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



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