Energy

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North Korea at Night    City lights are usually an indicator of where people live, but not on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea’s population is roughly 49 million and the land teems with light. North Korea has 24 million people and hardly any lights beyond Pyongyang. Offshore, the seas glow with the light of hundreds of fishing boats lining up along invisible borders.

 

Oil Price History and Analysis (James L. Wilson)

World Energy Timeline (Daniel Yergin)  …   1804   World population hits 1 billion.  1859  ”Colonel” Edwin Drake drills what is generally accepted as first oil well at Titusville, in northwest Pennsylvania.  British scientist John Tyndall publically demonstrates greenhouse effect at Royal Institution, London.    1931  Oil prices collapse to 10 cents a barrel.  [Yip Harburg and Jay Gorney write the song “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”]    2012  World population hits 7 Billion.  North Dakota overtakes Alaska as second largest oil-producing state in the U.S., , signifying rapid growth of “tight oil” production ; U.S. oil production 25 percent higher than 2008.  Shale gas reaches about 40 percent of total U.S. gas production.  Massive electric blackout in northern India leaves more than 600 million without electricity.  Wind provides 4 percent of US electric generation.  Euro crisis throws Europe into recession.  Canada provides 28 percent of US oil imports.  “Energy Independence” becomes subject of serious discussion in United States.  Rosneft to acquire TNK-BP, becoming the largest publicly-traded oil company in the world.  Super Storm Sandy knocks out electric power and fuel supplies in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (Bing Crosby)  …   Song History and Meaning:  In 1929, the average unemployment in the U.S. hovered at around 3.2%. In 1930, after an unprecedented stock market crash devastated the U.S. economy, the average unemployment was 8.9%.  By 1932, when Bing Crosby’s version of “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” was released, the unemployment had soared to 24.1%. The height of the Great Depression had arrived, and unfortunately, it was still just the beginning.

Crude Oil Price Spike 2003-2008: The Roles of Market Fundamentals and Speculation  (Daniel J. Shaw)

Natural gas: The fracking fallacy (Mason Inman)   …   If natural-gas prices were to follow the scenario that the EIA used in its 2014 annual report, the Texas team forecasts that production from the big four plays would peak in 2020, and decline from then on. By 2030, these plays would be producing only about half as much as in the EIA’s reference case. Even the agency’s most conservative scenarios seem to be higher than the Texas team’s forecasts. “Obviously they do not agree very well with the EIA results,” says Patzek.   

The lower forecasts from Texas mesh with a few independent studies that use simpler methods. Studies by Weijermars6, as well as Mark Kaiser7 of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and retired Geological Survey of Canada geologist David Hughes8, suggest that increasing production, as in the EIA’s forecasts, would require a significant and sustained increase in drilling over the next 25 years, which may not be profitable.

Uranium Prices & Uranium Demand   …   About 435 reactors with combined capacity of over 370 GWe, require some 78,000 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate containing 66,000 tonnes of uranium (tU) from mines (or the equivalent from stockpiles or secondary sources) each year. This includes initial cores for new reactors coming on line. The capacity is growing slowly, and at the same time the reactors are being run more productively, with higher capacity factors, and reactor power levels. However, these factors increasing fuel demand are offset by a trend for increased efficiencies, so demand is dampened – over the 20 years from 1970 there was a 25% reduction in uranium demand per kWh output in Europe due to such improvements, which continue today. 

Blown Away    Wind power is doing well, but it still relies on irregular and short-term subsidies.   …   Some technical improvements have, in fact, been notched up. Since the late 1990s rotor diameters have increased by around 90% and the average height of a turbine “hub” has gone up by 45%. More than 1,000 turbines installed last year were on towers of more than 100 metres (330 feet). Today’s turbines have, on average, a technical capacity eight times larger than they had in 1990, and generate 17 times more power. Yet without the PTC [Production Tax Credit] wind is uncompetitive with other forms of energy.    

Japan to build world’s largest offshore wind farm     By 2020, the plan is to build a total of 143 wind turbines on platforms 16 kilometres off the coast of Fukushima….    The wind farm, which will generate 1 gigawatt of power once completed….    will surpass the 504 megawatts generated by the 140 turbines at the Greater Gabbard farm off the coast of Suffolk, UK – currently the world’s largest farm. This accolade will soon pass to the London Array in the Thames Estuary, where 175 turbines will produce 630 megawatts of power when it comes online later this year.    

Wind Speeds Over Land and Water

Global Outlook for Renewable Power    Energy produced from hydro, wind, solar, and other renewables sources is expected to exceed that from natural gas and double that from nuclear sources by 2016 – becoming the second most important energy source behind coal.    

White Elephants Seen in North Sea    A huge offshore energy project may prove an expensive disaster.    

Nuclear Energy:  Instant Expert  

Nuclear energy: Radical reactors

Japan’s Nuclear Future   …   Rokkasho and a hard place    The government’s fudge on its nuclear future remains unconvincing.    THIS remote north-eastern coastal village in Aomori prefecture would delight a North Korean or Iranian spy. Not because of the rolling countryside, but the uranium-enrichment facility, the plant undergoing testing to make nuclear fuel by reprocessing spent uranium and plutonium, and the stash of a good part of Japan’s stockpiles of more than nine tonnes of separated plutonium—enough, experts say, to make more than 1,000 nuclear warheads.  ….  The Rokkasho plant seems an anomaly in a country that forswears nuclear weapons and that has shut down all but two of its 54 nuclear reactors. Yet the same government that says it wants to phase out atomic energy by the end of the 2030s also insists that it is committed soon to start reprocessing enough nuclear waste at Rokkasho to provide fuel for Japan’s nuclear-power plants to go flat out into the 2050s….    

Black Gold        

Oil Trade Movements:  BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2013     

The industry can no longer simply focus on the benefits of shale gas     We all knew the gas was in the cells, sometimes up to 40% methane…. …   In 2000, shale gas represented just 1% of American natural gas supplies. Today, it is 30% and rising.   …   The rules will also mitigate methane leakage during the drilling process.  This is critical, since methane is a powerful greenhouse gas pollutant, and uncontrolled leakages call into question whether natural gas is cleaner than coal from a global climate perspective.     

Out of the Gloom    FLY by night over Uttar Pradesh in northern India, the country’s most populous state, and its cities appear as dazzling islands. In between, however, lies an inky sea. Perhaps two-thirds of Uttar Pradesh’s 200m people have no regular electricity. In India as a whole, 700m, or more than half of the population, suffer unreliable connections to the national grid, or none at all.    

Connecting You to the Bakken Shale

CO2 storage needs to be tailored to geology     Three million tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent to the exhaust from 500,000 cars) have been buried every year since 2000 in an oil and gas reservoir [Bakken Shale] below Weyburn, in Saskatchewan, Canada.    

Smart heat nets fire the next energy revolution
… more than 50 per cent of the energy we use leaks into the surroundings as wasted heat.
…  Just as ground source heat pumps pull the heat from the ground, urban waste heat pumps could mine the vast trove of accumulated waste heat beneath our cities – from subway systems to sewers. They could then divert it to where it is needed, using a system of pipes and heat exchangers, creating an urban heat grid.
… The heat that dribbled down US drains last year siphoned away 350 billion kilowatt-hours last year…
… Vancouver taps heat from untreated sewage and funnels it back into a district that includes the Olympic Village built for the 2010 winter games, where it provides some 70 per cent of the needed heat and hot water.

Solar Power:  Sunset for Suntech    … Jenny Chase of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), a research firm, argues that solar technology is advancing so quickly that it creates a “last-mover advantage”. She calculates that new photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing plants become obsolete within five years.
 
Another advantage for upstarts is that they can exploit the collapse in global silicon prices, the most important raw material for solar panels. Older firms like Suntech had no choice but to pay $400 or more per kg in 2008. Many signed long-term fixed-price contracts. When prices recently touched just $16 per kg, they were as sore as a sunburnt neck.

… The global solar-panel glut is now vast. Manufacturers have at least 60GW of and module capacity, but demand this year is expected to be just 37GW. BNEF forecasts that, even with robust demand in China and Japan, global PV demand will reach only 52GW in 2015.
 
On the heels of the Suntech bankruptcy, Robert Bosch, a German auto-parts giant, announced that it would pull out of the solar-manufacturing business. Despite having sunk over $2.5 billion into this sector, the firm said it saw no path to profits.

SUNSHINE can be turned into electricity at night in this thermosolar plant.    Gemasolar, in Fuentes de Andalucía near Seville in Spain, is the first commercial-scale plant to use an innovative “battery” that stores energy as molten salts.  …  More than 2600 heliostats – flat mirrors – over 185 hectares reflect and concentrate sunlight onto the top of a tower. In the “power tower”, potassium and sodium nitrate salts are heated to 565 °C and then pass through a heat exchanger where they turn water into steam to drive turbines in the 19.9 megawatt plant.   …   When there’s more heat than is needed to turn the turbines, some of the hot salt solution is stored in a tank. This battery allows electricity to be generated for up to 15 hours when there’s no sunshine.    

World Energy Council:  Global Issues Monitor

Wood: The fuel of the future      Environmental lunacy in Europe     In its various forms, from sticks to pellets to sawdust, wood (or to use its fashionable name, biomass) accounts for about half of Europe’s renewable-energy consumption. In some countries, such as Poland and Finland, wood meets more than 80% of renewable-energy demand. Even in Germany, home of the Energiewende (energy transformation) which has poured huge subsidies into wind and solar power, 38% of non-fossil fuel consumption comes from the stuff.   

Wireless Smart Meter

Peak Oil    THE theory of peak oil, the idea that global crude production may be at or near its limit, is based on the work of M. King Hubbert, a geologist working for Shell in the 1950s. His  prediction that oil output in the lower 48 states of America would peak by around 1970 has been adopted and expanded by hydrocarbon doomsayers….
http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/03/focus-0

Energy Policy:  Biofuelery
… cellulosic ethanol (made from non-edible feedstock such as wood or grass, rather than corn)…    True, no one really knew at the time how to make it in large quantities or at an affordable price. But lawmakers decided that if they created a big enough market, some bright spark would figure it out. So they decreed that refiners should use 500m gallons (1.9 billion litres) of the stuff in 2012. America’s few fledgling manufacturers, however, dribbled out just 20,000 gallons last year. That was better than the two prior years, when they produced none at all, rather than the 350m gallons that Congress had prescribed.    

Fuel of the future: How fiery ice could power Asia     …In a world first, Japan has successfully begun extracting commercial quantities of natural gas from icy clathrates beneath the sea bed.  …   Methane hydrates consist of methane molecules trapped in a cage-like structure of water called a clathrate. Cold temperatures and high pressures keep them solid, and their compressed structure gives them 164 times the energy potential of an equivalent volume of natural gas.

Reap the whirlwind for cheap renewable power     …the team estimates that the electricity produced by a Solar Vortex will be 20 per cent cheaper than energy from wind turbines and 65 per cent cheaper than solar power.

The future of energy:  Batteries included?    The Joint Centre for Energy Storage Research (JCESR)….  The aim, snappily expressed, is to make batteries five times more powerful and five times cheaper in five years. … The leader is probably the lithium-air battery, in which metallic lithium is oxidised at the anode and reduced at the cathode. In essence, it uses atmospheric oxygen as the electrolyte. This reduces its weight and means its energy density is theoretically enormous.

Channelling heat:  Good conduct     Dr Maldovan’s invention, published in Physical Review Letters, is based on the idea of a sonic filter. A good way to filter sound—to eliminate certain frequencies while allowing others through—is to transmit the sound waves through a crystal. The size of the gaps between the crystal’s atoms will govern which frequencies can pass. Moreover, the path the sound takes can be controlled by introducing deliberate flaws into the crystal’s atomic lattice. These flaws act as waveguides, channelling the sound energy along themselves. ….  Though turning these crystals into practical products will require further tinkering, Dr Maldovan thinks they will be immediately useful in the construction of thermoelectric materials, which transform waste heat into electricity, and will ultimately lead to the thermal equivalent of diodes, allowing heat circuits analogous to electrical ones to be built….

North Dakota curbs wasteful flares of oil drilling gas   …   In 2014, about 26 per cent of gas produced in North Dakota was flared off – 10 million cubic metres of fuel a day, producing some 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is compared with the rest of the US, which only flares 1 per cent of its natural gas on average.  [Question:  How much gas is flared off on the Saskatchewan side of the border?]

 

…solar electricity could displace 9.7% of American retail electricity sales by 2019…over 30 times the share today.   

The cost of battery storage, a vital part of a solar-powered future, has fallen by 60% since 2005, and the overall cost of a solar-power system is down by 75% since 2000. IHS, a consultancy, reckons the cumulative fall will be 90% by 2025.   

A study published on April 7th by Rocky Mountain Institute, a think-tank and consultancy, highlights the changes that plunging costs could bring. Taking the not particularly sunny example of Westchester in New York, it predicts that by 2030, the average monthly bill will be $357 for grid electricity but just $268 for a domestic solar system with battery storage. And whereas most commercial customers depend entirely on the grid today, they will need to take only a quarter of their power from it by 2030—and less than 5% by 2050.

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