unwelcome, but our European colleagues have very different views on nuclear, and so it was not unexpected,” Rudd said. “The signal that we are getting from the commission is that their decision is completely robust and so we don’t think it will impact on the final investment decision that will be coming later this year.”

Financial Times:  Insurer orders coal companies to tackle climate change

Aviva, the British insurance group, has put 40 coal companies on notice that it will sell its shares in their businesses unless they can prove they are serious about tackling climate change. The decision could make Aviva, one of Europe’s largest insurers, a prominent recruit to a global fossil fuel divestment campaign trying to stigmatise the use of coal, oil and gas because of their impact on the climate. Aviva, which has around £300bn in assets, will also aim to invest £2.5bn in renewable power and energy efficiency over the next five years to help avoid what its chief executive, Mark Wilson, says are “eye-watering” financial risks. “If we don’t tackle climate change and temperatures rise by 6 degrees, the value at risk — roughly speaking the value of global assets — will decline by up to $13.8 trillion for investors,” he said in a speech in London on Friday.“This would be by far the greatest market failure of all time,” he said, as he launched a report his company commissioned on the financial implications of global warming. The report underlines the fiduciary duty the insurance industry has to take action in relation to climate change, said Steve Waygood, chief responsible investment officer at Aviva Investors, the insurer’s asset manager.

Clickgreen:  Sturgeon demands respect from Whitehall

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is using her increased political muscle to fight the corner of the Scottish renewable energy industry in the wake of planned subsidy cuts. The SNP leader has written to Prime Minister David Cameron to demand “respect” for her nation’s world-leading position on the development of clean energy. In her 700-word letter, the First Minister outlined her concern at the UK Government’s decision to end the Renewables Obligation early to highlight the impact on business and investor confidence north of the border. She also called on the PM to ensure that all planned onshore wind projects at any stage in the planning system remain eligible for subsidy support.

Guardian:  Climate action isn’t preserve of the left wing, says energy minister

The challenge of how best to tackle climate change must not solely be the preserve of left wing politicians, according to the UK’s energy and climate secretary. Amber Rudd, who was promoted to secretary of state in May, is to use her first major speech on climate change to argue that the Conservative party’s legacy of action on global warming dates back to Margaret Thatcher. “It cannot be left to one part of the political spectrum to dictate the solution and some of the loudest voices have approached the issue from a left wing perspective. So I can understand the suspicion of those who see climate action as some sort of cover for anti-growth, anti-capitalist, proto-socialism,” she is expected to say at Aviva headquarters in London on Friday. Labour’s shadow energy secretary, Caroline Flint, warned that Rudd risked fracturing the UK’s political consensus on climate change with such language. Rudd is to cite Thatcher’s speech on the dangers of global warming in 1990, and will say: “this is equally an issue for those of us [on the right] who believe a sustainable free-market delivers the best results for hard-working families.”

Australian:  Renewable energy scaled back in Britain, Germany and US

Britain has announced ambitious plans to cut emissions by boosting renewable energy, on a similar scale to those now proposed by the ALP. But as in Australia with the carbon tax, there has been a strong backlash to rising electricity costs, which now include £4.3 billion ($9bn) of green scheme subsidies. British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd has taken the knife to subsidies for onshore wind farms, ending existing schemes early and putting future funding in doubt. In Germany the Merkel government has been forced to scrap a plan for an environmental levy on coal producers. Despite the billions spent on wind and solar projects, Germany still generates 44 per cent of its electricity from coal. Despite Barack Obama’s declared global ambitions on climate change, renewable energy targets and subsidies in the US are under pressure. The US President’s green energy plans face a hostile Senate and the US Supreme Court has struck down some attempts to use the Environmental Protection Agency to force curbs on emissions from coal-fired power stations without first undertaking a cost-benefit analysis. State governments are also backtracking on announced renewable energy mandates.

Blue & Green Tomorrow:  UK government cuts off Green Scheme funding

The Green Deal scheme has been closed to all new applications this afternoon after the Government ruled out further funding of the Green Deal Finance Company. Concerned about the low take-up and poor industry standards, Energy Ministers decided to call time on the troubled scheme saying the move would protect taxpayers. Energy Secretary Amber Rudd also announced that the Government will stop any future funding releases of the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund. The Government says it will now work with the building industry and consumer groups on a new value-for-money approach. The decision has no impact on existing Green Deal Finance Plans or existing Green Deal Home Improvement Fund applications and vouchers. Amber Rudd said: “We are on the side of hardworking families and businesses – which is why we cannot continue to fund the Green Deal. “It’s now time for the building industry and consumer groups to work with us to make new policy and build a system that works.”

South Wales evening Post:  Swansea Bay tidal lagoon plan uneconomical

Harnessing power by a low-carbon means is highly desirable, but should be accomplished in an economically, environmentally and ecologically acceptable manner. Unfortunately the proposed Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon fails to satisfy each of these criteria because of: 1) its location — it should be outside Swansea Bay and enclose deeper sea water than can be achieved with the proposed lagoon location; 2) the turbine design, which it is proposed should be adopted, is inappropriate for the circumstances prevalent in Swansea Bay and so lead to a deteriorating power harnessing electrical output; and 3) the lagoon’s 16 turbines would function simultaneously for only 16 hours per day — developer’s optimistic prediction. During eight hours (ie one third) of each day, the turbines would harness no tidal power. Even initially, the generated electricity will be at least 70 per cent too expensive for satisfying future demands. The proposed lagoon will considerably lower the attractiveness of the beautiful sweep of Swansea Bay, so arousing hostility among residents and reduce tourism — the major employer in Mumbles. The lagoon would lead to increased sea pollution because of contaminated sea-bed disturbance, and increased flooding episodes of the sea-shore on both sides and behind the lagoon.

Hockeyschtick:  Professor explains why the lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere is only 14 years

Dr. Gösta Pettersson, Professor Emeritus of biochemistry and specialist in reaction kinetics, explains why the computer model [“The Bern Model’] used by the IPCC to predict CO2 lifetimes of over 100 years is highly flawed and is strongly contradicted by observations from both atomic bomb testing and atmospheric levels of CO2 [the Keeling Curve]. Dr. Pettersson finds “the IPCC extremely (about tenfold) underestimated both the speed of the final location for the natural disposal of atmospheric carbon dioxide” by natural sinks. The assumption of the “IPCC Bern model that 22% of atmospheric carbon dioxide surplus can never be removed from the air seems quite amateurish considering that the present empirical observations confirm that at least 95% of the bomb test excess of 14C-carbon dioxide has been removed already after 50 years.”

NOAA:  Strong El Niño predicted

There is a greater than 90% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, and around an 80% chance it will last into early spring 2016. Nearly all models predict El Niño to continue into the Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, with many multi-model averages predicting a strong event at its peak strength (3-month values of the Niño-3.4 index of +1.5oC or greater). At this time, the forecaster consensus is in favor of a significant El Niño in excess of +1.5oC in the Niño-3.4 region. Overall, there is a greater than 90% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, and around an 80% chance it will last into early spring 2016.

Mashable:  IBM to forecast weather for US wind & solar installations

IBM shared new details last week on its program to harness powerful computers to forecast weather and other factors that determine the output of solar and wind installations. Using machine learning and advanced data analytics, IBM is making an aggressive push to give utilities, plant managers, and grid operators clearer guidance on what their arrays will put out today, tomorrow, next week, and even months from now. At last week’s European Control Conference in Linz, Austria, scientists from IBM and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) said they will make the forecasts available, free of charge, to users across the continental United States. Solar and wind forecasts produced by IBM’s technology are as much as 30% more accurate than conventional forecasts, according to Hendrik Hamann, a research manager at IBM. Such precision could make it possible to avoid generating hundreds of megawatts of excess power every year and reduce the need for new “peaker” plants to supply power in times of peak demand, potentially lowering carbon emissions and saving utilities and ratepayers millions of dollars.

BBC:  Arctic ice grew by a third after cool summer in 2013

The volume of Arctic sea ice increased by around a third after an unusually cool summer in 2013. Researchers say the growth continued in 2014 and more than compensated for losses recorded in the three previous years. The scientists involved believe changes in summer temperatures have greater impacts on ice than thought. But they say 2013 was a one-off and that climate change will continue to shrink the ice in the decades ahead.

Daily Caller:  Expedition To Study Global Warming Put On Hold Because Of Too Much Ice

An expedition to study the effects of global warming was put on hold Wednesday. The reason? Too much ice. The CCGS Amundsen, a Medium Arctic icebreaker and Arctic research vessel operated by the Canadian Coast Guard, was to travel throughout Hudson Bay, a body of water in northeastern Canada, but was rerouted to help ships who were stuck in the icy water. A Coast Guard officer said the conditions were the “worst he’s seen in 20 years,” reports CBC news. “Obviously it has a large impact on us,” says Martin Fortier, executive director of ArcticNet, which coordinates research on the vessel. “It’s a frustrating situation.” ArcticNet is a network of scientists who study “the impacts of climate change and modernization in the coastal Canadian Arctic.”

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49 Responses to Blowout week 82

  1. Javier says:

    It looks like a strong 2015 El Niño after the 2014 weak one is going to produce again “the warmest year on record”. Looks like we only get re-runs in the climate change theater these days. The Paris summit is going to be adequately primed. I bet many see it as the last best chance to get a hold of the global warming.

    Meanwhile we should prepare for a strong La Niña in 2016 as the prelude for a decade and a half of cooling. It would be damn curious if in 2015 we get both Peak Oil and Peak Warming and our policies are all wrong on both.

    • Lars says:

      Javier, it would be funny if the weather during the Paris summit is record cold just like it was during the Copenhagen summit in 2009 🙂

  2. Douglas Brodie says:

    Amber Rudd will be making a mistake if she cites Margaret Thatcher as a champion of the climate change movement. Mrs Thatcher may have been the first world leader to voice alarm over global warming back in 1988, but in her 2011 book ‘Statecraft’ she took it all back.

    In a passage headed “Hot Air and Global Warming”, she questioned the main scientific assumptions used to drive the scare, from the conviction that the chief force shaping world climate is CO2, rather than natural factors such as solar activity, to exaggerated claims about rising sea levels. She mocked Al Gore and the futility of “costly and economically damaging” schemes to reduce CO2 emissions. She cited the 2.5C rise in temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period as having had almost entirely beneficial effects. She pointed out that the dangers of a world getting colder are far worse than those of a CO2-enriched world growing warmer. She recognised how distortions of the science had been used to mask an anti-capitalist, Left-wing political agenda which posed a serious threat to the progress and prosperity of mankind.


  3. Willem Post says:


    Regarding using pumped storage by hydro plants in Norway, it appears no such capability exists at present.

    Rich Norway does not need to be “helpful” regarding building pumped storage, as it would create significant adverse environmental changes in affected areas.

    I wonder what commitments, if any, Norway has made to Brussels regarding this plan.

    The interconnection may not be all that helpful regarding spreading variable energy, as the weather will be much the same over the entire area.

    It may be helpful regarding Germany, etc., for using the flexible generating capacity of nearby grids for balancing, as its own flexible capacity already is insufficient.

    • Another quote from the article: “Although the total cost of building a North Sea grid is estimated at around €330bn (£230bn), analysts expect the amount to be recouped quickly. Investors in a recently-built subsea cable between the Netherlands and Norway recouped their money within just two years, as the cable began to be used to its maximum capacity almost as soon as it was built as Dutch energy distributors used it to import cheaper Norwegian hydro power.”

      Everyone in Europe wants Norwegian hydro. The question is, how much surplus hydro do the Norwegians have?

    • Hugh Sharman says:

      Roger and Willem,

      Some Norwegian lakes have been inter-connected hydraulically, so as to be capable of around 1 GW pumped hydro.

      Norway Inc. gains massively from its growing capacity to act as a wind/PV battery with the terms of trade firmly in its favour.

      I would not be at all surprised if Europe’s largest exporter of carbon per capita (by far) did not do some sums and concludes that more such hydraulic inter-connection will pay off.


      • Hugh: If Norway runs out of cheap hydro the only thing the North Sea supergrid will do is transport offshore wind power to UK and the European mainland. When the wind blows it will be totally gridlocked and when it doesn’t there won’t be a gigawatt on it.

        • Hugh Sharman says:


          You misunderstand!

          There is no way Norway will ever “run out” of hydro whether cheap or expensive, as Lars points out further down this page. Climate change permitting of course!! But for the foreseeable future, Norway will not run out of rain nor snow, so let’s keep our discussions close to the most likely scenarios!

          At somewhere near the bottom of these “likely scenarios” is that the EU’s nations in NW Europe getting together amicably and raising the necessary €315 billion because they all have quite other priorities.

          As the other articles in this week’s blowout demonstrate!

          • There is no way Norway will ever “run out” of hydro whether cheap or expensive, as Lars points out further down this page. Climate change permitting of course!! But for the foreseeable future, Norway will not run out of rain nor snow, so let’s keep our discussions close to the most likely scenarios!

            Hugh, I think you might be wrong there, at least in so far as hydro for export is concerned, but I’ll defer further comment until I’ve had a chance to look into the matter in more detail.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Hugh Sharman,

            The amount of hydro generating capacity depends on topography (hydraulic head) multiplied by water flow rate. Water flow rate depends largely on storage capacity. Pumped storage energy storage capacity depends on storage volumes int two reservoirs and their vertical separation (hydraulic head). Horizontal separation is also a limiting factor. Global hydro potential s strictly limited and insufficient to maintain hydro’s proportion of global electricity generation in the decades ahead. So hydro’s share of global electricity supply will decrease over time. The same is probably true for Norway, and certainly true as a share of EU’s electricity supply.

            Pumped storage potential is very limited. Norway certainly has some undeveloped capacity, but is it economic? How much is economic? If it is economic, why hasn’t it been developed already? If it is economic way was’t it developed to store baseload power at night – this would be 3 to 5 times more valuable use f the storage capacity than backing up unreliable, intemittent short-life renewables.

  4. Wilpost37 says:

    Norway has 27000 MW of installed capacity. During drier years it imports energy. Wind power will work on the west coast, but on the Oslo fjord, the wind increases as the land warms and often is near zero at night, based on my 25 years of observation.

  5. WillemPost says:

    During drier years Norway imports energy. It has 27000 MW installed.

    • Hugh Sharman says:


      According to, (the most reliable arbiter of matters “hydro”) Norway has 32 GW of hydro capacity and in 2011, a total electricity production of 128 TWh. The last “dry year” when there were net imports was 2010 – 2011.

      Much of the thermal capacity in Denmark and Germany that was able to serve Norway during this period has been decommissioned or will be decommissioned by the next dry winter.

      Sweden’s nukes which were also running flat out during this time are being closed down, one by one with nothing either thermal nor nuke to replace these.

      So the Nordic area will be relying, for the first time ever, on surpluc dispatchable capacity from Germany and Netherlands, where dispatchable capacity is closing down due to its unprofitability.

      Interesting times ahead!


      • Lars says:

        Hugh, that interesting time could come soon during the coming winter if the El Ninô creates the same conditions like in 2009-10 and 2010-11 with very cold weather across Europe.

        The last year we had net imports to Norway was in 2010, we imported a moderate 7,6 Twh. The maximum ever import was in 2004, 11,4 Twh.

        I find it hard to believe that Germany/Denmark/the Netherlands could not cough up such a moderate amount of power if necessary. After all you can provide that power during the night to save water in the reservoirs, your peak power will be unaffected.

        About nuclear in Sweden I find that a much more scary scenario. Ringhals 2 and Oskarshamn 2 have been offline for months and years due to upgrades and now they (along with Ringhals 1 and Oskarshamn 1) are threatened with closures. What a waste of resources!! That would shave about 3 GW of dispatchable base load capacity with 6+ GW remaining. In an extreme cold weather scenario combined with a large hydro plant or grid outage Sweden could depend on imports for peak power.
        This cannot be very satisfactory for Svenska Kraftnät (TSO).

        • Hugh Sharman says:

          Thank you Lars!

          There is much loose talk and even looser thinking about inter-connectors these days in this part of the world. Our rather gormless politicians, egged on by renewable fanatics, believe that a new inter-connector is the same thing as a dispatchable power station without the emissions and therefore, a “good thing”.

          Nonsense of course because the power in an inter-connector originates almost certainly from nuclear, gas or coal, as much as from wind and PV.

          The reality is that at each end of an inter-connector, there must at all times be a willing seller and a willing buyer. The terms of trade strongly favour the end that has the least concern about its system operability, irrespective of whether the wind is blowing or the sun shining.

          Norway, as we have agreed already has 32 GW of dispatchable hydro which it can turn up and down fast enough to keep its own system stable and a peak load (I believe? Lars, correct me if I am wrong please?) between 12 and 16 GW.

          You are right, of course! Even during the next shortage of water, it can import its deficit amounts at night, thus helping out Europe’s somewhat desperate purbeyors of dispachable capacity. Win/win/win again for the sainted mega-carbon exporter!

          Please, other readers, don’t think I am anti-Norwegian. Only jealous that as regards energy, Norway can’t ever seem to put a foot wrong!

          Norway is also Europe’s largest per capita electricity consumer, around 14,000 kWh/capita/year, and is the beneficiary of Danish-subsidized wind energy to the tune of roughly kroner one billion per year and growing!

          • Lars says:

            Hugh, you are welcome.

            I am just an amateur in this area, I have been interested in energy questions for years. That`s why I read this extremely thorough and fascinating blog. But I can my numbers regarding Norwegian hydro.

            Peak production so far is 26+ GW. 26 GW can be reliably counted on and increasing slightly every year due to upgrades and new capacity.
            About 25 GW is reservoir hydro and a rather small part pondage hydro. The rest is run off river.

            Peak consumption maximum is 24+ GW in an extremely cold period but more normally around 22 GW. Annual per capita consumption now is about 130 Twh/5,1 million consumers, about 25000 Kwh per capita.
            That means we don`t have that much power to send to other countries in a very cold period, and no matter what it is constrained to the number of interconnectors, about 5,7 GW.

            So for all that talk about using Norw. and Swedish reservoirs as “battery”, if that goal is to be meet much additional pump storage must be developed in existing reservoirs. Technically possible but at what cost both financially and environmentally?

            And even though it is done it will only be a part solution for continental Europe and the UK. All planners and greenies should realise this and don`t count on some magic to save them on days when it is not blowing a wind.

            So far I think Euan`s idea about new nuclear in the UK makes most sense. One Hinkley Point C would save the day for Denmark. I am not totally against a moderate contribution from wind power but flooding the beautiful countryside with wind turbines is beyond stupid.

          • Hugh Sharman says:

            Thank you Lars! I agree 100% with you. I did not realise that peak Norwegian el-demand is so tight with respect to Norwegian el-generating capacity! Wow! Are we ever looking at trouble ahead!

      • Willem Post says:

        The 32000 is total of which hydro is 0.945

        The maximum domestic demand was 23500 in 2012, according to your source.

        Not too much margin.

        In case of a dry year, Norway imports, but as you say, that my become problematic due to a lack of capacity of neighbors.

        Norway likely will use wind power to keep its reservoirs more filled than they would be with BAU.

        I like your comment about Norway making at least 1 billion DKR/y, courtesy of Danish households.

        That billion is likely an old number, as Denmark is proudly proclaiming more and more wind energy production, which would significantly increase that billion, all paid for by Danish households. Yikes, when will they finally wake up?

  6. donb says:

    Might there develop a future where northern Europe is increasingly committed to renewable energy (and not nuclear), whereas the U.S. is committed to cheaper and more abundant natural gas made possible by technology? I doubt even China and India will be committed to coal.

  7. burnsider says:

    I am looking forward to an interesting post on the amount of pumped hydro that Norway will be expected to accommodate (large TWh range I suspect)

    Sea ice update available here

    Hard to say how it is going to pan out this year

  8. William says:

    An interesting variation on pumped storage that doesn’t need a mountain is here:

    • If I’ve done my sums right a 100m-high, 100m-diameter cylinder of rock raised 100m stores only about 11MWh of potential energy. That’s not going to get us very far.

    • Peter Lang says:


      The rock cylinder ‘cut’ from a mountain is a joke. Clearly the researchers did not consult anyone with mining or civil engineering experience with working with rock masses. When the rock is freed from the confining stresses in the rock it would be reduced to a mass of rubble. How do the designers expect to keep the rock cylinder and the outside walls in tact? How will they cut the rock cylinder? The slot would need to be wide enough to allow for the expansion of the cylinder and the closure of the outer rock as the horizontal stresses in the rock mass are relieved.

      Importantly, what is the cost estimate for energy storage (by a competent estimator)?

      • I suspect this is what the demonstration project would finish up looking like:

        Sunrise block caving operation, Wyoming

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Thanks for the pic Roger. Yes this is a total joke….. Anyone who doesn’t grasp this immediately …..


        • Peter Lang says:

          Another reason it is a joke is that the water would escape – the water pressure would hydrofrac the surrounding rock. The hydraullic head would be about 3.5 times higher than vertical stress of the over burden – (100 m of rock plus 100 m of water)]. To prevent hydro fracking would require a steel liner with steel thickness equivalent to that required for pressure tunnel liners for hydro power stations with 0 to 100 m rock cover. That’s a huge amount of steel and a huge cost. And it would have to be welded in place. Concrete would be placed between the steel liner and the rock mass. o the excavation would have to be in the order 3 to 5 m wide (to insert the rock anchors to hold the rock cylinder together and install the steel liner and the high pressure, 100 m diameter o-ring seals. My gut feel is that, even if a cylinder of sold, unfractured rock could be found near surface, the cost of such an energy storage facility would be at least an order of magnitude higher than pumped hydro.

          • Peter Lang says:

            CORRECTION: the vertical stress in the surrounding rockmass at the level of the bottom of the cylinder is equivalent to ¬250 m of water and the water pressure is 350 m of water pressure when the rock cylinder is at its highest. So the ratio of water pressure to vertical rock stress is 350/250. Therefore, preventing hydrofracking would require only an impermeable liner. I still expect the cost of this facility would be at least and order of magnitude higher then for a pumped hydro scheme of same energy storage capacity, and much higher O&M costs

          • William says:

            Yes, the Heindl site does say all that is required is an impermeable liner. Did you read any of their information?

            Also for the picture of block caving, the rock in the picture looks rather weak. Is that really the sort of rock formation an engineer or geologist would choose if asked to construct a cylinder of the type required? I had in mind something more solid, like granite.

          • Peter Lang says:


            The information I presented is correct. However, if you have some information as to where a 100 m diameter by 100 m deep cylinder of rock has been found with no fractures near surface, and that would remain in tact when the cylinder is excavated, I’d be very interested to see the reports of site characterisation studies. Please provide references.

            Please also explain how the cylinder would be excavated, how the rock would be supported, how the liner would be installed and made with sufficiently tight tolerances that the seals would not leak under 250 m hydraulic head, Also explain how the seals would be installed and how long they would last assuming they would sweep 100 m and 100 me down every day? .

            Also please provide a link to the cost estimate fr the facility and for the O&M cost by a qualified estimator. As I said, I expect it will be at least an order of magnitude greater than for pumped hydro.

          • Peter Lang says:

            William, I should also have mentioned I read the article on the original study. It was clear they had not had any geotechnical input.

          • Peter Lang says:

            Here is a short article on the original concept:

            “Hydraulic hydro storage”

            1 km diameter, 1 km deep, intact granite cylinder with no fractures. Ridiculous!!

            Cutting with wire saw. Ridiculous for the reason mentioned in my previous comments.

      • Peter Lang says:


        Thank you for the photo.

        I wrote my response a bit too quickly. The original proposal for this type of energy storage was done by solar power researchers in Gemany. They advocated a cylinder of rock 1 km diameter and 1 km deep to store and supply all Germany’s energy needs (or something like that). That was ridiculous for the reasons I said. While it may be possible to find a 100 m diameter by 1 m deep cylinder of intact strong rock and isolate it from the surrounding rock, the cost of doing so, keeping it together, and building seals would be prohibitive.

    • William says:

      Roger, as Heindl says, a 100m diameter cylinder has a capacity of about 200MWh. There’s a power-4 factor though so a 200m cylinder has a capacity of 3.2GWh

      Peter, you may be right, I don’t know. I just came across the concept and thought it an interesting idea.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        William, one can never say never, but…..

        Most hard rocks are all formed deep within the crust. The fact they are now at surface means they have been uplifted somehow. The depressurisation normally leads to joints forming at the m / 10m scale. I think its is very doubtful they will ever find a block of rock that big that is a single and strong piece.

        And why should they bother. They could simply build a steel piston and fill it with rubble. But why would they bother doing that?

        Rock typically has a density of about 3 g/cc compared with water at 1 g / cc. The same size of energy store could be achieved by building a tank of water 3 times the height of the rock piston – that would likely be MUCH cheaper and would definitely work. But why bother with that? As Roger has already noted the amount of storage is really tiny.

        There are a number of projects under way in the UK using old quarries for pumped storage – that is the closest you will get to this kind of concept working.

  9. Mark Miller says:

    Roger it looks like ABB will be laying the line for the Norway/UK transmission project:

    • Hi Mark:

      When wind power generation is high and electricity demand low in the UK, power will flow via the link to Norway, allowing it to conserve water in its reservoirs. When demand is high in the UK but the wind isn’t blowing, electricity from Norway’s hydroelectric plants will flow to the UK.

      ABB was recently also awarded the NordLink project, a 1,400 megawatt (MW) interconnection rated at ±525 kilovolt (kV) to connect Norway and Germany.

      NorthConnect, an interconnector linking Norway and Scotland, is also being “examined”.

      And Norway already exports hydropower to Denmark and to the Netherlands via the NorNed interconnector.

      One wonders how many more interconnectors Norwegian hydro can handle.

    • Hugh Sharman says:

      Mark, the Norwegian-UK inter-connector has nothing whatsoever to do with the so-called “SuperGrid” as you will see from the newspaper article.

  10. Florian Schoepp says:

    Euan, a few weeks ago, I read somewhere on the Ofgem site that there are discussions regarding an interconnector between Iceland and Scotland (landing point) / UK. This cable would be powered by hydro and geothermally generated electricity. The private company asking for Ofgem ‘s support, was called Icelink I believe. Wouldn’t this be a good idea?

    • Hugh Sharman says:


      No! Not really!

      Iceland may have a whole lot of energy resources for a country with the population of a mid-sized UK country town. But already, much of the population is of the opinion that it already has enough hydro and geothermal power.

      Take a peak at and then consider, a bit, the 1500 km cable landing so far north of the center of gravity of UK consumption.

      Do the sums!

      ps I have been down that route in 2001. It was all Cloud Cuckoo Land and more fool me! Mea Culpa!

  11. Dave Ward says:

    Minor pedant alert: In “Nigerian Bulletin: UEA removes transport fuel subsidies” I think you mean UAE not my local Uni!

    As for the headline story – Is there no limit to the utter stupidity of politicians? To keep glibly throwing astronomical amounts of (other peoples) money around on vanity projects which haven’t a hope in hell’s chance of keeping the lights on is just obscene. I despair, I really do…

  12. I question EU’s assumption of “Scandinavian pump storage hydro schemes” and instead propose Scotland as a host for some or all of the pumped storage hydro schemes required for the North Sea grid.

    For example, my proposed scheme for Strathdearn Pumped Storage Hydro Scheme offers up to 6800 Gigawatt-hours – or 283 Gigawatt-days of energy storage.

    “World’s biggest-ever pumped-storage hydro-scheme, for Scotland?”

    – which proposal Euan Mearns was kind enough to review in May this year.

    “The Loch Ness Monster of Energy Storage”

    If some of the EU’s €315 billion (£220bn) Investment Plan for Europe is ear-marked for new-build pumped-storage hydro then shouldn’t Scotland and the UK be making a pitch to get that pumped-storage hydro investment here in Scotland for new-build pumped-storage hydro?

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