In recent years, China has embraced coal gasification, which involves treating coal with heat, steam and oxygen to turn it into methane gas that can be sent by pipeline to cities to supply relatively clean heat and power in place of coal. Some 50 of these massive coal-to-methane plants are planned.

Global investment in upstream crude oil production this year is down around $100 billion, almost 20% less than in 2014.  This is the largest drop ever said chief economist Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency. The largest impact has been in the US, Canada and Brazil.  “At the price level seen at the beginning of this year [around $45/barrel], there will not be many projects in North America that will be profitable,” he said.  “There is still a huge gap between the cost of shale oil and the cost of [crude oil] production in the Middle East.”

US Senator Lisa Murkowski said last week she will present a bill next week in the Senate that would end the 40-year-old ban on US crude oil exports.

The US Department of Energy reported that that has given final approval for Dominion Cove Point LNG LP to export US-produced liquid natural gas (LNG) to countries that do not have a free-trade agreement with the US. The company has an LNG terminal in the Atlantic coast state of Maryland.

So far five US LNG export projects have received government approval and are under construction. Cheniere Energy’s facility at Sabine Pass, Louisiana, is expected to be the first to start exporting LNG later this year.

The US has its first petroleum refinery in 40 years. Located in the state of North Dakota, the refinery has started producing diesel fuel for a state which until now had imported more than two-thirds of the diesel fuel it consumes.

The European Union, desiring to lessen its dependence on Russia for energy supplies, expects to start receiving natural gas from Turkmenistan by 2019, European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said. Russia currently supplies around a third of Europe’s natural gas needs, but Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its involvement in the military conflict in eastern Ukraine has added urgency to the EU’s search for gas from alternative supply sources.

Crude oil producers are facing questions from shareholders concerned the threat of climate change means some of the companies’ oil reserves will never be produced. In a recent report, HSBC bank urged investors to plan for this risk of “stranded assets.”

The current petrol scarcity being witnessed in the West African country of Nigeria might not ease up until June, reports say. Oil product marketers are believed to have stopped importing fuel due to uncertainty as regards the payment of the remaining subsidy debt owed them by the government. Even banks in the country have reportedly labelled fuel importation a “political risk”.

In the US, Clean Energy Fuels is producing the first renewable natural gas (biomethane) available in commercial quantities. It is created from sources such as decomposing organic waste in landfills and will be used in gasoline stations across the state of California beginning this month to fuel tractors and delivery vehicles.

South Africa’s Infrastructure Minister Lynne Browne admitted that for the first time ever in winter, the state-owned energy utility Eskom will be forced to implement load shedding – planned power blackouts – to prevent a total collapse of the South African electricity system. A lack of maintenance and investment has pushed Eskom into a daily crisis as it struggles to meet electricity demand.

Consulting firm KPMG warns of potential power outages in the UK over the next couple of years. The country faces tight electrical generation capacity in 2015 and 2016 due to announced plant closures. Blackouts have been a persistent concern for UK business. Last year National Grid was forced to unveil a series of measures to keep more power generation in reserve in winter in an effort to boost spare capacity to 6%, a level perceived to be a safe threshold.

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry concluded that nuclear power generation will be the cheapest  electric power generation source in that country by 2030. Nuclear energy will cost 10.3 yen per kilowatt hour according to the Ministry’s report. Offshore wind is estimated to be the most expensive among renewable energy sources, costing 30.3 yen to 34.7 yen by 2030. That compares with 13.6 yen to 21.5 yen for onshore wind. Large-scale solar will cost 12.7 yen to 15.6 yen, while residential solar will cost 12.5 yen to 16.4 yen.

At the Energy Security Summit in Berlin, Germany it was reported that the country’s transition to renewable energy (Energiewende) has cost its taxpayers about 480 billion euros ($535 billion) over the past quarter century.

In a recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) called The Future of Solar Energy, researchers say that current crystalline silicon photovoltaic technology (the predominant technology used in solar panels) is capable of generating multi-terawatt-scale power by 2050. (To put that in perspective, the largest active solar installation in the world is the Topaz plant in California that has a 550-megawatt capacity. A terawatt is 1,000,000 megawatts.) According to the authors, “Solar electricity generation is one of very few low-carbon energy technologies with the potential to grow to very large scale.”
with h/t Tom Whipple


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