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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”