Category Archives: Energy

The gulf between the Paris Climate Agreement and energy projections

According to the Paris Climate Agreement a rapid decrease in the world’s consumption of fossil fuels is now mandatory if the Earth is to be saved from climate disaster. Projections of future energy use, however, are unanimous in predicting an increase in the world’s consumption of fossil fuels in coming decades. Either the energy consumption projections are wrong or the Paris goal is unachievable. This post reviews the basic provisions of the Paris Agreement, compares them with six independent estimates of future energy consumption and concludes that while the energy consumption estimates are subject to uncertainty the goals of the Paris Agreement are indeed unachievable. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 54 Comments

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and Baseload Tidal Generation in the UK

Charles Hendry, former energy secretary, published his long awaited report on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon power station last week coming down in favour of the project. Hendry’s report is comprehensive but has one key omission. It does not ask if tidal lagoons can provide renewable base-load power in the UK as is often claimed. I set out in a positive frame of mind to show that it could, but failed miserably in that attempt. Facts defeated me.

UK tidal lagoons will produce more intermittent electricity than any other form of renewable generation providing four spikes separated by four periods of zero production each day. It is often claimed that the predictability of tides is a virtue. This also means we can predict with certainty that this energy source will be a disaster for the public as well as the environment. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | 119 Comments

Can Hawaii go 100% Renewable?

Hawaii’s Renewables Portfolio Standard commits it to obtaining 100% of its energy from renewables by 2045, and Hawaii proposes to do this by wholesale replacement of fossil fuel generation with solar. This approach is theoretically possible, but only if there is enough energy storage (approximately 10GWh) to match day-night solar fluctuations of over 3GW to a substantially flat ~800MW load curve and if grid stability can be mantained with dominant solar generation. The Renewables Portfolio Standard also covers only electricity generation, which presently supplies only about a third of Hawaii’s energy needs, so even if it’s met Hawaii will still fall well short of its 100% renewable energy target. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 50 Comments

Oil Production Vital Statistics December 2016

Global total liquids production hit yet another record high of 98.24 Mbpd in November led by OPEC and Russia! Libya’s drive to restore production is a significant factor with production up 280,000 bpd from recent lows. The US oil rig count has risen for 32 consecutive weeks and US oil production has stopped falling. Production from the North Sea and Asia are in decline as the past low price and drive to restore profitability works through the system. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 23 Comments

El Hierro end 2016 performance update

Because of generally low wind strengths the Gorona del Viento (GdV) plant achieved only 28.2% renewables generation in November and December 2016. Percent total renewables generation since full operations began in June 2015 stands at 37.7% at the end of 2016, down slightly from 38.7% at the end of October 2016. Renewables generation for the calendar year 2016 was 41.1%. Minor improvements are apparently being made in wind turbine performance but hydro generation remains negligible overall. Data on GdV plant layout, operation and capacities are given in the September 2015 review. Previous posts on GdV are accessible through the El Hierro portal. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , | 28 Comments

Energy Prices in Europe

A few days ago a link to a UK government report called Quarterly Energy Prices landed in my in box. At the end was a series of interesting charts comparing liquid fuel, natural gas and electricity prices across Europe. This post presents these charts alongside some simple but rather interesting observations. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 84 Comments

Oil Price Scenario for 2017

Every year around this time I make an oil price “forecast” for fun and have a bet with a friend. A year ago my BAU scenario for Brent was $37 for December 2016. The current front month is $55.80. My friend wagered on $64 leaving $50.50 as the break-even point. It is time to concede defeat and examine why I did so badly?

To cut to the quick, my wag for December 2017 is $60 but we may see $80 some time during the year. Light tight oil (LTO) production has disturbed the historic price-supply dynamic adding uncertainty to predictions. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Latest El Hierro reservoir images

Rainer Strassburger is back on El Hierro and has downloaded more Gorona del Viento reservoir images on his Cloud site, which is now accessible via the El Hierro portal . Here we take a quick pictorial look at what has changed since he took his last photographs in April. The main changes are a) two flexible pipelines are now delivering water to the Upper Reservoir from the island pipeline network and b) three long graduated poles presumably intended to measure water levels have been installed in the Upper Reservoir, suggesting that GdV may finally be planning to fill it. Otherwise GdV has continued to work with the ~100,000 cu m of water that the reservoirs contained in April. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , | 53 Comments

The Bingham Canyon pumped hydro project – by far the world’s largest, but still much too small.

Some of the larger-scale options (pumped hydro, CAES, FLES etc.) presently being considered for storing intermittent renewable energy rely on the existence of holes in the ground, often man-made ones, to make them work. In this post I take as a hypothetical example the world’s biggest man-made hole (the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, Utah, shown as viewed from space in the inset) and fill it with water from the Great Salt Lake 25km to the north to get an idea of how much untapped hydro storage potential Bingham and other holes like it might offer. I find that Bingham has the potential to store about 3TWh, which would make it by far the largest pumped hydro facility in the world. 3TWh of storage, however, is nowhere near enough to support an all-renewables world, and there just aren’t that many more big man-made holes like Bingham around. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , | 67 Comments

Solar power on the island of Ta’u, a preliminary appraisal

A 1,400kW(p) solar PV array backed up by 6,000kWh of battery storage and a smart grid has been installed on the island of Ta’u in American Samoa. It’s widely reported that this system already allows Ta’u to obtain 100% of its electricity from renewable sources for 100% of the time, and this brief review suggests that it will in fact be capable of delivering 100% electricity for almost 100% of the time if and when it reaches full operation. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , | 113 Comments

The Glenmuckloch Pumped Storage Hydro Scheme

Scotland is to get a new pumped storage hydro scheme, not in the Highlands but in the Scottish Borders. With a capacity of 400 MW and an estimated 1.7 GWh of storage this plant can make a meaningful 4 hour contribution to peak generation every day. But wooly arguments made about smoothing intermittent renewables makes it unclear if this commendable strategy is the intended use. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , | 92 Comments

Oil Production Vital Statistics November 2016

In October, global total liquids production hit a new record high of 97.84 Mbpd led by OPEC and Russia! This was caused largely by the scramble to boost production ahead of production cuts with a datum on October 2016. The US rig count continues to rise and US production has stopped falling. The rest of the oil production world outside of OPEC, N America and Russia continues to suffer under the weight of low oil price. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

OPEC Production Data and the Feeble Deal

OPEC largely wrong-footed markets and expectations by announcing their first production cut since the financial crisis of 2008 last week. This sent Brent front month “soaring” toward $55 / bbl. This is certainly good news for producers and at face value bad news for consumers everywhere. But the deal and the way it is structured is far from straight forward. For example there is a 285,000 bpd “typographical error” in the record of Iranian production in October in the OPEC press release, equivalent to about one quarter of the whole feeble deal. This is the stuff of dispute and of feeble deals unwinding. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , | 39 Comments

Oil and Gas UK 2016 economic report: “a sobering picture”

Guest post by Alan Foum who is a geophysicist with 26 years industry experience with a major operator. He has a BSc in geology from Imperial College London, and an MSc in geophysics from Birmingham University.

The 2016 Oil and Gas UK 2016 economic report is a sobering picture of the current state of Britain’s oil and gas industry. The full report is available here . A distillation and commentary on its key points is posted below. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

UK Electricity Part 3: Wind and Solar

Part 1 of the series on 2050 electricity demand provided a “high electrification” scenario where the average electricity demand was approximately 72GW, but peak demand on exceptionally cold days could reach 121GW.

Part 2 described how this demand could be fulfilled with a nuclear supply model. In Part 3 we have used the same demand model to show how this could be substantially fulfilled with wind and solar power; though relying on significant amounts of storage to match supply and demand, and gas (or biofuel) capacity to operate when storage is insufficient. A number of different scenarios are explored, with the preferred scenario laid out below, adjacent to the nuclear scenario for comparison. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 115 Comments

Blackout: the sequel

Reactor 1 (600 MW) of the Torness nuclear power station in Scotland tripped at 09:00 on 22nd November whilst reactor 2 was on half load for refuelling. Since then Scotland has been dependent on electricity imports from England for every hour of every day peaking at 2552 MW at 20:00 on 23 Nov as the mercury plunged towards -5˚C. At that point, Scotland was dependent on England for half of its electricity. In the past, Scotland was always 100% reliant on home-grown power. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , | 78 Comments

The European Blackout Risk

At 2000 hours Central European Time on February 8, 2012 combined electricity demand in the UK, France and Germany peaked at a historic high of 231GW during a winter cold snap. This caused no serious problems at the time, but the UK, France and Germany could have a combined total of as little as 210GW of capacity on-line this winter, and if another 231GW demand peak coincides with 210GW of available capacity, demand management will undoubtedly come into effect somewhere. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 66 Comments

The Aramco IPO and the Black Art of Estimating Oil Reserves

Saudi Arabia has announced that 5% of state owned Aramco is to be put up for sale perhaps as early as 2018. As part of the process, the country’s oil reserves will be subject to audit by western consultants, presumably to OECD standards. Given that Saudi Arabia has not adjusted oil reserves for production since 1980 there is a widely held view that the official figure of 267 billion barrels is a gross overstatement of reality. The audit will be interesting to say the least, especially since Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and UAE are all guilty of the same malpractice. Deducting the 156 billion barrels produced since 1936 leaves 110 billion bbls remaining. Only time will tell where reality lies. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 26 Comments

France’s nuclear “crisis” and UK energy security

France’s electricity generation since June has been running 5-10GW below normal because of nuclear plants being shut down for inspection. France has made up this shortfall by reducing electricity exports – generation from oil, coal, gas, hydro and renewables has stayed about the same. Exports to UK have decreased to the point where overall the UK now exports more power to France than it imports. The exports, however , occur dominantly during periods of low UK demand. The UK still imports up to 2GW of power from France during peak periods, although it’s unlikely that it would be able to do so should there be a protracted cold spell in Europe this winter. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , | 50 Comments

Playing the Trump Card: a Tale of Golf, Wind Turbines and Political Expediency

To say that US President elect Donald Trump is a controversial character would be an understatement. Not so widely known, he is also 50% Scottish, his mother Mary Anne Macleod being born in Stornaway on the Island of Lewis on May … Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments