Cal on October 15th, 2017

Australian airline Qantas announced it will use biofuels on its flights from Los Angeles International airport starting in 2020. The firm said it will purchase 30 million litres annually of a 50/50 blend of plant-derived biofuel and conventional fuel to power its flights between Los Angeles and Australia. US bioenergy company SG Preston will supply the biofuel on a ten-year contract. The fuel consists of 50% renewable jet fuel produced from non-food plant oils, blended with 50% traditional jet fuel.

Airline Virgin Australia is engaging in a two-year biofuel trial for flights out of Brisbane Airport. US renewable fuel and chemical producer Gevo Inc is supplying the fuel, made from sugarcane bagasse, molasses, wood waste and agave. Gevo has already tested its biofuel with Alaska Airlines, the US Air Force, US Army and US Navy.

Airlines around the world have struggled to move from the test phases of biofuel to its widespread commercial use during the last decade due to its cost and the difficulty of finding the right feedstock to reach commercial production levels.

US start up Zunum Aero plans to start delivering hybrid electric planes in 2022. The first Zunum Aero is likely to sell for somewhere in the range of $3 million. The company says its jet will seat up to 12 people, fly up to 700 miles, and have operating costs of 8 cents per seat mile, below the operating costs of small turboprops and business jets powered by jet fuel. CEO Ashish Kumar said:

“Our operating costs are about 60-90 percent lower than that of comparable turboprops and business jets. On shorter legs the costs are below what a regional jet would be. This is the first time in 70 years that you actually get a dramatically new propulsion system entering the business.”

Mach thinks Self-Flying Planes May Arrive Sooner Than You Think. Here’s Why.

The city of Cologne, Germany will have the largest fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses in Europe. The city announced it is purchasing 30 new fuel cell buses as well as building two new hydrogen fuel stations to serve these vehicles. The stations will be operational in 2018, ready for the buses when they arrive in 2019. In addition, hydrogen stations that already exist in the region will also be expanded and upgraded in order to provide more fueling support to new vehicles.

Swedish engineering giant ABB is launching high power 150-350 kilowatt (kW) electric car chargers. They will be introduced at the Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany this week. The chargers can be used for electric buses and trucks as well as cars. The company says the 375 A output single power cabinet can charge a 400 volt car at full 150 kW continuously. The addition of Dynamic DC power sharing technology, allows a two-power cabinet charging system to charge a couple of EVs simultaneously, with up to 350 kW. The chargers will be sold to operators of car charging networks. The system is modular and operators can decide to later add more charging cabinets for more power or charging stalls for more access points.

Italian automaker Ferrari says it will not be building electric and autonomous cars.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne said his company is losing up to $20,000 a car on its electric Fiat 500. The 500e sells in the US for about $33,000 and can travel 87 miles on a single charge.

Japanese automaker Nissan says if you own a 2011 to 2015 LEAF, replacing the battery will cost you $5,499 plus installation. The battery replacement takes about 3 hours. The original battery goes back to Nissan for recycling or use in a grid storage system. The battery comes with a warranty of 8 years/100,000 miles against defects and 5 years/60,000 miles against capacity loss.

Korean automaker Hyundai announced it has started a car sharing service using electric vehicles the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The service will use 100 Hyundai Ioniq electric cars. While the service is based in Amsterdam, customers will be able to drive the cars all over the Netherlands. Drivers can pay by the minute, hour, or day, depending on their usage. The service is starting with 100 Ioniq EVs in Amsterdam.

UK drivers could get paid for owning an electric car under new plans from Japanese automaker Nissan. Working with Ovo Energy, The “vehicle to grid” technology will allow owners of Nissan’s electric cars to connect their batteries to the national grid during low-demand, cheap tariff periods. They can then use the electricity stored in the vehicle’s battery at home and at work when costs are higher, or even sell surplus electricity back to the grid and make a profit. The first installations are set for January 2018. The ability to store electricity in thousands of batteries across the country will help maximise the use of renewables which are produced only when conditions are right, the companies said. It could also reduce the need for new power stations and upgrades to the grid. After installing a special charger in a customer’s home, Ovo will take over the management of the car’s battery, with owners able to set a minimum amount of charge they want for driving the next day. Ovo will then automatically trade electricity from the battery, topping it up during off-peak periods when power costs about 4 pence per kilowatt-hour, and selling it at peak times for about four times as much.The savings would cover the £350-£400 annual cost of charging an electric car. The cars’ batteries could also help energy networks cope with the increasing intermittent wind and solar power on the system, by returning power to the grid at times of peak demand and smoothing out inconsistencies in energy supply.

Forbes tells us How Electric Cars Could Help the Power Grid Become More Efficient, Less Expensive.

CleanTechnica explains how electric cars work and how to extend their range.



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Cal on October 15th, 2017

Cal on October 14th, 2017

Cal on October 14th, 2017

A new study by the China University of Petroleum in Beijing says the Asian country is about to experience a peak in its total crude oil production as early as next year.  Without finding an alternative source of “new abundant energy resources”, the study warns, the 2018 peak in China’s combined conventional and unconventional oil will undermine continuing economic growth and “challenge the sustainable development of Chinese society.” This has major implications for the prospect of a 2018 oil supply squeeze — as China scales its domestic oil peak, rising demand will impact world oil markets contributing to a potential supply squeeze. That could happen in 2018 proper, or in the early years that follow. The Chinese options would seem to be: (1) shift to reducing its demand for energy, a tall order in itself given population growth projections and rising consumption; (2) accelerate a renewable energy transition; or (3) militarise the South China Sea in hopes of finding more deepwater oil and gas. China has increased its imports, especially from Russia. So far this year, China’s demand for crude oil has increased by an average of 550,000 barrels per day, more than double the increase during the same period in 2016. It is importing some 11 million barrels of crude a day and is clearly the worlds largest importer, but is highly vulnerable to supply disruptions – hence the ongoing efforts to diversify its oil imports.

Russia’s Gazprom said it expects to supply 10% share of the Chinese natural gas market after 2025. Gazprom said earlier this year it planned to begin supplying gas to China through Siberia in December 2019.

Gazprom has passed ExxonMobil as the top energy company in the world, according to the 2017 S&P Global Platts Top 250 Global Energy Company Rankings. The rankings measure the financial performance of energy firms on four key metrics: asset worth, revenues, profits, and return on invested capital. The list only includes companies that have assets greater than $5.5 billion

RBC Capital Markets said Russia could be an energy superpower by the end of this year. The country could exploit its position on the world crude oil market given recent geopolitical turmoil. Russia stands to gain because of security and economic complications for some of the world’s largest oil producers: Iran, Iraq, and Venezuela.

Cove Point in the US state of Maryland is to become the second major US liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility to begin exporting cargoes. The facility is on schedule for completion before the end of this year.

The average US household expenditure on gasoline in 2017 is expected to total $1,977, or approximately 2.4% of median incomes of households, according to the Energy Information Administration. This compares with the peak of $2,715, or 4% of household income, in 2008.

Taiyuan, the capital of China’s northern province of Shanxi, which is known for its coal production, has banned the sale, transport and use of most coal as it tries to cut air pollution. The ban is designed to cut coal use by more than 90% of the city’s total consumption.

The International Energy Agency announced that it now sees renewable energy as a serious global force, increasingly taking market share away from coal and natural gas. Last year 164 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity came online around the world, more than triple the amount of new gas-fired power plants, and more than twice the volume of coal. The 164 GW was two-thirds of the net expansion in global electricity supply.

Ten 4.2 megwatt wind turbines—designed to cope with the rough, cold and icy Finnish winters—have been installed over the last two years. This is the first wind farm built to withstand ice-prone conditions off the coast of Finland.

The North African country of Morocco has earmarked €206 million ($244 million) for investments in solar power, to be directed towards projects capable of increasing agricultural output. The capital will be used to promote the use of solar energy to power water pumps for irrigation as part of a plan to expand agricultural water access to more than 100,000 hectares of new land by 2021. This should also reduce consumption of butane gas in farming operations.

A Finland utility is expected to use horse manure to generate electricity to power the entire Helsinki International Horse Show later this month.

The French city of Paris wants to ban all cars with internal combustion engines from its streets by 2030.  The city has already said it will ban diesel-powered cars (which account for more than 40% of the total on French roads) from 2024. The French government is  phasing out long-standing tax incentives for diesel starting next year.

Oxford will be first UK city to ban petrol vehicles from its streets as of 2020. As of that year, only electric vehicles will be allowed on selected roads in the downtown corridor.

The US state of California now requires that as of 2025 15% of all vehicles, with a gross vehicle weight of more than 19,000 pounds, purchased by state agencies must be zero-emission vehicles (ZEV). This figure doubles to 30% beginning in 2030. This would apply to trucks and buses.

UK bank Barclays says the adoption of electric vehicles and improved fuel economy could reduce crude oil demand by 3.5 million barrels a day by 2025. This is roughly equivalent to the total production of OPEC’s third-largest producer, Iran. f electric vehicles make up one-third of the car market by 2040, it could knock out 9 million barrels a day of demand, or about 90% of Saudi Arabia’s daily output. Barclays acknowledges there are still multiple barriers to electric vehicle adoption. Consumers can be turned off by their price and battery life as well as limited refueling opportunities. Moreover, there are questions about the auto industry’s ability to ramp up to large scale EV production.





with h/t Tom Whipple

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Cal on October 13th, 2017


J.S. Bach, Double Violin Concerto in D Minor played by Yehudi Menuhin and David Oistrakh

Cal on October 13th, 2017

More and more commentators are beginning to question whether the seemingly endless production of US shale oil can continue to put a limit on OPEC’s ability to increase the world price of oil.  Since the slump in world oil prices a couple of years ago, the production of shale oil in the US is certainly not profitable, especially at the current $50 a barrel, and growth in production is beginning to wane in many wells due to the high costs of producing a dwindling supply.

Energy watcher Tom Whipple had this to say this week on the current thinking about the future of the US shale industry:


US Shale Oil Production: The future of oil production from the Permian Basin (in Texas) remains in the spotlight. There seems to be general agreement that major increases in US shale oil production will have to come from the Permian or not at all. Most observers believe that increased drilling may push up production from the Bakken and Eagle Ford by a few hundred thousand barrels a day but that neither of these basins has much future as the cost of production there will continue to grow as the high producing sweet spots become fewer and fewer.

While some continue to tout a brilliant future for the Permian basin, the number of voices saying this will not happen at today’s prices continues to grow. At a recent energy conference, consultant Art Berman told the group “that on balance, the Permian Basin shale plays are, in most cases, marginally profitable “because costs are very high and you have to balance the costs with the results,” he said. “These wells, these companies, these plays are totally dependent on outside capital.” If companies spend more than they make, they need outside help paying the bills, he said. Otherwise, they have to scale back operations, “which means you won’t grow production. And if you scale back, that means you cut jobs. A few companies are making good money, and there are companies with break-even costs at $50 oil. But overall, that’s not enough to make the economics work, particularly with the very high acquisition prices people have been paying.”

While Berman has been saying that most Permian oil production is not profitable for a long time, other observers are starting to echo the warning. The Houston Chronicle, citing Wood Mackenzie, points out that shale oil drillers spend just $5 billion on land deals in the basin during the last six months in comparison to $35 billion in the prior nine-month period.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal made the same point. “Future oil production is notoriously difficult to predict, and a surge in prices could certainly improve the economics of American shale. But a growing chorus of oil industry leaders, including some shale trailblazers, believes U.S. growth may peak sooner than government forecasters think—a development with ramifications for global oil markets. In recent years, shale production has reliably filled any voids in world supply, effectively taming volatile price gyrations. Potential limits to shale growth call into question predictions that this trend will continue. “There are no new shale plays that have come forward,” said Mark Papa, chief executive of Centennial Resource Development Inc. and former CEO of EOG Resources Inc. “Their ability to spew forth infinite streams of oil is just a myth.”

Moody’s made the same point. “The extraordinary cost reductions achieved by North American oil and gas companies have likely reached their limit, and any boost in profitability for much of the US shale and Canadian oil sands industries will have to come from higher oil prices.” Moody’s studied 37 oil and gas companies in Canada and the U.S., concluding that although the oil industry has dramatically slashed its cost of production in the past three years and is currently in the midst of posting much better financials this year, there is little room left for more progress.

The growth-at-all-costs model for shale drillers has succeeded in increasing US oil production, but it hasn’t led to many profitable oil companies. A group of activist investors hopes to change this arrangement by breaking the link between the pace of drilling and CEO pay. Reuters reports that some activist investors are pushing for fundamental changes to executive pay so that rewards will come from making profits rather than just higher production financed by Wall Street.


See also Business InsiderUS shale isn’t as strong as it looks

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Cal on October 13th, 2017


         Andrea Bocelli singing Estate (live)

Cal on October 12th, 2017

Russia, which gets 20% of its electricity from hydro, plans to get another 4.5% from solar and wind by 2024. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said a plan is currently being devised to amend the country’s regulatory system in a way that will facilitate the addition of more solar and wind power capacity and lead to lower costs for consumers. The country has set a goal of 5.5 gigawatts of installed renewable energy capacity by 2024.

International law firm Pinsent Mason released research findings that 90% of electric utility companies around the world are actively seeking acquisitions or joint ventures with companies that implement smart energy technologies like storage batteries, vehicle-to-grid technology and smart meters. Germany, China and the UK were identified as the top three target countries for smart energy investment for utilities and investors. Pinsent Masons surveyed 250 senior-level executives from 200 energy generation and distribution companies (and investors in those markets) across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia Pacific.

The cost of battery storage for stationary applications could fall by up to 66% by 2030, according to a report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency. This could stimulate a 17-fold growth of installed battery storage, opening up a number of new commercial and economic opportunities. While pumped-hydro systems currently dominate total installed power storage capacity, with 96% of the installed electricity storage power globally, economies of scale and technology breakthroughs will support the accelerated development and adoption of alternative storage technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries and flow batteries. By 2030, the calendar life of lithium batteries could increase by approximately 50%, while the number of full cycles possible could potentially increase by as much as 90%. Other battery storage technologies also offer large cost reduction potential. High temperature “sodium sulfur” batteries could see their costs decline by up to 60%, while the total installed cost of flow batteries could potentially fall by two-thirds by 2030.

Britain’s first industrial-scale battery plant will come online in Sheffield this week to help the national grid cope with the rapidly growing amount of renewable electric power. The 10 megawatt (MW) facility, which is located next to an existing power plant, has the equivalent capacity of half a million phone batteries. Larger facilities are also under construction. Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, is building a 49 MW facility on the site of a former power station in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, while EDF Energy is working on one of the same size at its West Burton natural gas power station in Nottinghamshire. The utility-scale batteries are being built to help keep electricity supply and demand in balance, which is a challenge for the grid as more intermittent wind and solar comes online. Balancing supply and demand is essential for keeping the frequency of electricity constant at 50Hz across the UK. The ability of batteries to respond to demand in less than a second makes them ideal for the task. The storage plants  also be able to take power off the system when supply is unexpectedly high, such as on a particularly windy or sunny day while adding power when demand rises, such as in winter. Leon Walker, the commercial development manager at National Grid, said:

“Using battery storage is a significant development for managing the national grid. It’s an ultra-fast way of keeping electricity supply and demand balanced.”

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said last week that Russia wants to be among the world’s leaders in energy storage. In August his ministry published a concept paper on the development of energy storage. The paper identified three priority areas, including energy storage systems for the grid; storage systems for utility-scale electricity consumption; and “hydrogen energy,” which means storage systems to be used in electricity applications that require autonomy, mobility, and zero emissions.

A 3 megawatt utility-scale energy storage installation is to be constructed in the US state of Massachusetts. Once completed next spring it will be the largest storage facility in that state. The batteries will store electricity from the Mt. Tom solar facility (5.8 megawatts, 17,000 solar panels).  That stored power can be called upon during peak load periods for the nearby town of Holyoke and the larger region.

Market research firm Technavio projects off-grid electricity storage in India will grow 15% annually from 2017-2021. Currently much of rural India is without access to the electric grid and use diesel generators and, increasingly, solar systems for their power needs. The report finds that more and more rural communities are using off-grid (stand-alone) power storage systems that provide power or electricity to the community. Off-grid systems can be deployed at a faster pace when compared with developing or extending the traditional electric grid structure.  In addition they can store intermittent solar energy for when it is needed, such as at night.

The South Australia government says it has received nearly 60 proposals from local and international companies for next generation renewable energy storage under its Renewable Technology Fund. The government call for more projects has attracted interest from a range of technologies, including  batteries, bioenergy, pumped hydro, thermal, compressed air and flywheel. The fund is designed to provide financial support for energy storage or other technologies that would allow wind and solar farms to provide electricity to the state grid without causing harmful power outages, as happened last year.

One of New Zealand’s main gas and electric distribution companies has turned to distributed energy storage systems as a cost-effective alternative to installing and maintaining long-distance poles and wires and related infrastructure to fringe areas. Powerco, which serves 300,000 customers on the North Island, has designed a microgrid solution for remote customers. The system combines solar (typically on customer rooftops) with 3.4 kwh energy storage batteries and a diesel generator for backup.


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