Nuclear fusion reactors could become an economically viable means of generating electricity within a few decades, and policy makers should start planning to build them as a replacement for conventional nuclear power stations, according to new research. Researchers at Durham University and Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in the UK re-examined the economics of fusion, taking account of recent advances in superconductor technology for the first time. Their analysis of building, running and decommissioning a fusion power station shows the financial feasibility of fusion energy in comparison to traditional fission nuclear power. The research, published in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design, identifies new advantages in using the new superconductor technology. Such findings support the possibility that, within a generation or two, fusion reactors could offer an almost unlimited supply of energy without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions or producing hazardous products on a significant scale.
Russia announced that its crude oil production hit a new post-Soviet high of 10.74 million barrels per day, and along with Saudi Arabia, the Russians shows no indication of being willing to cut oil production in spite of low global oil prices.
Royal Dutch Shell said it was dismantling its exploratory operations in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea off the US state of Alaska after drilling uncovered no commercial prospects of crude oil and natural gas. The company said a combination of weak market conditions and a lack of exploration success meant it was time to dismantle its offshore Alaska program.
Norway’s state-owned Statoil said the last portion of a 300-mile natural gas pipeline crossing the Arctic Circle has been completed. The 36-inch diameter Polarled gas pipeline is located more than 4,000 feet below the surface of the Norwegian Sea in the Aasta Hansteen field. The field is estimated to hold between 175 billion and 300 billion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, making it one of the largest fields in the region.
The International Monetary Fund continues to warn that the global economy is contracting and that growth this year and next (and hence the demand for oil) will be worse than in previous years.
With implementation of the Iranian nuclear agreement and the lifting of sanctions drawing near, foreign companies are scrambling to get into Iran. Last week Shell said it would be allowed to build 100 gasoline stations there and BP sent a team of managers to assess the possibilities of doing business. France’s Total also is to build 100 gasoline stations in Iran. Iran has some of the largest oil and gas reserves left in the world which are cheap to exploit in comparison to Arctic, shale, tar sand, and deepwater oils.
The World Bank predicts Iran will add 1 million barrels a day to the global oil supply, which could lower crude oil prices by $10 a barrel in 2016. Other analysts expect this number to be in the 500,000 to 600,000 b/d range. Iran currently has 30 to 40 million barrels in storage which can be easily shipped to market.
The US became a net exporter of petroleum to Mexico for the first time in more than 20 years. A decade ago, the US bought 1.3 million b/d of oil from its southern neighbor.
Lower oil prices equal increased demand. UK petroleum consumption is growing at some of the fastest rates for a decade, as cheaper crude oil prices have spurred demand. Consumption of petroleum products rose by 1.6% in the first six months of 2015 compared with the same period a year earlier. UK consumption has been growing consistently since the third quarter of 2014, coinciding with the sharp drop in global oil prices.
German automaker Daimler said it trialed a self-driving truck under real traffic conditions for the first time last week, on a motorway in southern Germany. A Mercedes-Benz Actros, fitted with the intelligent “Highway Pilot” system, traveled 14 kilometres (about nine miles) on the A8 motorway between Stuttgart and Denkendorf, with a driver in the cabin but his hands off the wheel.
In March 2016 Japan will start testing driverless taxis in Fujisawa, a large coastal town near Tokyo. If the Fujisawa trials are successful, the cars could be used to ferry spectators around at the 2020 Olympic Games and in rural communities with little or no public transport.
with h/t Tom Whipple
This chart compares electric vehicle sales over the past year (from July 2014 to June 2015) for 7 countries. The chart provides actual number of EVs sold in the US, Japan, China, France, Germany, South Korea and Italy as well as the percentage EVs represented in the overall automobile market. Over this period France had the highest percentage of EV sales at 1.16% while South Korea had the lowest at 0.13% of total car sales. Apart from France, EVs account for less than 1% of all new cars sold. See Electric Cars Aren’t Selling Because Makers Can’t, Don’t Market Them in Green Car Reports.
Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute have found that solar energy can offer about 100 times as much clean energy as any other source. The scientists estimate that energy can be harvested with 93% efficiency from direct sunlight, and 73% from diffuse, ambient light. Currently, the average efficiency of solar photovoltaic technology (PV) is only 20%, well below the theoretical maximum. For wind energy, the best possible efficiency is only about 0.5 percent. Making biofuels from plants operating through photosynthesis turns out to be only slightly better, with a maximum efficiency of 1.5% on land, mostly because plants manage to gather light energy only from a small fraction of the spectrum.
Many observers note that sub-$50 crude oil prices are causing a contraction of the global oil industry with weekly news of bankruptcies, falling profits, and the dumping of petroleum assets at low prices. US loans and lines of credit to the domestic shale industry are disappearing. Moreover, any drop in US high-cost shale oil production is likely to be offset by low-cost Iranian oil as it starts to come to market. To add further downward pressure on global oil prices, China’s economy continues to shrink and some economists are predicting economists that the Asian country is headed for a recession with a growth rate of less that 3%.
The decline in crude oil prices has taken its toll on new liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects worldwide. Currently, at least 46 major projects – holding approximately 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent in resources – have been put on hold due to the low price of oil.
In addition low oil prices has affected the price gap between Asian and US LNG. Until the past year Asian LNG was priced $14 per million BTUs above US LNG. Now that gap has decreased to $5, making the idea of US exports to Asia much less profitable.
A growing number of ship owners globally are turning from diesel to liquified natural gas so as to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions as government regulations tighten. About 70 vessels of all sizes worldwide are now powered by LNG, up from 42 in just two years, according to DNV GL. By 2020, this number may pass 1,000.
Low crude oil prices is helping poorer countries in the Middle East and North Africa import food. From Iran to Morocco, the cost of importing basic grains such as wheat and barley has fallen by a third from what it was just a few years ago.
Much of the future growth in offshore crude oil exploration and production is expected from the West African nations of Nigeria and Angola. The Gulf of Mexico’s share in the global offshore business has declined from about one-half the global total in 2000 to less than 20% in the years since 2008.
Russia’s Gazprom is attempting to settle the European Union antitrust case in which the natural gas company is accused of charging unfair prices to several East European countries – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia. Russia has been using its near monopoly on natural gas in the region as a political tool for many years to influence the behaviour of other countries it supplies. If accepted, the settlement could avoid billion-dollar fines that the the EU is threatening to impose on Gazprom, but could also force Russia to change the way it sells natural gas in the EU.
The California Air Resources Board has voted to require a 10% cut in the carbon content of transportation fuels sold in the US state by 2020.
This site provides information on 21 electric cars that can be purchased in North America.
EV Obsession reports that since 2006 1 million electric vehicles have been sold globally. The largest selling EV is the Nissan Leaf (about 200,000 sales) and the US accounts for 1/3 of all EV sales to date worldwide. To put these numbers in perspective, there were 83 million automobiles sold worldwide in 2014 alone.
A study from the Energy Institute at Haas, at the University of California, Berkeley found that the majority of US federal tax credits for electric vehicles go to higher-income households. The researches found that the top income quintile (households making more than $200,000 per year) received about 90% of all credits to purchase an EV.
The US government plans to lease nearly 344,000 acres of the ocean floor off the coast of New Jersey to companies interested in building offshore wind turbines to generate electricity.
with h/t Tom Whipple
Tags: Africa, automobiles, biofuels, Canada, car, China, electricity, energy, Europe, EV, fossil fuels, fuel, LNG, Middle East, natural gas, oil, renewable, Russia, shale oil, solar, transportation, United States, waste, wind