the energy collective said Europe is burning American coal. As natural gas booms in the US and replaces coal in the production of electricity, Europe is buying this low priced coal for its power plants. European buyers include the Netherlands, Germany, the UK and Italy. See also MIT Technology Review Coal Demand Falls in the U.S., Rises Everywhere Else and The Local Germany Greenhouse gases rise as Germany burns coal.

The San Antonio Business Journal told us the US natural gas boom may last for decades. A new study of shale gas production in the state of Texas concludes that there are large quantities of gas still available that can be drilled profitably for the next three decades or longer. The University of Texas, which conducted the research,  is also looking at shale formations in Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Arkansas, and has concluded that U.S. natural gas production won’t plateau until 2040. See also National Public Radio Texas Study Points To A Longer Natural Gas Boom. And smartplanet thinks cheap US natural gas threatens the future of nuclear energy in that country as more and more gas is being used to generate electricity.

Not everyone is sanguine about the future of US natural gas. The Globe and Mail told about a Canadian geologist who questions the actual amount of shale gas available in US reserves. David Hughes, a geologist and former research manager with the Geological Survey of Canada, found a rapid decline of individual gas wells in the US, along with entire field. After studying 65,000 wells he concludes that optimistic projections for a long-running boom are unwarranted.

It’s not that shale gas isn’t abundant, Dr. Hughes says, but that fracking only releases gas from a relatively small volume of rock. And apart from a few “sweet spots,” much of the overall reserve is of relatively marginal quality…The likely outcome is a decline in production and a rise in price, which means that expectations that gas will replace coal as an economically viable, cleaner burning alternative, or enable the U.S. to become a net exporter of liquid natural gas, are off base. “Sometimes people get caught up in talking about the size of a resource when what they really need to be thinking about is the net energy yield,” Dr. Hughes said.

You can access the report by Dr. Hughes here.

From theenergycollective we learned Dr. Hughes is supported by Matthew Simmons who ramped up the Peak Oil debate with his influential 2005 book Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. Simmons studied production rates from Saudi Arabian crude oil wells and concluded they were getting past their peak and that oil prices will soon reach $200 a barrel.  While they have not gone that far, they did reach $145 in 2008. When asked about the US shale gas revolution he said: “It’s all hype. I’ve never seen the industry hype something crazier.” Simmons explains it has to do with the long-term productivity of fracked wells. He too believes the productivity of fracked wells rapidly declines with time — by 70% in the first year and another 20% in the second year, leaving only 10% for all those supposed decades of production. (Note: Mr. Simmons died in August 2010.) Dr. Hughes observations are also echoed by the The Oil Drum in Lessons From Past Natural Gas Import Fiascos Suggest A Cautious Approach to Natural Gas Exports.

The size of the UK shale reserves is also the source of debate. Energy Tribune suggested the UK Shale Gas Numbers Could Be Stratospheric while The Telegraph countered with the UK shale gas revolution is ‘wishful thinking‘. The latter referred to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance which says development costs in Britain will be higher than in the US and extraction will not be fast enough or big enough to offset reliance on imported natural gas.

REneweconomy suggested the goal of 100% renewable energy is closer than we think. The author notes that the cost of wind energy is now competitive in Australia with coal and natural gas. This leads him to conclude that we can expect similar results with other renewable energy sources over the next decade (eg. solar, wave and geothermal.) as they replace fossil fuel generation of electricity.

By the time new baseload capacity is required in 10 years time, other technologies, including solar thermal with storage, and concentrated solar PV, will also be cheaper than coal and gas. Marine energy and geothermal could be close to parity. But not only do we have “grid parity” at the utility level, we also have socket parity, which means that homeowners and businesses can lower their cost of electricity by installing solar panels on their roof… Coal and gas fired generators are getting priced out of the market.

It should be noted the author does not directly address the indeterminacy problems with wind and solar but assumes that energy storage will be cost competitive over the next decade or so.

Triple Pundit assessed the pros and cons of energy storage systems. “The ability to store energy at times when the supply exceeds demands will be a key to the effective utilization of renewable energy. Because many renewable sources (e.g. wind, solar, tidal) are intermittent in nature, storage is useful, both for the times it is available, and not needed, as well as those times it is needed, but not available…Storage could take the form of charged electric batteries, compressed air, mechanical springs or rotating flywheels, pumped water, heat, ice, electrolytic production of hydrogen, or numerous other methods.”  The post looks at several of these methods.

A new study concluded the generating capacity of large scale wind farms is lower than previous estimates. DAILY TECH said Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has found that we may not have access to as much wind power as once thought. Specifically the researchers found the generating capacity of large-scale wind farms that are larger than 100 square kilometers could peak anywhere from 0.5 and 1 watts per square meter. Prior estimates put these figures at 2 to 7 watts per square meter. The new method took into account the “drag” on the turbine’s blades which slows the air flow passing through them. See also eurasia review Rethinking Wind Power: Real-World Generating Capacity Of Wind Farms At Large Scales Overestimated.

The Financial Post informed us about Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy roadmap. The Middle East nation plans to install 23.9 GW of renewable power capacity by 2020 and 54.1 GW by 2032. This would make Saudi Arabia one of the world’s main producers of renewable electricity. Saudi Arabia wants most of the new renewable energy capacity to come from two solar power technologies, but is also seeking to generate electricity from wind, geothermal and waste-to-energy projects.

OILPRICE reported that East African countries are cooperating to resolve their energy shortages. Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda intend to work together to upgrade their energy infrastructure (generation and transmission) in order to integrate their electricity systems.

The East African Community nations region intends to spend $64 billion on joint power projects to generate eight times more power to end crippling energy shortages that have slowed regional economic growth…The joint power initiative aims to generate 26,649 megawatts of energy by 2038, a more than 800 percent increase from the current rate of megawatts presently produced in the four nations.

The geographical region encompasses more than 695,000 square miles, and has a combined population of more than 132 million.
eurasia review looked at the natural gas potential of the South China Sea. The area stretches from Singapore and the Strait of Malacca in the southwest to the Strait of Taiwan in the northeast and is one the most important trade routes in the world. With Southeast Asian domestic oil production projected to stay flat or decline as consumption rises, the region’s countries are seeking new sources of energy to meet domestic demand. China in particular views natural gas as a preferred energy source and has set a target of increasing the share of natural gas in its energy mix from 3% now to 10% by 2020. The South China Sea offers the potential for significant natural gas discoveries. It is difficult to determine the amount of crude oil and natural gas in the South China Sea because of under-exploration and territorial disputes. In addition it is unclear how economically feasible it would be to extract these resources.







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