This is the 2nd installment in a series that looks at the recently released 2013 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. The previous post – Renewable Energy Status Update 2013 – focused mainly on wind and solar power. This post delves into hydropower and geothermal power. Some of the BP data is supplemented by REN21′s recently-released 2013 Renewables Global Status Report (GSR). (Disclosure: I have been a reviewer for the GSR for the past three years).
Hydropower accounts for more electricity production than solar PV, wind, and geothermal combined. In 2012, hydropower accounted for 16% of the world’s electricity production. However, hydropower gets far less press because it is a mature technology with a much lower annual growth rate than most renewables. While solar PV increased capacity by an average of 60% per year over the past 5 years, new hydropower capacity increased at a much more modest annual rate of 3.3%.
However, since 1). The installed base for hydropower is so high; and 2). The capacity factors for hydropower tend to be much higher than those for intermittent renewables — the amount of hydropower produced dwarfs that of the other renewable options. (The capacity factor is simply the amount of power produced divided by the power that would be produced if the power source was producing at full capacity at all times). Between 2002 and 2012, the amount of hydropower consumed globally increased by more than 1,000 terawatt hours (TWh). Over that same period of time, the amount of wind and solar power consumed increased by 560 TWh — albeit at a much higher annual rate of growth. ( Continue… )
A BP official who led the company before the 2010 incident in the Gulf of Mexico marked his return to the region in a $3.75 billion deal with Houston-based Apache. Apache seemingly said goodbye to the Gulf of Mexico in the deal, opting instead to focus its efforts onshore. Former BP Chief Executive John Browne helped nab 1.9 million net acres in the agreement with Apache last week. Apache's "good run" in the Gulf of Mexico may suggest assets onshore may hold more long-term value for explorers.
Apache unloaded its assets to Fieldwood Energy, an entity held by Riverstone Holdings LLC. Fieldwood CEO Matt McCarrol said his company would take over where Apache left off, adding his company was "very enthusiastic about the opportunity to continue this legacy going forward." McCarrol said the assets obtained through the deal make up more than 500 blocks encompassing 1.9 million net acres. By the end of last year, the company said the area had proved reserves of 239 million barrels of oil equivalent, of which 55 percent is oil. (Related article: Will an End to Pemex’s Monopoly Boost Economic Growth in Mexico?)
Riverstone Holdings LLC includes former BP chief John Browne, whose tenure ended in 2007 with the arrival of Tony Hayward. Under Browne, BP became one of the premier energy companies working in the Gulf of Mexico. By 2010, the company, as well as Hayward, became the subject of public scorn after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Two high-ranking BP officials were charged in 2012 with misleading investigators during their investigation into the spill. ( Continue… )
However this was not the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that has been the subject of environmental and political battles in the United States Congress. Rather, it is a pipeline to carry ethane from the Bakken formation in North Dakota, through Saskatchewan, to Empress, Alberta.
Ethane is extracted from natural gas and is used in various industrial processes. In Alberta, it will be used in the petrochemical industry, where it is key to the production of detergents, plastics, rubber, and other consumer products. (Related article: Next Shale ‘Boom’ - Our Money’s on Russia)
The pipeline concerned is called the Vantage Pipeline. It will be 430 miles long (of which 80 miles is in North Dakota before it crosses the international border) and cost an estimated $300 million to construct. It will mark the first time that liquids from this region of North Dakota's reservoirs will flow into existing Albertan infrastructure. Construction of the pipeline segment inside Canada has already been under way for some time, according to reports. ( Continue… )
It has been two years since the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan causing the meltdown at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, and all but two of the country’s 50 working nuclear reactors are actually operational; the rest shut down and refused permission to start up again.
Finally, last week new safety regulations were introduced that offer a path to allow energy companies to resume the operation of their idle reactors. Five companies quickly submitted their applications for permission to restart 12 reactors, and with the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party expected to tighten its grip on the government in next week’s parliamentary elections, it may be long before Japan fully embraces nuclear power once again.
At the time of the Fukushima accident nuclear power generated 30% of Japan’s electricity and plans were in place to boost that to 50%. After the accident and the closing down of the nation’s nuclear industry utilities were forced to increase imports of coal, natural gas, and oil in order to supply fuel for fossil fuel power plants, which were run at high capacity, in an effort to meet the country’s energy demand. (Related article: Chernobyl at Sea? Russia Building Floating Nuclear Power Plants) ( Continue… )
Having recorded a huge success with Tesla, Elon Musk is now turning his entrepreneurial eye on revolutionising long distance transportation.
When researching California’s new high speed rail project, and realising that it will be the slowest, and yet most expensive, high speed rail system in the world, he decided that there must be an alternative that offers faster travel for less cost.
He has settled on the idea of a network of pneumatic tubes within which travel carriages at high speed along a magnetic-levitation track. His system would be able to take someone from New York to Los Angeles in 45 minutes, and New York to Beijing in just 2 hours.
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Musk’s ‘Hyperloop’ would work in a similar manner to the old fashioned pneumatic tube delivery system, which would use suction to pull a capsule along the tube to the destination. ( Continue… )
In the very crowded field of unintended outcomes of EU energy policy, what is happening in Germany this year would be hilarious if it wasn't so tragic:
Coal-fired power plants contributed 52% of Germany's first-half electricity demand as output from natural gas-fired power plants and wind turbines fell, research organization Fraunhofer Institute (ISE) said.
Coal plants increased production by about 5% to 130.3 TWh in the first six months of 2013 as output from gas-fired power plants fell 17% to 21.9 TWh, said ISE, which collated data from Germany's statistical office and the EEX transparency platform.
It get's worse. Germany is not only building new coal plants, but they use lignite, a soft brown coal halfway between coal and peat with an even higher CO2 and ash content than hard coal. Germany is the largest lignite producer on earth - and get it from strip mining. So much for romantic vision Germans have of themselves as nature friends which they have managed to con the rest of the world into thinking too, as Robert Wilson at Carbon Counter notes:
It is one of the finest achievements in public relations in history. Germany has managed to be praised by environmentalists more than any other developed nation and yet is building more coal plants than more or less any other developed country. If China is watching on they should take note. The easy way to receive the adulation of Western Greens is to put up a stack of solar panels, and to just keeping building coal plants as before. Just think of the headlines: “China gets 50% of its electricity from solar power.” The green adulation will be remarkable, yet the carbon emissions will keep soaring.
If you like me you'll love Robert by the way, and he's an actual scientist to boot, he deserves more readers. ( Continue… )
U.S. gasoline prices are expected to remain volatile for the month because of geopolitical fallout in the Middle East. Concerns over the global oil supply are fading away from the minds of most consumers and few people care even less about the unrest in Egypt. A weekend survey said gasoline prices were in decline, though that did little to ease the minds of American commuters scratching their heads at the pump during the first major heat wave of the season. A year ago, American consumers were paying substantially less for gasoline. While U.S. oil production gains mean fewer imports, there appear to be few guarantees for energy security, and lower gasoline prices, in the near term.
Motor group AAA reports an average Monday price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline of $3.61. That's more than 4 percent higher than last week, which translates to a 2 cent increase every day since July 8. A weekend assessment from Lundberg Survey said gasoline prices declined by less than 1 percent compared to last month. The U.S. Energy Department said it expects gasoline prices for the season to level off at around $3.50 or so, though that's still higher than the $3.39 average reported year-on-year. (Related article: BP to the Rescue for Midwest Drivers)
Former House Speaker and presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich said a then-struggling U.S. economy can't afford to spend billions of dollars overseas to buy foreign oil when there was plenty of that Texas tea at home in the United States. Gasoline prices, he said, could drop to $2.00 per gallon if drilling activity increased dramatically in the United States. A year later, nearly 90 million barrels of oil was produced worldwide and almost half of that came from new drilling operations in the United States. Gasoline is still nowhere near $2.00 per gallon even though the United States is mentioned in the same breath as Saudi Arabia. ( Continue… )
Shunichi Tanaka, the head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority in Japan, and the country’s chief nuclear regulator announced on Wednesday, that the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, has been leaking contaminated water into the ocean for the two years since the accident that saw three of the plants six reactors suffer a meltdown.
The problem stems from the fact that ground water is leaking into the basement of the damaged reactors, and becoming contaminated, and whilst that water is being pumped out and stored in huge tanks on site, the inflow has not yet been stopped, meaning that ever more ground water enters the basement and becomes contaminated.
Tanaka explains that neither his staff, nor those working for the plant’s operator have discovered where the leaks are coming from, and therefore have not been able to stop them. (Related article: Chernobyl at Sea? Russia Building Floating Nuclear Power Plants)
Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the power plants operator, has constantly denied that any of that water has been leaking into the Ocean, but in the last few days it has switched its position and finally admitted that it can’t actually say for sure that the water is not leaking into the sea. ( Continue… )
Recycling and Reusing Becoming an Imperative
There is no greater example of the water-energy nexus than the juncture where water meets the hydraulic fracturing process, or fracking, of natural gas and oil. This nexus has created a public-private crossroads, with both sides attempting to further their goals. For legislating and rulemaking bodies, their goals revolve around protecting public safety and natural resources needed by society.
For energy firms, producing energy to meet demand in a profitable way is the target. Non-governmental organizations play a public advocacy role as well, sometimes positively and constructively and sometimes losing sight of their mission. Increasingly, the challenge is about producing energy in the most environmentally-friendly manner, using less water more efficiently and responsibly, and utilizing natural resources as if a sustainable imperative were upon us. It may well be.
Many believe that the effects of climate change will be felt through water — extremes of floods and droughts, rising sea levels, and warming oceans, to name a few challenges. Whether viewing the water-energy nexus through the lens of climate change or resource sustainability, the impact of energy development on water resources has reached an inflection point. ( Continue… )
Which Oil Price to Watch?
Some economists and consumers are bracing for a sharp uptick in gasoline prices, because the price of crude oil has shot up by $10 per barrel in the last month. Except that it hasn’t, at least not if we’re talking about the global price of crude oil that’s factored into the price of the petroleum products sold in much of the US, especially along the coasts.
The global oil market, reflected in the price of UK Brent crude, is only up about $5 per barrel this month, mainly due to the situation in Egypt. A big part of the jump in domestic oil prices reflects the closing of a historically anomalous gap as US oil moves back into line with the rest of the world.
Such an increase in oil prices does not automatically herald a rise in gasoline prices, especially if it mainly erases a discount that benefited refiners in one region of the country. Moreover, gasoline and crude oil as commodities move in separate markets, linked but not in lock-step. Over the medium-to-longer term they must clearly be connected, but in the short term each responds to distinct forces of supply, demand, inventories and expectations. ( Continue… )