Blowout Week 99

In this week’s blowout we feature the “new direction” in UK energy policy:

Reuters:  Key excerpts from Amber Rudd’s speech

Energy security has to be the number one priority. But no responsible government should take a risk on climate change either. Because it’s one of the greatest long-term threats to our economic security. So the challenge we face is how we make sure that energy remains as the backbone of our economy, while we transform to a low carbon system. How do we achieve an energy system that is secure; affordable; and clean?

In the next 10 years, it’s imperative that we get new gas-fired power stations built.

There are plans for a new fleet of nuclear power stations, including at Wylfa and Moorside. This could provide up to 30% of the low carbon electricity which we’re likely to need through the 2030s.

We expect to see 10GW of offshore wind installed by 2020. But it is still too expensive. The technology needs to move quickly to cost-competitiveness. The industry tells us they can meet that challenge, and we will hold them to it. If they don’t there will be no subsidy.

We have enough onshore wind in the pipeline to meet our 2020 expectations. That is why we set out in our manifesto that we would end any new public subsidy for onshore wind farms. Over 8GW of solar is already deployed and even with the costs controls we have proposed we expect to have around 12GW in place by 2020.

We also want intermittent generators to be responsible for the pressures they add to the system when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine. Only when different technologies face their full costs can we achieve a more competitive market.

We will be launching a consultation in the spring on when to close all unabated coal-fired power stations. Our consultation will set out proposals to close coal by 2025 – and restrict its use from 2023. But let me be clear, we’ll only proceed if we’re confident that the shift to new gas can be achieved within these timescales.

Read on to learn about backfiring OPEC strategy, the plight of Canada’s oil producers, the US rig count (down again), hope for the North Sea, Luxembourg joining Austria in the Hinkley suit, the EU-Hungary nuclear dispute, OECD to cut coal plant financing, coal output in India to double, high winds shut down German turbines, Ironbridge closes, France forbids Paris climate march, submerged balloon energy storage, the Organization of Palm Oil Exporting Countries, climate change is good (yes, good) for penguins and the impacts of Oklahoma’s recent massive 4.7 earthquake.

Washington Post:  On eve of Paris climate summit, Britain pulls the plug on renewables

With breathtaking abruptness, the British government has in recent months slashed its support for solar power and other renewable forms of energy, leaving a once-promising industry with grim prospects and throwing into doubt the country’s commitment to clean power. The moves have baffled environmentalists, business leaders and even many government allies. Britain has long been in the vanguard of efforts to combat global warming. It has been expected to play a leading role — alongside the Obama administration — in efforts to secure a package of tough reforms at the U.N. climate change summit in Paris, which kicks off at the end of this month. But the decision to cut hundreds of millions of dol-lars’ worth of support for renewable energy at home, with a planned 87 percent reduction in subsidies for solar power, threatens to undermine Britain’s international authority, while showing just how difficult it can be for a developed nation to break a centuries-long addiction to fossil fuels.

European Environmental Bureau:  EU State of the Energy Union address does little to advance EU energy transition

Today’s State of the Energy Union address by European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic contained a lot of words, but there was little of substance and it will do little to help boost the energy transition in Europe. Today’s address lacks progress on energy efficiency, renewables and climate protection. Ahead of the COP in Paris there is no justification for this. Key legislative proposals for European energy and climate policies scheduled for 2016 must lead to a coordinated approach based on solid laws and under-pinned by solid evidence showing the benefits of efficiency and renewables for the environment, jobs and security of supply. The only concrete result from today is the adoption of a list of priority infrastructure projects (the so-called second list of projects of common interest). But the mission of transforming Europe’s energy infrastructure has been misused by Member States to come up with a wish list that is far from realistic. Further investments in oil and gas pipelines will lock-in continued dependence on fossil fuels in Europe.

Global Warming Policy Foundation:  US Senate says no to climate change treaty

52 U.S. Senators voted to block an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule this week that would curb carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. Passing the resolution without a veto-proof vote (the President has already promised not to sign it) makes this act of defiance symbolic only. But with the Paris climate summit just a week and a half away, it’s powerful symbolism indeed. The Senate is sending a clear message to the world’s climate delegates, who are busy prepping for the impending COP21 conference: This legislative body won’t ratify any kind of binding Global Climate Treaty (GCT), so don’t even try. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to side-step this problem last week when he insisted negotiators wouldn’t be working on a treaty in France, a comment that immediately inspired backlash and spurred the French foreign minister to suggest that Mr. Kerry was probably “confused.”

Wall Street Journal:  How OPEC’s Strategy Is Backfiring

Global oil demand growth is on pace for its third strongest year of this century. And global upstream oil investment has plummeted for two consecutive years, something not seen since the early 1980s. And contrary to what you might expect, it should have OPEC—Saudi Arabia in particular—beginning to worry. Despite a 63% drop in rigs drilling for oil in the three key shale regions since last November, oil production in those regions has barely budged from peak levels in 2015. In fact, new wells in the Bakken are pumping up to 50% more oil than those drilled at the beginning of 2015. Operators are finding ways to do more with less. If you think this kind of resilience is without precedent, just look at natural gas. There are 199 rigs drilling for natural gas today, down from more than 1,600 in 2008. During the period when low natural gas prices were reshaping that industry, we heard a lot of the same talk we now hear about shale oil: high marginal costs and unsustainable investment needs were supposed to lead to plummeting production. And yet, U.S. shale gas production today is at record levels even as prices test new lows. The idea that shale oil could be as durable as shale gas must be a frightening prospect for OPEC.

Bloomberg:  OPEC Targets U.S. Shale But Hits Canada Instead

OPEC took a swing at U.S. shale and knocked down Canada. Threatened by surging production from North America, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has been pumping above its quota for 17 months as it seeks to take market share from higher-cost regions. The resulting 60 percent price crash is hitting Alberta harder than Texas. Canadian producers are struggling to cut the cost of extracting bitumen from the oil sands, and their other wells are failing to match the efficiency gains of U.S. rivals, a Bloomberg Intelligence analysis shows. While output keeps rising in the Permian Basin, the largest U.S. shale play, companies are slowing output from wells in Alberta and have shelved 18 oil-sands projects during the downturn, according to ARC Financial Corp. “OPEC wants to hinder shale from its strong growth trajectory but there are higher-cost producers, such as in the oil sands of Canada, that are in the line of fire,” said Peter Pulikkan, an analyst at BI in New York. “Shale will eventually be impacted but it’s not the first on the list.”

Fuel Fix:  Worldwide oil job losses climb to 233,000, recruiter says

Still nursing deep financial wounds from the oil-market collapse, the petroleum industry has shed roughly 25,000 jobs around the world in the last two months, cutting upstream workers that analysts say will likely be difficult to replace when the downturn ends. Job losses in recent weeks have increased the industry’s losses to more than 233,000 since the slump in crude prices took hold late last year, according to energy recruiter Swift Worldwide Resources. Given the speed at which companies are cutting payrolls — a rate that hasn’t slowed down yet — Swift expects layoffs to grow to more than 250,000 this year and to increase again next year if oil prices languish at current levels.Swift CEO Tobias Read said there’s no sign of an immediate turnaround in the oil and gas job market and the situation “is likely to get worse.”

Sydney Morning Herald:  Australia Rejects BP’s Deep-Sea Drilling Plans

BP’s plans to drill deep in the Great Australian Bight have had a further setback, with a national regulator’s decision rejecting the company’s environmental plan. The National Offshore Petroleum and Environmental Management Authority signalled last month it was unhappy with the exploration plan for oil and gas in the bight, saying it would take extra time to consider. The authority has now determined that the plan, as it stands, fails to meet acceptable environmental regulations. “If BP chooses to resubmit a modified plan, it will then be assessed,” the authority said on Tuesday. Neither the authority nor BP would say how the plan was found to be deficient. BP and its partner, Statoil of Norway, want to use the $755 million rig Ocean Great White to begin drilling exploration wells later next year, about 300 kilometres off the South Australian coast, south-west of Ceduna. Passing through 2200 metres of water, and drilling 2500 metres into the seabed on the continental shelf slope, it would be the first deep water well in the bight.

Oil & Gas Investor:  US rig count falls again

U.S. energy firms this week cut the number of oil rigs for an 11th week in the last 12, data showed on Nov. 20, a sign drillers were still waiting for higher prices before returning to the well pad en masse. Drillers removed 10 oil rigs in the week ended Nov. 20, the biggest weekly decline since late October, bringing the total rig count down to 564, oil services company Baker Hughes Inc said in its closely followed report. That is about a third of the 1,574 oil rigs operating in same week a year ago. After cutting 103 oil rigs over the past two months, drillers added two rigs last week. U.S. crude oil futures averaged $41 a barrel so far this week, down from $43 last week, as crude inventories rose for the eighth consecutive week and were inching closer to record highs. Crude prices on Nov. 20 briefly fell below $40 to the lowest level since August as the pressure of a persistent supply glut limited optimism for a price recovery.

Courier:  Hope for the North Sea

A paper from Barclays Corporate Banking insisted there are “growing signs of hope on the horizon” for the oil and gas sector. Oil now retails at just under $45 per barrel, compared to $114 in June last year, with the fall having forced many North Sea operators to cut jobs. “While the general short-term picture for the North Sea may appear stormy, there are growing signs of hope on the horizon, which may trigger an eagerly-anticipated recovery,” the report states. It predicted oil prices would rise to $50 per barrel by the end of this year, and then go on to $60 next year. It said demand had already tripled since last November, going from 700,000 barrels a day to 2.1 million barrels a day – a movement “due mainly to the elasticity in price and consumer reaction” – and predicted that the upwards trend would continue with demand reaching four million barrels a day next year. Walter Cumming, head of oil and gas at Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “There is no doubt that the UK North Sea oil and gas industry is under pressure right now but we do feel signs of relief are there, and the forecast for $60 oil in 2016 with oil demand growth above trend again is encouraging.”He added: “We believe the North Sea still has a viable future.”

Ecologist:  Luxembourg joins Hinkley C nuclear challenge

The Luxembourg government will join Austria’s legal challenge to the €108 billion Hinkley C subsidy package at the European Court of Justice. The low-key announcement was released yesterday in Austria’s Parliament, just days before the deadline for other states to join is due to expire on Monday. “They will not make a huge fuss about it as they do not want angry phone calls from Downing Street”, commented Adam Pawloff, anti-nuclear spokesman for Greenpeace Austria, who has been working closely with Luxembourg colleagues on the issue. But he said that the move was an important one whose significance should not be underestimated: “In terms of foreign policy and EU solidarity it is quite a statement for one member state to follow up a legal challenge against another and the fact we are seeing further member states joining shows there is a growing front against nuclear power in Europe.”

Budapest Business Journal:  The EU-Hungary nuclear plant standoff

Despite an EC investigation into the no-bid contract for the project, the Hungarian government is committed to having Rosatom implement the upgrade of Hungary’s sole nuclear power plant in Paks, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said this morning. “We will keep moving forward”, as Paks is needed to provide inexpensive energy, Orbán said in his regular fortnightly interview on state-owned Kossuth radio. The European Commission announced yesterday that it started an infringement procedure to investigate Hungaryʼs contract to have Russia’s Rosatom upgrade the nuclear plant. The contract was awarded without a tender, and the EC claims this runs counter to European Union regulations on public procurement. Orbán said Brussels is “once again” using “double standards”, as nowhere in Europe have tenders been called for recent nuclear energy investments. He added that the EC is defending the interests of European companies interested in the $10-billion-plus project, Hungarian news agency MTI reported. “Where thereʼs meat, there are flies”, Orbán was quoted as saying.

Mining:  Global coal imports heading for second year of ‘dramatic’ drops

This has been a particularly bad week for the global coal industry, already battling multi-year low prices for the commodity. On Monday, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), set off fresh alarm bells by announcing that consumption of the fossil fuel was on track to drop an additional 2% to 4% before the end of the year. This as China, the top consumer, is stepping up efforts to battle against pollution, and global efforts to promote renewable energy are on the rise. Now is the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) turn, which said Friday it expected coal imports and exports to dramatically fall in 2015 for the second year straight. The agency pointed the finger at China and India, which from 2008 to 2013 accounted for 98% of the increase in world coal trade. In the rest of the world, exports and imports of the commodity declined over the same period. Preliminary data for 2014 and this year indicate a reversal of this trend, with declines in China’s coal imports currently on pace to more than offset slight increases in other countries in both years, said the EIA.

Washington Post:  OECD to slash export subsidies for coal plants

After a concerted push from the United States, members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development agreed Tuesday to slash subsidies aimed at exporting technology for coal-fired power plants. The decision by the world’s wealthiest countries to eliminate export credits for the least efficient coal plants, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2017, and can be strengthened four years later, marks a major negotiating success for the Obama administration in the run-up to U.N. climate talks later this month. The U.S. and several other key global players–including France, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development–have already limited its export financing for coal plants and had been pressing other nations, including Japan and South Korea, to follow suit. A senior administration official, who briefed reporters about the agreement reached in Paris on the condition of anonymity, said that under the new rules OECD countries would still provide export credits for coal plants using ultra-supercritical technology and help finance slightly less-efficient plants in the world’s poorest countries. But the policy would effectively cut off public financing for 85 percent of coal plants currently in the pipeline, he said.

International Business Times:  India set to double coal output by 2020

The coal mining industry is booming in India where a new mine is opened every month. In their push to compete on the global stage, Asian countries like India are increasingly looking to coal to power their economies and feed their growing energy demands. Officials in India’s coal ministry said despite a push for renewable energy sources, coal will continue to win out. “For us, environmental issues are non-negotiable. But looking at the requirements of development, looking at our energy needs I think coal will continue to be the primary source of energy within the country”, said India’s coal secretary, Anil Swarup. The rush to burn more coal comes as the worlds major economies, including leading emitters China and the US, have agreed to start cutting greenhouse gases over the next 15 years. The topic will be addressed by the some 200 nations attending the UN climate change summit in Paris later this month. But for countries like India, renewable energy sources can’t compete with coal which provides cheap energy and creates jobs.

Science Alert:  Here’s how 139 countries could run on 100% wind, solar, and hydro power by 2050

Blueprints for 139 countries around the world, including the US, Japan, and Australia, break down exactly how many wind turbines, solar farms, hydroelectric dams, and other facilities are required to cover each nation’s personal, business, industry, agriculture, and transport power needs, and how much it would cost. They’ll be presented to leaders of 195 nations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris, starting on November 30, where a binding and universal agreement on climate will be set. “The people there are just not aware of what’s possible,” one of the researchers, Mark Jacobson, a civil and environmental engineer at Stanford University, told Mark Fischetti at Scientific American. Jacobson has been granted two opportunities to speak at the conference, which will run from November 30 to December 11, and plans to get one-on-one time with as many world leaders as possible during that time with his colleague, engineer Mark Delucchi from the University of California, Davis.

Quartz:  Fleets of incredibly large wind turbines could produce a third of all UK power by 2030

The UK has the biggest offshore wind industry in the world, by far. But if predictions from some wind farm builders come true, it will become even more enormous—both in its capacity to produce power and by sheer size of the machines involved—over the next 15 years. The country has built 3.7 gigawatts of offshore wind power generating capacity in the last five years alone: enough to power three million homes, according to Benj Sykes, who leads asset management at Dong Energy’s wind business for the UK, Germany, and Denmark. He told Quartz that there were enough projects in the pipeline to more than double that amount to between 10 and 11 gigawatts by 2020. Ten years after that, the company envisages wind turbines will have a capacity of 30 gigawatts, generating 35% of the UK’s electricity.The scale of some of these projects is hard to conceive. Take, for example, a construction project in Liverpool Bay scheduled to begin next year. It will use 8-megawatt turbines that are so massive they cannot be transported over land, only by ship. “I would have said a year ago that 6-megawatt turbines are huge, and they are very big,” said Sykes (They’re a bit taller than London’s famous “gherkin” skyscraper). But the new 8-megawatt machines dwarf even them. On the Liverpool Bay turbines, Sykes explains, “each blade is 80 meters long, and you can drive a London double-decker bus inside the blade.”

Soon they could be much, much bigger

Reuters:  German grid firms dip into reserves as storms halt wind turbines

German transmission network operators (TSOs) have been calling on additional power capacity reserves after storm winds have been too strong for some wind turbines, forcing them to switch off. The use of reserves for the past 11 days was to keep grids stable and was expected to be complete by Nov. 20, the TSOs said on Thursday. Electricity demand in Europe’s biggest market is high and erratic renewable supply requires a backup in the winter months, for which the four TSOs have signed up a total 7,500 megawatts (MW) of additional capacity for the 2015/16 winter season. Wind volumes of late have been running at 30,000 megawatts (MW) on a daily level, compared with installed wind capacity of nearly 40,000 MW. “Based on wind feed-in forecasts, we have been calling on 200 to 2,200 MW (additional capacity) daily,” said the TSOs that are supervised by Germany’s energy regulator, in a joint statement. The scheme under which designated generators hold spare capacity for short-term use is funded by consumers. It became necessary from 2011 onwards, when Germany shut 40 percent of its nuclear power capacity following the Fukushima disaster.

Guardian:  France forbids Paris climate march

A march expected to attract 200,000 people onto the streets of Paris ahead of crunch UN climate change talks was forbidden by the French government on Wednesday in light of last Friday’s terror attacks. But organisers have said it is now even more important for people around the world to come out onto the streets for “the biggest global climate march in history” to protest “on behalf of those who can’t. The events are designed to put pressure on the leaders from almost 200 countries who will meet in Paris to thrash out a new deal on limiting greenhouse gas emissions post-2020. The conference is considered the most significant since the talks in Copenhagen in 2009, which were widely considered a failure by environmentalists. Emma Ruby-Sachs, deputy director of Avaaz , which has organised the march said: “The tragic attacks in Paris have made the march there impossible. Now it’s even more important for people everywhere to march on the weekend of 29 November on behalf of those who can’t, and show that we are more determined than ever to meet the challenges facing humanity with hope, not fear.”

Telegraph:  Ironbridge closes after 46 years

The Ironbridge power station in Shropshire generated its last electricity on Friday, as environmental rules forced its closure after 46 years. The power plant’s distinctive red cooling towers now face the prospect of demolition, reshaping the landscape near the Ironbridge Gorge world heritage site, which is famed as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Ironbridge burnt coal for most of its operating life before being converted to run on biomass in 2012 in order to qualify for renewable subsidies. It has been forced to close under the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive, which required polluting plants to install emissions abatement equipment to tackle acid rain. Those that failed to do so – such as Ironbridge, which decided it was not be economically viable – had to shut after generating for 20,000 operating hours since 2008, or by the end of 2015 at the latest.

Digital Trends:  Canada plans to store energy in giant underwater balloons

Cleantech startup Hydrostor designed and is now partnering with Toronto Hydro to operate the world’s’ first underwater compressed air energy storage system in Toronto. Located 3 kilometers off the shore of Toronto Island, a series of underwater balloons containing compressed air are submerged under 55 meters of water and connected to Hydrostor’s power facility via a pipe. The facility currently is being used to store excess energy from Toronto’s existing power grid during non-peak times It also can be adapted to store energy from renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power, providing the ability to store energy during peak energy generation times to compensate for the occasional downtimes. Under development for five years, the Hydrostor solution takes existing technologies and repurposes them for its clean energy storage solution. To store electricity, the company converts excess electrical energy into compressed air, which is moved through a pipe to the company’s underwater storage facility. The air is then pumped into giant submerged balloons called accumulators that are made from the same material that’s used to raise sunken ships from a lake bed or an ocean floor. The compressed air remains inside the underwater balloons until it is needed by Toronto during peak energy hours. To pump the stored power back into the grid, Hydrostor must first convert the compressed air back into electricity. The system takes advantage of the natural pressure of the lake water to push the air out of the balloons and send it back through the pipe to a turbine. The compressed air-powered turbine then is used to generate the extra energy required by the grid.

Power Magazine:  German Battery Storage Market Gets 90-MW Boost

German generating company Steag announced on Nov. 4 that it will invest €100 million in six 15-MW battery storage projects at several of its power plants in Germany. The batteries are expected to come online mid-2016 through early 2017. The facilities will be sited at Steag’s generating plants in Herne, Lünen, and Duisburg-Walsum in North Rhine-Westphalia, and Bexbach, Fenne and Weiher in Saarland. All are primarily hard coal–fired thermal plants. According to the company’s statement, the batteries will be used for frequency regulation and will be operated separately from the adjacent power plants. Steag said it is not relying on subsidies or government grants to offset the costs. “Storage facilities and the creation of flexibility are essential elements in the implementation of the energy transition in Germany,” Steag Chairman of the Board Joachim Rumstadt said. “STEAG has therefore decided to make this investment in large-scale batteries for deployment on the control power market, without making use of grants or subsidies.”

KOMO:  Judge denies kids’ climate change petition

A judge has denied an appeal by eight young activists who petitioned Washington state to adopt stricter science-based regulations to protect them against climate change. King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill affirmed some of the children’s arguments, saying the state has a duty to protect natural resources for future generations. But she said the Washington Department of Ecology is already working on meeting that obligation by writing new rules for greenhouse gas emissions ordered by the governor. Climate activists, ages 10 to 15, in Seattle brought the lawsuit asking the court to force state officials to adopt new rules to limit carbon emissions based on the best available science. The case is part of a nationwide effort led by the Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust to force states and the federal government to take action on climate change. The judge noted in her ruling Thursday that the Ecology Department is taking science into account, along with economic, social and political considerations. She also said the court can’t dictate how officials develop the rules.

Washington Post:  Record October heat keeps Earth on track for hottest year in 2015

It was Earth’s warmest October ever recorded and it wasn’t even close. The record-shattering month was right in step with most of the preceding months in 2015 — which is positioned to easily rank as the warmest year on record. New data from the Japan Meteorological Agency and NASA show that the planet obliterated October records established just last year. October 2015 out-baked October 2014 by 0.34 degrees (0.19 Celsius) and 0.32 degrees (0.18 Celsius) in JMA and NASA’s analyses, respectively. The planet’s temperature departure from the long-term average of 1.04 Celsius in October is the greatest of any month ever recorded by NASA. It marked the first time a monthly temperature anomaly exceeded 1 degrees Celsius in records dating back to 1880. The previous largest anomaly was 0.97 Celsius from January, 2007.

Telegraph:  Snow storms and icy blizzards to sweep in across the UK

Blizzards are expected later on Friday as the Met Office warned that widespread snow and ice would see temperatures plunge. With snow falling in northern parts of the UK, temperatures set to plummet below freezing and gales of 70mph, weather forecasters have issued a stark warning that winter is coming. High ground in Snowdonia, the Peak District, the Pennines and Scotland were coated in snow today as icy Arctic winds brought cold weather to northern Britain. Up to four inches (10cm) is expected to fall overnight, and temperatures will fall to minus 3C. The cold snap is a marked contrast to the recent mild weather which led to it being the second mildest start to November on record, and the Met Office has issued weather warnings for snow or wind for most of the UK until tomorrow evening.

Carbon Brief:  Roger Harrabin talks to Richard Tol:

RH: Well how fast do you think it ought to be pushed? I mean the UK, for instance, we’ve had our programme subsidising renewables, we’re bearing down on coal and we expect to be decarbonised in the electricity sector by around 2030. We have a long-term climate plan. I mean is that enough, is the UK a model for the rest of the world and how to tackle this, do you think?

RT: No, the UK is, and that’s pretty unfortunate, given the influence that the UK has through the Commonwealth and the English language, the UK is clearly a model on how not to do it. If you look at the last 20 years or so of UK climate policy, a few things have happened. One thing that has not happened is that emissions have fallen in any measurable or substantive way. But what has happened is that most people got a little bit poorer because energy’s more expensive, or a little bit poorer because they had to pay higher taxes. A few people got a whole lot richer because of climate policy. There has been all sorts of distortion imposed on the market but emissions have not budged. So the UK is very clearly a model on how not to implement climate policy.

ABC News:  Indonesia, Malaysia Form OPEC-Like Palm Oil Council

Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s top two palm oil producers, signed an agreement Saturday to set up a council for palm oil producing countries in a bid to ensure price stability by managing production and stock in the global market. Officials said the Jakarta-based council will be a body similar to that of OPEC for oil producers. Indonesian Resources Minister Rizal Ramli said the council will be a “game changer” for an industry under pressure from falling prices and unsustainable farming practices. The two countries account for 85 percent of the world’s palm oil production, and the plunge in prices have hurt their economies. Rizal said the council will address impediments to trade to boost competitiveness in the world market, and promote green and sustainable farming. It will also aim to improve the livelihoods of more than 4 million oil palm smallholders in Indonesia and some 500,000 in Malaysia, he said. “It will be a game changer for the palm oil industry in many ways,” Rizal said after a signing ceremony to establish the council.

Eurekalert:  Energy from methane without carbon dioxide

Instead of burning methane (CH4), its molecular components, hydrogen (H2) and carbon (C), can be separated in a process called ‘methane cracking’. This reaction occurs at high temperatures (750°C and above) and does not release any harmful emissions. The first product, hydrogen, is an energy vector best known for its clean combustion and high energy density per unit mass. While hydrogen is the main output of methane cracking, its by-product, solid black carbon, is also an increasingly important industrial commodity. It is already widely employed in the production of steel, carbon fibres and many carbon-based structural materials. The black carbon derived from the novel cracking process is of high quality and particularly pure powder. Its value as a marketable product therefore enhances the economic viability of methane cracking.

Mail:  Climate change is good for penguins

Melting ice caps and shrinking glaciers are often seen as a negative side effect of global warming, but at least one species is benefiting from these changes in temperature. In East Antarctica, the population of Adélie penguins has increased 135-fold over the past 14,000 years, despite the decrease of ice in the region. Experts believe this is due to the fact that as glaciers retreat, the number of potential breeding sites for the birds increases. Researchers from the University of Tasmania investigated the effect of climate change on Adélie penguins over the past 22,000 years, which includes the end of the last Ice Age. Using mitochondrial DNA from multiple living colonies, they sequenced 56 individuals from six colonies. The genetic data indicated that the population has more than doubled over the period being studied. And the researchers said this ‘population explosion’ suggests current environmental conditions are more favourable for Adélie penguins than they were at the end of the last Ice Age.

BBC: Russia rewards weight loss with coal

The programme, which will be broadcast on a local channel in Siberia’s coal-rich Kemerovo region, is a part of the regional government’s efforts to raise awareness over the problem of obesity. Governor Aman Tuleyev says he borrowed the idea from the United Arab Emirates. “There, people get rewarded in gold for getting slimmer. We will also pay – not in gold coins, but in coal,” he says. Dubai launched the “Your Weight in Gold” scheme in 2013, offering a gram of the precious metal for every kilogram in weight a person loses. Participants in the Kemerovo programme will shed the pounds through sports activities and by trying various diets, according to the head of the region’s press service. “In return they will get the wealth of the region – top-grade, high-calorie coal,” Anton Gorelkin says. As in Dubai, people will be rewarded for every kilogram of weight lost, although the amount of coal they’ll be given hasn’t yet been decided. But Mr Gorelkin says there certainly won’t be any shortage: “As there is plenty of coal in the world market, I believe there will be no problem with the prize.”

KFOR:  Big changes coming for oil and gas companies in Oklahoma following massive earthquakes

A 4.7 magnitude earthquake was recorded near Cheokee around 1:42 a.m. The National Weather Service tweeted out a picture that shows birds flying away due to the earthquake. (It) shook a picture off the wall. The earthquake was so large it showed up on radar! Following the massive earthquake, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division announced that it would implement a plan to change the oil and gas wastewater disposal wells in the area. The commission is asking for two disposal wells to stop operations in the Arbuckle area and for 23 others to reduce their disposed volumes. Also, disposal wells within 10 to 15 miles of the earthquake activity are being placed on notice to prepare for possible changes.

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13 Responses to Blowout Week 99

  1. Willem Post says:

    “Here’s how 139 countries could run on 100% wind, solar, and hydro power by 2050”

    Jacobson’s group has also made a plan for the US to use only wind 50%, solar 45%, and tide, geothermal, hydro, wave 5%; no bio, no nuclear, no FFs.

    Excerpt from my article:

    The Report claims, as fossil fuels would become scarcer and more expensive in the future, the leveled cost of the 100% RE energy mix, LCOE, would become less than of the present energy mix, because “RE has no fuel costs”.

    However, other near-CO2-free energy sources, such as nuclear in alternatives 1 and 2, should be a major percentage of any energy mix, as the capital costs of that mix would be up to 5.5 times less and its roof/land/sea area requirements would be up to 9 times less, and its LCOE likely would be equal or less than of the Jacobson Plan. See Summary of Analysis of Alternatives.

    ………………………………Capital Cost………Added Capacities…………….Additional Area
    …………………………………..$billion………………….MW……………….acres…………….sq. miles
    Jacobson Plan……..,…….23,164……………….6,288,911………175,850,940……….274,767
    Alternative No. 1……………6,291………………1,578,048…………40,981,875……….. 64,034
    Alternative No. 2……………4,147…………………951,595…………21,914,182…………34,241

    For the whole world, multiply the US numbers times 5.

    And all of that to be done by 2050, while the world population is increasing, and refugees are overrunning Europe.

    Jacobson is going to be talking to the delegates in Paris. What a delegate-drooling love fest that will be!

    How do I get my article to those delegates?

    • RDG says:

      Willem, the world is awash in methane. Thats what the Saudi war against methane is all about. Nuclear Reactors are a last option for a good reason: We basically take a process, bring it to a runaway state, and then hold it back. This is unlike a standard fueled flow, where the strength of reaction can be metered by adding, reducing or cutting off the flow of fuel. Nuclear reactors are inherently unstable and dangerous. As France has discovered, design of new reactors is an exercise in rolling the dice.

      • Leo Smith says:

        Well it is surely wonderful how a confident assertion of ‘facts’ based on prejudice, and not reality, can give a completely false impression.

        “We basically take a process, bring it to a runaway state, and then hold it back.”

        Well no, actually we don’t hold it back, we have to work hard to keep it going.Nuclear reactors are inherently unstable and dangerous.

        In most reactors.

        “Nuclear reactors are inherently unstable and dangerous. “

        Not really, no.

        False assumption, false conclusion.

        Plenty of reactor designs require the constant use of moderators to keep them at anything like a critical point, they are inherently safe.

        Now if you want inherently unsafe, think about a turbine with unshielded blades and blade tip speeds in excess of 200mph, standing exposed to the elements and vulnerable to wind and lightning..

      • Willem Post says:

        “We basically take a process, bring it to a runaway state, and then hold it back.”

        I studied nuclear engineering at RPI as part of my MSME and worked designing plants.

        You basically do not know what you are talking about.

  2. gweberbv says:

    The battery project in Germany is really astonishing (if it is indeed realized without depending on subsidies).

    • Willem Post says:


      “According to the company’s statement, the batteries will be used for frequency regulation and will be operated separately from the adjacent power plants.”

      The increasing quantities of variable wind and solar energy cause increasingly larger disturbances/voltage ripples on the grid.

      The batteries act as dampers, smoothes the voltage ripples, by charging and discharging, as needed.

      This has NOTHING to do with energy storage now, and using that energy later.

      Here is an excerpt from this article:

      Using Batteries For Reducing Grid Disturbances: Increasing the capacity, MW, of PV solar systems tied to a distribution grid will decrease its stability, because energy from PV solar systems significantly varies from minute to minute, especially during variable-cloudy days, common in New England. Battery systems tied to the distribution grid are used in California and Germany to smooth excessive energy variations. They act as dampers, which work as follows:

      – The DC energy of the PV panels is sent as AC into the distribution grid.
      – If necessary, some of the energy is converted to DC before charging into the utility-owned battery system to maintain distribution grid stability.
      – If necessary, some of the battery energy is converted to AC and sent into the distribution grid to maintain distribution grid stability.
      – DC to AC inverters are about 85%, 50%, and 10% efficient at 20%, 10% and 2% outputs, respectively, i.e., much of the converted energy is lost as heat, if charged and discharged energy quantities occur at less than 10% of converter capacity!
      – Such charging and discharging has very little to do with storing PV solar energy during the day for use at night, as is sometimes claimed.
      – If a battery system has sufficient capacity, it can perform its stabilizing function during the day while storing energy for use at night.

      Chevy-Volt and TESLA: The 2014 Chevy-Volt has a 16.5 kWh battery, but it uses a maximum of about 10.8 kWh (about 65% 0f its capacity), because the battery controls are set to charge to about 90% of capacity and discharge to about 25% of capacity. GM does this to minimize costs of its 8-yr/100,000 mile manufacturer’s warrantee. That warrantee is for manufacturing DEFECTS, does NOT cover performance. According to GM, the battery is expected to have a performance loss of 20% over its 8-yr WARRANTEE life, and more beyond that 8-yr life. The 10.8 kWh gives the Chevy-Volt an ELECTRIC range of about 38 miles on a normal day, say about 70 F, less on very cold and on very warm days, less as the battery ages.

      TESLA markets wall-hung, Powerwall units, 7 or 10 kWh, li-ion batteries, and Powerpacks, 100 kWh. The below calculation is for the 10 kWh unit. I assume TESLA is as capable as GM, i.e., no magic, no hype. There are battery charging losses and discharging losses, and AC to DC and DC to AC conversion losses. The TESLA 10-year warrantee is for manufacturing defects, does NOT cover performance!! The INSTALLED cost of the 10 kWh unit = $3,500 + S & H + Contractor markup of about 10 percent + $2,000 for an AC to DC inverter + Misc. hardware + Installation by 2 electricians, say 16 hours @ $60/h = $7,100, or $7,140 per this URL.

      Assuming a 65% charge/discharge, and a 90% AC to DC inverter efficiency, and allocating half of the 8% DC-to-DC loss to the charging side (the unit has a round-trip DC-to-DC efficiency of 92%, per spec sheet), it would take 0.65 x 10/(0.9 x 0.96) = 7.523 AC kWh of off-peak grid energy to charge up the unit. During on-peak hours, one would get back 0.65 x 10 x 0.96 x 0.90 = 5.616 AC kWh to use in the house, for a minimum energy loss per cycle of (1 – 5.616/7.523) x 100% = 25.4%!!

      If we GENEROUSLY assume the battery would have NO performance loss over its 10-yr WARRANTEE life, and one cycle per day, i.e., 3,650 cycles, and night-time cost of charging at 10 c/kWh and day-time avoided cost at 18 c/kWh, then 3,650 x (5.616 x 18 – 7.723 x 10) = $943.76 would be the gain over 10 years. The cost of financing, PLUS any costs for O&M, PLUS any capacity degradation due to cycling, PLUS efficiency reductions of part-load operation of AC/DC or DC/AC inverters, PLUS the cost of depreciation are ignored.

      The above is a best-case analysis. Actual results are much worse, i.e., terrible.

  3. robertok06 says:

    Nice collection of articles, Roger, thanks!…

    Cherchez l’erreur… science fiction (in the form of an academic scientist out of touch with reality) vs reality:

    Science fiction: “Science Alert: Here’s how 139 countries could run on 100% wind, solar, and hydro power by 2050″… “… ‘The people there are just not aware of what’s possible,’ one of the researchers, Mark Jacobson, a civil and environmental engineer at Stanford University”
    … this is the same Jacobson who recently proposed to installa as many off-shore turbines on the Atlantic/Gulf coast of the USA in order to slow-down hurricanes (up to and above 300 km/h wind gusts)…


    Reality: “Reuters: German grid firms dip into reserves as storms halt wind turbines”

    “German transmission network operators (TSOs) have been calling on additional power capacity reserves after storm winds have been too strong for some wind turbines, forcing them to switch off.”

    Houston we have a problem!… this is the same Mark Z Jacobson who… “… plans to get one-on-one time with as many world leaders as possible during that time with his colleague, engineer Mark Delucchi from the University of California, Davis.”!!

  4. Pingback: World's $60 Billion Snow Sports at Risk from Climate Change - Boston Commons High Tech

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