Oslo-based energy consultancy firm Rystad Energy said crude oil and natural gas discoveries around the world dropped last year to their lowest level since the 1940s after energy companies sharply cut back in their search for new resources amid falling crude oil prices. This has led some energy analysts to forecast of an oil supply shortage by the end of this decade. Offshore discoveries, where most major new oil and gas fields have been found in recent decades, reached 2.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) last year, 90% below 2010 levels. Several significant discoveries were announced in recent weeks including Exxon’s find of 100-150 million boe offshore Guyana and Statoil’s 80 million boe discovery off Norway.
Saudi Aramco’s chief executive Amin Nasser told the World Economic Forum in Davos that the world needs to invest US$25 trillion in new crude oil-producing capacity over the next 25 years to meet growing demand. Saudi Aramco is owned by the Saudi Arabian government. Mr. Nassar said global demand for crude oil and natural gas will still grow in the coming decades, so if capital investment drops, it could create “spikes” in prices and hurt the global economy. Demand is still healthy and oil “will be with us for decades”. With respect to renewable energy sources, he said they would gain some market share in the long run, but renewable energy would not dominate. “It will take decades for renewable energy to replace petroleum resources.” Saudi Arabia plans to double its natural gas capacity over the next decade to generate more domestic electricity, which would enable it to export more of its crude oil.
Also at the World Economic Forum Saudi Arabia announced it is launching a renewable energy program that is expected to involve investment of between $30 billion and $50 billion by 2023. Auctions will soon commence for 10 gigawatts of renewable electric power. In addition, the country is in the early stages of feasibility and design studies for its first two commercial nuclear reactors, which will add 2.8 GW of electricity. Saudi Arabia is working on ways to connect its renewable energy projects with Yemen, Jordan and Egypt. “We will connect to Africa to exchange non-fossil sources of energy,” noted Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih.
China’s 13th Five-Year Plan for energy development discusses its plans to generate electricity with nuclear power. Over the next five years, over 30 million kilowatts of nuclear facilities will be under construction in China. By 2020, China will have 58 million kW of installed nuclear power, up 16.5% year on year. Included will be some innovation projects, including smart small-and-medium sized nuclear reactors, commercial fast reactors, and 600,000 kW high temperature gas-cooled reactors.
China has ordered 13 provinces to cancel 104 coal-fired electricity generation projects (47 were already in development) amounting to 120 gigawatts of capacity in all. Together these projects are equal in size to one-third of US coal capacity. China currently has around 920 GW of installed coal capacity — and many of those plants are already running at lower-than-expected capacity because of weak domestic demand.
India announced an ambitious plan worth US$1 trillion to partially transform its energy sector into renewable energy and enhance energy efficiency in order to help millions of villagers and households save billions of dollars in their electricity bills. If successful, the investment would see renewables account for 40% of the country’s energy mix by 2030. The investments will be primarily in solar and hydro power.
India has an on-going project to install 770 million LED lights across the country by 2019 to replace traditional electric lamps and CFLs, including 20 million street lamps. As of this week, more than 198 million bulbs have been distributed. LEDs have already replaced 1.6 million street lamps. The LED lamps are expected to help households save $6.5 billion per year on their electricity bills.
China’s Industry and Information Technology Ministry announced plans to increase the number of alternative energy car sales to 20% of the total market by 2025. China hopes to manufacture two million of these cars annually by 2020. These vehicles will include battery electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen fuel-cell cars. To reach this goal, new governmental policies, regulations and laws will be implemented as well as stronger research and development support. Additionally, more electric car charging infrastructure will be provided. The Asian country has been the world’s largest new vehicle market since 2009. China accounted for 2/3 of global alternative vehicle sales in 2015 and this year produced 517,000 of these vehicles.
China built over 100,000 public electric car charging poles in 2016, ten times the amount it erected in 2015. A comprehensive charging grid has now taken shape in large cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.
In 2015 humans used about 575 quadrillion Btu (British thermal units) of energy, according to the US Energy Information Administration. (575 followed by 15 zeros; a Btu is roughly the energy released in a single match.) With a global population of 7.3 billion, that worked out to 78 million Btu per person that year.
Nearly 40% of all the energy humans use globally goes to making electricity. Coal accounts for 41% of the world’s electricity generation; 17 countries get more than half of their electricity from it, including Mongolia, Poland, China, India and Australia. Natural gas accounts for 22% of global electricity generation; 31 countries get more than half of their electricity from it, including Qatar, Belarus, Tunisia, Singapore, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Mexico and The Netherlands. Nuclear energy accounts for 11% of global electricity generation; four countries get more than half of their electricity from it, France, Slovak Republic, Belgium and Hungary. Hydro power accounts for 16% of global electricity generation; 37 countries get more than half of their electricity from it, including Nepal, Norway, Ethiopia, Georgia, Brazil and Canada. Renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal, account for 5% of global electricity generation. As of 2013, no country got more than half of its electricity from non-hydro renewables, although Denmark was close, at 46%.
In the southern Indian city of Tuticorin, a coal-fired thermal power station captures carbon dioxide and turns it into baking soda. The company claims that as much as 66,000 tons of the carbon dioxide could be captured at the plant each year. The company also says it is the first example of an unsubsidized industrial plant capturing CO2 for use.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has unveiled its long-term energy strategy. The Middle East country will increase the contribution of renewables in its total energy mix to 50% by 2050. Half of the country’s energy will from renewables and nuclear, with the remaining half coming from fossil fuels (natural gas, clean coal). The strategy also wants to change the country’s energy consumption culture by slashing residential energy consumption by 40%. The UAE’s Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) is currently building one fo the world’s largest nuclear power plants. When complete, the power station is expected to deliver up to 25% of the UAE’s electricity.
Lebanon announced renewable energy will make up 12% of the country’s total electricity generation in 2020. Most of the Middle East country’s aging electric power plants run on oil and gas oil. Renewables currently account for about 5%. The country is in the process of increasing the expansion of solar, wind and hydro power.
Canada and the United States are in the process of approving a proposed $1 billion electric transmission line that would carry electricity from the Canadian province of Ontario across Lake Erie to the state of Pennsylvania. The 73-mile line, much of would be buried beneath Lake Erie, would connect a hydroelectric power station in Nanticoke, Ontario, with another in Erie, Pennsylvania. The transmission line would be capable of carrying up to 1 gigawatt – enough to power 810,000 homes in the northern US.
A new hybrid-electric bus in Stockholm, Sweden recharges wirelessly in 6 to 7 minutes. In the pilot project, the bus charges overnight via a standard wired charger. Then, each time it comes to the final stop throughout the day, it quickly recharges. Unlike most cars, buses drive all day long and can’t rely on an overnight charge alone.
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