Category Archives: Energy

Oil Production Vital Statistics October 2016

The post-November 2015 production decline was accentuated by the Fort McMurray wild fire in Canada in May 2016. But overprinting all this is Iran coming back to full production with a YOY rise of 760,000 bpd combined with large rises in Saudi and Russian production.

The oil price is pressing on its $51 / bbl resistance. With OPEC spare capacity approaching lows and global production fast approaching balance, we can look forward to a rally in the oil price towards $65 / bbl (perhaps higher) some time in 2017. Continue reading

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The BN-800 Fast Reactor – a Milestone on a Long Road

The BN-800 fast breeder reactor was commissioned in Russia this week. This guest post by Russian commenter Syndroma provides an overview and history of the Russian fast breeder reactor program. Continue reading

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El Hierro October 2016 performance update

During October the hybrid wind-hydro Gorona del Viento (GdV) plant achieved 19.8% renewables generation that compares with the 58.2% achieved in August 2016. The cause was an abrupt mid-month fall in the wind. Continue reading

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UK Electricity 2050 Part 2: A High Nuclear Model

Guest post by Energy Matters’ commentators Alex Terrell and Andy Dawson. In part 2 of their trilogy, Alex and Andy examine how the UK 2050 electricity demand may be met by a nuclear dominated supply model. It requires 85 GW of nuclear capacity in the UK. The model is founded on existing technology and existing UK nuclear sites. But as the decades pass goes on to include new UK nuclear sites previously occupied by coal fired power stations and clusters of small modular reactors (SMRS) that have yet to be built, licensed and tested. It concludes by introducing the concept of nuclear islands built in very shallow water off the English coast. Continue reading

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LCOE and the Cost of Synthetic Jet Fuel

The technology to make liquid fuel from CO2 and H2 has existed for nigh on 100 years. The main barrier to wide-spread deployment is the uncompetitive cost of fuel that is produced. The main cost centre is the electricity consumed where, for example using onshore wind as the source would lead to Jet A1 costing over $200 / bbl compared with $62 / bbl today. This is a show stopper.

The cost of synfuel can be attacked from two directions. The first is to make the process more efficient to reduce the amount of energy consumed. But this will inevitably at some point meet a thermodynamic barrier that cannot be crossed. The other approach is to tackle the cost of the electricity consumed. < $20 / MWh is the magic number that would make Audi's e diesel and Extra Virgin Jet Fuel competitive with fossil fuels. High altitude wind power is the only show in town that holds out this promise. Continue reading

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UK Electricity 2050 Part 1: a demand model

Guest post by Energy Matters’ commentators Alex Terrel and Andy Dawson. Alex Terrell is a business consultant in the area of Vehicle Telematics. He has also consulted in Energy and Manufacturing, and has a degree in Engineering. Andy Dawson is an energy sector systems consultant and former nuclear engineer.

This lengthy post is in three parts and aims to provide greater sophistication to a UK 2050 electricity model than can be achieved using the DECC 2050 calculator. Part 1 (below) presents the demand model. Parts 2 and 3 (to follow) will look at how demand may be met by a high nuclear option and from a renewables option. Continue reading

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How much more electricity do we need to go to 100% electric vehicles?

As reported in Blowout week 146 the EU is drafting legislation to mandate the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in new homes while Germany and the Netherlands are considering legislation requiring that all cars and light vehicles sold after 2025 or 2030 must be 100% electric. None of this legislation has as yet been approved, but if it is how much extra electricity will be needed to power the millions of EVs involved, and how much will it cost? I’ve seen no numbers on this, so in this post I come up with some, starting with Germany, the Netherlands and the EU and adding a few more countries – and the world – as we go. Continue reading

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Primary Energy in The European Union and USA Compared

The EU has a larger population and smaller land area than the USA resulting in a population density 3.6 times that of the USA. European citizens therefore have less land available to service the energy needs of its citizens. This combined with different approaches to energy policy has led to the EU now importing 55% of it energy needs while the USA imports only 10%. The USA is well on its way to energy independence. This could have foreign policy and defence implications where the UK and USA has divergent priorities to Europe. Continue reading

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A more detailed look at the California grid data

In the June “Renewable California” post I presented a brief analysis of California’s progress towards its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 based on annual generation data. Hourly grid data for the period between April 20, 2010 and March 9, 2016 are now available, and this post reviews them to see what they add. The conclusion is basically the same as before – that despite all the legislation that California has passed in an attempt to stimulate the growth of renewables the state has not progressed at all. The percentage of renewables in California’s energy mix is still about the same as it was in 2010 and the percentage of low-carbon generation in the mix has decreased slightly. The California “Duck Curve” also remains a matter of concern. Continue reading

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Aerodynamic Lift – something for nothing?

Readers may have noticed that I have been largely absent from these pages for a few weeks. That is because I’ve been doing a consulting job for KiteGen assisting with a presentation to be made to the CleanTech investor summit in Rotterdam in November (see disclaimer at end). In the course of doing this work certain things came to light that explains the power generated by kites, flight reliability and the move away from fabric to composite materials. I kick off with an amazing movie of a kite powered trimaran / hydrofoil (below the fold). Continue reading

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USA Energy Independence Day

It has been 3 years since I last looked at US energy statistics and a recent conversation has prompted me to revisit the topic. Is the USA close to energy independence? The answer is surprisingly yes! In 2007 the USA imported 708 Mtoe (million tonnes oil equivalent) of energy, mainly crude oil. In 2015, that had fallen to 234 Mtoe. The rate of decline is 59.25 Mtoe per annum and if the trend continues the USA will be energy independent in 4 years. It is to be anticipated that the oil price crash will impact oil production in 2016 and 2017 but I wouldn’t bet against the US becoming energy independent in the early years of the next decade. Continue reading

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El Hierro September 2016 performance update

During September the hybrid wind-hydro Gorona del Viento (GdV) plant achieved 58.2% renewables generation, comparable to the 55.6% achieved in August and far higher than the 19.9% achieved in September 2015. This was largely a result of the fact that the wind didn’t die early in the month as it did in September 2015. Total renewables generation since full operations began at GdV on June 27, 2015 is now 40.1%, up from 38.7% at the end of August. Continue reading

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Does carbon capture & storage have a future in the UK?

A UK Parliamentary Advisory Group (PAG) recently published a report in which it claimed that carbon capture and storage was “critical” if the UK is to meet its CO2 emissions targets. The PAG is correct in so far as something needs to be done, but whether CCS is it is open to question. Accordingly, this post addresses the subject of whether CCS offers potential for emissions reductions on the necessary scale in the UK and concludes, as others have concluded before, that it doesn’t. Continue reading

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Imagining Fusion Power

Guest post by Robert L. Hirsch, Ph.D. Imagine you’re an electric utility executive with a strong background in a range of electric power generation technologies. As such, you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various options, and you have some “scars” from dealing with the challenges associated with nuclear power. Like many in your industry, you hope for a new electric generation technology that will make life better for your company and your customers. Hope springs eternal! Continue reading

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Emissions reductions and world energy demand growth

A major obstacle to cutting global CO2 emissions is growth in world energy demand. In this post I examine world energy growth projections from a number of different sources and compare them with the growth trends that will be necessary to meet emissions reductions goals. It goes without saying that there is an enormous gulf between the two. This leaves the world with a stark choice – cut fossil fuel consumption by 80% by 2050 or suffer the consequences of global warming, whatever they may be. Continue reading

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Solar PV capacity factors in the US – the EIA data

A post I wrote a little over two years ago concluded that solar PV capacity factors in the US ranged between 13% and 19% with an average of around 16%. Recently, however, the US Energy Information Agency published a table showing an average capacity factor of around 28% for utility-sized PV plants in the US in 2015. This post looks into the reasons for this large difference and also addresses the question of whether the EIA estimates can be used to predict future US solar PV output. Continue reading

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The Age and Future Size of the Global Nuclear Fleet

This is the last in my mini-series on global nuclear power. There are 441 reactors operational world wide today with an average age of 29.3 years. The current fleet is ageing. The oldest reactors in service today are 47 years old. By assuming that reactors will close aged 50 and by making simple assumptions about the commissioning of reactors under construction and those planned I estimate that come 2036 the fleet will comprise 424 units. The number is slightly down on today but the increase in mean power rating suggests that installed capacity will increase by about 25%. Continue reading

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Electricity and energy in the G20

While governments fixate on cutting emissions from the electricity sector, the larger problem of cutting emissions from the non-electricity sector is generally ignored. In this post I present data from the G20 countries, which between them consume 80% of the world’s energy, summarizing the present situation. The results show that the G20 countries obtain only 41.5% of their total energy from electricity and the remaining 58.5% dominantly from oil, coal and gas consumed in the non-electric sector (transportation, industrial processes, heating etc). So even if they eventually succeed in obtaining all their electricity from low-carbon sources they would still be getting more than half their energy from high-carbon sources if no progress is made in decarbonizing their non-electric sectors. Continue reading

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UK Wind Constraint Payments

Electricity generation from wind power has grown dramatically in the UK in recent years (Figure 2) and so has the challenge to balance the grid, especially when it is very windy. One of the balancing tactics deployed by National Grid is to pay wind farms to switch off when it is windy. This cost, borne by the consumer, is called a constraint payment. In 2015, UK consumers forked out £90 million to pay subsidy driven wind farms to switch off.

The amount of UK wind that is constrained is growing with the level of penetration. At 10% wind penetration, 6% of the wind power available is constrained. Continue reading

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El Hierro August 2016 performance update

During August the hybrid wind-hydro Gorona del Viento (GdV) plant achieved 55.6% renewables generation, higher than the 47.9% achieved in August 2015 but lower than the 65.9% achieved in July. The decrease relative to July was a caused by wind lulls and the increase relative to 2015 was a result of two periods of 100% renewables generation totalling 79 hours. Total renewables generation since full operations began at GdV in June 2015 is now 38.7%, up from 37.8% at the beginning of the month. Continue reading

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