Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, has begun shipping lithium to China in what is considered the first step towards fulfilling its ambitions to becoming the world’s No. 1 exporter of the commodity. Lithium is used in high-tech batteries for such devices as smart phones and electric cars.
Australia is on track to become the world’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter by 2019.
The issue of whether Iran will participate in the OPEC crude oil “production freeze” meeting that is to take place in Algiers in late September is still up in the air. Iran’s refusal to participate in a similar freeze last spring led to the collapse of the meeting. Iran does not expect to reach what it considers to be its rightful level of production within the next month suggesting that it will not agree to any freeze. Considering the increasing level of hostility between Iran and the Sunni Arab states in the region, it seems highly doubtful that it will be a party to any freeze agreement.
Iran says it is about to start its natural gas exports to Iraq next month. The new pipeline will initially supply some 7 million cubic meters of gas a day to power plants around Baghdad, but this will expand to 70 million when the pipelines are opened to Basra next year. The Iranians have been seeking export markets for their increasing production of natural gas which is way beyond what they can consume domestically. One plan involves piping gas to Qatar where large liquid natural gas (LNG) compression plants are already in operation. Other plans involved piping the gas to the European Union via Turkey.
Last week Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy called Venezuela “a growing supply risk for the crude oil markets in 2017.” The implications are that the South American country’s oil industry could come to a complete halt thereby removing another 2.1 million barrels per day from the global market. This would likely be enough to bring global oil markets into balance and push crude oil prices substantially higher. Investment in the oil industry has declined in recent years and the number of oil rigs in operation has dropped by a third in the last year.
By next year, 20% of US crude oil production is expected to come from the Gulf of Mexico.
McKinsey & Company look at the new economics of energy storage. Efficient and cost-effective energy storage could allow intermittent power sources such as renewables to play a base load role in energy delivery. The US government is leading the way in research and development to find solutions, funding 75 projects developing electricity storage. There are plans for hydrogen bromide, zinc-air batteries, storage in molten glass, next-generation flywheels, to name but a few with many claiming “drastic improvements” that can slash storage costs by 80–90%. The potential for industry is huge; Mckinsey estimates the energy storage market will grow a hundredfold to $90 billion a year by 2025.
with h/t Tom Whipple
According to Space Safety Magazine, about 75% of China’s electricity is now produced by coal-fired power plants, but a typical coal train of more than a kilometre long, carrying 5,000 tonnes of coal, could be replaced by just 40 grams of helium-3 (He-3), dramatically reducing transportation costs. Just eight tonnes of He-3 in nuclear fusion reactors would provide the equivalent energy of one billion tonnes of coal, burned in power stations. He-3 is extremely rare on Earth, but exists in abundance on the Moon, and the Chinese leadership has already begun an ambitious program to acquire it. Professor Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program says the Moon is so rich in He-3, mining it could “solve humanity’s energy demand for around 10,000 years at least.” It is estimated that reserves of helium-3 across our planet amount to just 15 tonnes. The Moon, on the other hand, has reserves estimated at between one and five million tonnes. See China’s Helium-3 Program: A Global Game-Changer and China Is Winning the 21st Century Space Race.
India’s Ministry of Shipping is in the process of installing solar and wind based electric power systems at major ports across the country. By next year it plans to construct 90.6 megawatts (MW) of solar energy capacity at the nation’s 12 major ports and 70 MW of wind energy capacity at four major ports. The projects are a part of the Green Port Initiative launched by the Ministry of Shipping designed to reduce the cost of power at these ports.
The US state of New York announced it will aim to generate half of its electric power requirements from renewable sources by the year 2030. The plan will rely on large subsidies to nuclear power plants to help reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels. In the first two years, the nuclear subsidies will total an estimated $965 million, a figure that could grow to $7.6 billion over 12 years. Currently the state generates about a quarter of its energy from renewable sources.
There are reports Uber will be rolling out specially modified, self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs in the US city of Pittsburgh later this month. Uber riders that end up with with one of these self-driving Volvos will be getting a free ride for the time being. The new LIDAR-equipped Volvo XC90s are not autonomous per se as they will be chaperoned by a human driver who’ll be able to take over in case of problems, and by a co-pilot in the passanger seat who observes. A number of cameras, radar, and GPS receivers feature in the new vehicles’ self-driving sensor suite in addition to the LIDAR. (LIDAR is a surveying detection system that works on the principle of radar, but uses light from a laser.)
The MIT Technology Review explains why range anxiety for electric vehicles is “overblown”. A new study by researchers at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that currently available electric cars in the US could replace 87% of the existing passanger vehicles on the road and still get drivers where they need to go (and back again). Assuming battery technology improves in line with government estimates, by 2020 up to 98% of these vehicles could be replaced.
In the US, the California Energy Commission has approved a pilot program in which piezoelectric crystals will be installed on several freeways. About the size of watch batteries, the crystals give off an electrical discharge when they’re mechanically stressed, such as when a vehicle drives over them. When driven over by thousands of vehicles an electric current is generated that can be harvested to feed power to the state grid. Scientists estimate the energy generated from piezoelectric crystals on a 10-mile stretch of freeway could provide power for the entire city of Burbank (population: more than 105,000).
Last week, Russia’s ambassador to Iran revealed Ukraine will no longer be a major energy route to Europe. Russia has plans for a new route which will sidestep Ukraine. In an interview Levan Jagarian said: “We now have a new project and a new energy route through Turkey and Greece to southern Europe. This would effectively set aside Ukraine as a player in energy security.”
The world’s population is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.6 billion by 2050. Most of the growth is supposed to slated to come from nine countries: India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, the US, and Indonesia. Population growth is being driven by longer lifespans. Population growth in developed countries has slowed to a trickle.
A report by Haynes and Boone shows that some 90 US oil and natural gas producers have declared bankruptcy in the last 19 months. The state of Texas leads with 44 bankruptcies. The large international oil companies are entering a period of unprecedented problems with limited options for survival. Most are no longer earning enough revenue to cover traditional dividends and to carry out enough drilling to maintain production in the next decade. With conventional sources of crude oil that can be produced profitability at today’s prices nearly gone or under the control of state-owned oil companies, the major companies have been forced to turn to very expensive locations such as the Arctic, Kashagan, and deepwater ocean oil. The cost and environmental restrictions on producing this oil are now so high that it seems unlikely much of it will ever be produced.
Estimates by Bloomberg have shown that the major oil companies have doubled their combined debts to US$138 billion since 2014. That’s a staggering tenfold jump from the 2008 total oil major debts.
Thanks to the decline of the ruble and large foreign crude oil sales, Russia’s oil companies have been able to afford to increase their drilling at a time when most of the world’s oil companies are reducing capital spending.
Russia’s Gazprom Neft is making progress in its Arctic drilling program in the Pechora Sea. Four wells out of a planned 32 are now in production and producing 44,000 b/d. Some 10 million barrels of oil have been produced already from special ice-resistant offshore oil rigs.
The West African country of Nigeria is rapidly changing from a success story to a bankrupt failed state with little oil revenue. The Nigerian government is under considerable pressure these days. Not only is the selling price of crude oil less than half of what it was a few years ago, but domestic oil production is down on the order of 70% and the Islamic insurgents are storming across the northern provinces. Research into the distribution of Nigeria’s oil revenues shows that only 14% of the N96 trillion earned during the last 58 years of crude oil sales has gone to the producing provinces instead of the 50% that was originally agreed on but was jettisoned after the central government found out how much money was coming from oil sales. This is the issue at the heart of the insurgency.
The European Commission announced it is allocating funding to end Finland’s energy isolation. The commission said it has allocated roughly $210 million to support the construction of the first-ever natural gas pipeline linking Finland to Estonia, called the Baltic-connector.
with h/t Tom Whipple