A new projection concludes that the world population is unlikely to level off during the 21st century, leaving the planet to deal with as many as 13 billion human inhabitants—4 billion of those in Africa—by 2100.

Reports of cutbacks in exploring and drilling for crude oil continue to come in from all over the world due to the low world market price of crude.  The major forecasting agencies, the International Energy Agency in Paris and the Energy Information Administration in the US, released reports last week saying that while non-OPEC oil production will continue to grow this year, it will be at a slower pace. The EIA now forecasts that non-OPEC production will increase by only 950,000 barrels per day this year, a drop of 350,000 b/d from the previous forecast.  Half of the 350,000 b/d decline in the forecast growth of oil output is expected to come from the South American nation of Columbia, while the rest will come from cutbacks in the US and Canada.

Energy analyst Wood Mackenzie said exploration activity in 2014 in the North Sea was off 18% from 2013. Only four oil fields were brought online. The current world oil price means 2015 will bring further budget cuts, with exploration spending at the top of the list. Meanwhile BP said it would lay off about 300 people in the North Sea hub of Aberdeen, Scotland.  At prices much below $75 a barrel, some of the North Sea’s crude oil reserves are too expensive to develop.

Suncor Energy, Canada’s largest oil company, said it will cut 1,000 jobs, lower its 2015 capital budget by about 13% and delay projects to adjust to collapsing world oil prices. The company will spend C$1 billion less this year than originally forecast.

At the $40/barrel price point, several Canadian oil sands projects are said to be vulnerable.

Major oil-producing states in the US and the Canadian province of Alberta are reducing budget forecasts and planning spending cuts amid the dropping world oil prices that is testing their reliance on financial revenue from their oil patches. Texas, North Dakota and Alberta are expecting reduced collections of extraction levies known as severance taxes and royalties as prices fall and energy companies cut back on drilling. In turn, income- and sales-tax growth could slow as these producers cut jobs.

Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs said that crude oil will have to remain in the vicinity of $40 a barrel for the first half of this year to reduce supplies enough to ease the current glut.

Supertanker owners from Tokyo to Athens said demand to store cheap crude oil on vessels at sea is strengthening. Morgan Stanley and Evercore Partners Inc. are predicting the highest shipping rates in six-years are possible. The price of crude oil for delivery at later dates is so far above current costs, a market structure known as contango, that it can be profitable to store cargoes and lock in returns now in the futures market. Oil traders want to store the commodity for the time being, hoping to sell it later at higher prices.

Iraq exported 2.94 million barrels per day of crude oil in December, which was the most since the 1980s.  Some analysts are worried that additional exports of Iraqi oil will simply add to the global surplus.

The Chinese Ministry of Land Resources reported crude oil production in that country averaged 4.19 million barrels per day in 2014.

No country has suffered as much from the drop in world crude oil prices as the South American country of Venezuela.  For the last two weeks, President Maduro has been flying around the world asking for financial assistance from Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Algeria and Portugal.  He also asked the oil producing countries to cut back production so that Venezuela could benefit from a price increase. So far his efforts have had no impact on the price of oil.

International bankers say Venezuela is likely to default on its debt before the end of this year.  There are shortages of food and other essentials across the country. Venezuela imports about 70% of its consumer goods, including much of its food, and there is simply not enough money to pay for the imports. The country exports about a quarter of its daily crude oil production, some 600,000 barrels per day, to China with half of this going to repay the $51 billion it has borrowed from China over the past decade.

The National Ocean Industries Association, a US petroleum industry group lobbying for more offshore work, said about 1.34 million barrels of crude oil equivalent per day could be produced from the Atlantic basin offshore the US by 2035.

Russia is reported to have cut back by 60% of the volume of natural gas flowing through Ukraine to six countries in Europe last week. Instead Russia said itwill shift all its natural gas flows to Europe via Turkey. The European Union’s energy chief said that this would hurt Russia’s reputation as a supplier, Now Europe will be forced to link up to Russia’s planned energy pipeline to Turkey — or it will lose Russian gas.  “Our European partners have been informed of this and now their task is to create the necessary gas transport infrastructure from the Greek and Turkish border,” the head of Gazprom Alexei Miller said.

Canadian exports of natural gas to the US were 5% lower in 2014 due to the US shale gas boom. Pipeline exports to the US averaged 7.3 billion cubic feet per day during the first 10 months of last year, a 5$ decline from the same period in 2013.

China is the world’s largest automobile market in terms of sales. In 2014 there were 19.7 million vehicles sold in the country, an increase of 10% over 2013.

General Motors said it intends to launch a $30,000 all-electric vehicle in 2017 called the Chevrolet Bolt, which would be capable of driving 200 miles on a single charge.

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory have developed an enzyme that can enable the conversion of biomass to sugars up to 14 times faster and more cheaply than competing catalysts today. The enzyme called CelA, a cellulase from the bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, could change the economics of biofuel conversion and substantially lower the price of producing biofuels.

Cape Wind was supposed to be the US’s first offshore wind project.  Last week the $2.5 billion project was dealt a fatal blow when two electric utilities who contracted to buy the electricity from the Nantucket Sound wind farm terminated their agreements. Under the 2012 agreement, Northeast Utilities and NStar had agreed to buy 27.5% of Cape Wind’s production. The project, first proposed more than a decade ago, has been hung up by permitting hurdles, political obstacles, and legal protests.



with h/t Tom Whipple




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