UK Fights Back Against Fracking By Rejecting Seven Out Of Eight Plans

As the latest application from Ineos to investigate the potential for shale gas in South Yorkshire is rejected, the total number of planning decisions that have been turned down this year hits seven. Local councillors voted against the initiative in a clear move that shows the county’s view on fracking.

The plan was rejected by the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough based on the fact that it could potentially damage the wildlife in the area and increase traffic. It was stated that not enough research had been done as to the ecological effects of such a project. Those against the project suggested that there might be some serious noise pollution as well as air and water contamination. Ineos, a UK-based petrochemicals company was planning on drilling a well just outside the village of Woodsetts.

The company rebutted by saying that any work undertaken would be on a small scale and would not have a significant impact of the local agriculture. Furthermore, the site would be on land that had little ecological value. Nevertheless, the proposal was quashed unanimously by the council’s planning board.

This rejection is the seventh to have come from councils throughout the Midlands and North this year. The applications have proposed a variety of things, included testing new wells, drilling brand new ones and revising traffic plans.

It makes perfect sense that the councils controlled by the Labour party are voting against all fracking applications. It has been a part of the party’s manifesto for a while now to implement a national policy that would ban fracking in this country. However, it is surprising to see that some of the dissenting councils are Tory-led, despite the party’s commitment to developing a shale industry in the UK.

So far, the only company to have had some success with their application is Cuadrilla. They proposed testing for oil flows at a well that has already been drilled near the village of Balcombe in West Sussex.

The delays that come with rejection after rejection are just another obstacle that oil companies are having to get over. Financial tests, imposed by ministers upon companies hoping to obtain permission from the government to begin fracking operations, are also having an effect. These tests have been blamed for Third Energy postponing their fracking until autumn at a site in North Yorkshire.

Five years ago it would take around 13 weeks to get a planning decision as to whether or not a company could go ahead with the drilling of a new well for exploration purposes. Now the average wait time is around 58 weeks – over a year!

Ineos is hoping to be able to use fast-track powers that were created by the government in 2015. The company hopes to receive a definite answer regarding two separate potential drilling sites in Derbyshire and Rotherham. Despite being fast-track, the process is still anticipated to take months.

The owner of Ineos, billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, has not been shy in his advocacy for extracting shale gas in the UK. He has his eyes on a number of sites he wishes to explore, including Woodsetts.

Friends of the Earth back the decision by the Rotherham council and have said that the decision is deeply significant. Naturally, Ineos was far less pleased with the outcome.


Electric Vehicles Will Slow Down Oil Demand by 2040 According to BP

BP forecasts a dent in oil demand by 2040 caused by the increase use of travel sharing and the emergence of the self-driving car. The oil and gas giant predicts there will be 100 times more electric vehicles in 2040 than there are now. Indeed, BP’s chief economist, Spencer Dale, sees the future as being one in which we travel more but use private cars less, instead carpooling in autonomous vehicles.

Travel demand is expected to more than double over the same time period as China, India and other growing economies continue to burgeon. However, oil demand will not follow the same trajectory thanks to increased engine efficiency standards along with electric vehicles and travel sharing.

This year, BP’s Energy Outlook has turned away from assessing the number of electric vehicles on the roads and instead has analysed the number of kilometres powered by electricity. Assuming that policies and technology continue to grow at a steady rate, it is likely that around 30% of car kms will be powered by electricity in 2040 compared with virtually none in 2016. The number of electric vehicles will also balloon from 3 million today to around 320 million by 2040 – this will account for around 15% of the total number of cars on the road.

Dale told reporters that “cars will be used much more intensely over time” but added that they will be used in a different way using different fuel sources. As a consequence, the oil demand from cars is expected to dip to 18.6 million barrels per day in 2040, compared with 18.7 million in 2016. Accounting for the increase in population over 24 years, this is quite a drop.

One benefit to the public that will come with autonomous vehicles is a reduction in travel costs. Self-driving cars are expected to hit the market in the early 2020s but are expect to have high initial costs. This means that most of the cars will be bought by companies who will then used them as part of their mobility service.

As the 2030s approach we can expect even more change. Dale said, “What we expect to see in the 2030s is a huge growth in shared mobility autonomous cars … Once you don’t have to pay for a driver, the cost of taking one of those share mobility fleets services will fall by about 40 or 50 percent.”

General motors, Goodle, Uber and Waymo are all pouring billions of dollars into the autonomous vehicle industry in the hopes of gaining a first mover advantage.

After originally forecasting the growth of EVs to by around 100 million by 2035, BP has had to seriously reconsider its estimate due to an increase in hybrid cars.

BP and other oil companies came together to forecast the oil demand for the late 2030s when autonomous vehicles are well and truly integrated into society. The numbers looked likely to hit around 110 million barrels per day. While traditionally transportation has been the main sector with regards to growth in oil consumption, plastic manufacturing could take this position in the 2030s. The petrochemical sector is also expected to increase its demand. However, new restrictions and rules for plastic consumption could well dent oil demand, just like EVs will dent the demand from the transportation sector.

Nevertheless, oil demand will continue to grow by about 1.3% per year, particularly as India and China continue to grow.bigstock-Power-Supply-For-Electric-Car-203739682

Tidal and Wave Energy Top News Stories

The tidal and wave energy industry is one that is fast progressing. The number of exciting new developments in the pipelines is at an all time high and look ready to seriously disrupt the energy landscape is everything goes to plan. Here we will take a look at some of the biggest stories in the tidal and wave sector and how they are going to affect the industry.


France Will Examine Tidal Zones Before Tender Launch


Sébastien Lecornu, French Secretary of State for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, has announced that some preliminary studies in to tidal zones off the coast of northern France are to go ahead. This comes just before a tender for the sector will be opened. The tender for tidal energy will be launched as soon as possible – a statement that has been welcomed with open arms by the CEO of Ocean Energy Europe.


Mersey Granted Initial Funding for Tidal Scheme


Liverpool is the site of the latest tidal energy development as the City Region Combined Authority unanimously agreed to give £1.6 million to fund the mission to harness the tides of the River Mersey. Over the next year, the Mersey Tidal Commission is going to prepare a business case for the project. It will also attempt to influence and develop local and national policies on tidal energy schemes.


Bay of Fundy tidal Plans Outlined by Big Moon Power


Big Moon Canada Corporation has registered for a permit, which will allow them to build a tidal energy demonstration project in the Minas Passage in Nova Scotia. The project would be constructed in Kings County, Nova Scotia along the shore of the Blomindon Peninsula. The project will consist of a land-based generator and an unmanned barge. As the ebb and flood of the tides flow, the barge will move away or towards the generator causing it to generate electrical power accordingly.


Falmouth Bay Site of AMOG Wave Energy Device Testing


Australian company AMOG has been granted permission to use Falmouth Bay as a site to test its wave energy device. The testing is due to begin in June of this year and the device consists of a damped pendulum attached to a floating vessel. It is the latest development in a move to improve the wave energy sector. Cornwall was chosen as the site because of its consistent wave pattern and advanced marine testing infrastructure.


Wello Signs Deal with Chinese Conglomerate


Wello, a Finnish company that aims to develop wave energy, has just signed a deal with CIMC OEI, a Chinese conglomerate. The deal will allow Wello to use Chinese waters to test and develop its wave energy projects. This deal is one of many moves made by China to cement its position as the global leader in renewable energy. It will also give the Finnish business a way into the huge Chinese energy market. There are already plans for Wello and CIMC OEI to jointly research an optimised Penguin wave energy converter design to be used in the Chinese waters.


Renewable energy generation is better than ever, but infrastructure is holding us back


Renewable energy is looking more promising than ever before as reports come in that of the large-scale electric power generators installed in 2017, around half of them use renewable energy sources. This announcement came in the wake of the news that virtually all of the power plants that closed down last year were fuelled by fossils fuels – the most carbon intensive fuel.

If this trend continues and renewables carry on improving, we are likely to see another 10 gigawatts of coal power be retired this year. This paves the way for the influx of clean energy we are hoping to see. The only slight hiccup is this: we aren’t quite ready to handle that much clean energy. We haven’t got the infrastructure for it yet and we can’t store it very efficiently. Without this infrastructure, experts predict that we won’t be able to capture and transport all the energy we are being provided by these new installations.

The root of the problem is that clean energy is intermittent, unlike energy generated by fossil fuels. If the wind isn’t blowing strong enough or the sky is too cloudy, we are not going to meet the energy demand. On the contrary, if there are gale force winds or there is blazing sunshine in clear skies, we could well exceed capacity. When supply exceeds capacity, transmissions lines are faced with something known as curtailment and researchers are trying to solve this problem.

One of the authors of a study done in 2017 on wind curtailment from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) explained that the infrastructure we have at the moment is something we can make do with but it will not be sufficient to satisfy our energy requirements long-term. Indeed, as the energy landscape changes, the transmission infrastructure is going to have change with it.

A recent experiment by the NREL looked at what would happen if 37% of electricity in the western United States came from wind energy. It has been recently estimated that the current total sits at around 5.5%, so this is a large leap. The results showed that with this much, there would be significant curtailment. This means the energy being produced isn’t actually being used and is instead just wasted renewable energy.

The Public Utility Commission in Texas, in response to the issue of curtailment, built a system of transmission lines totalling around $7 billion a few years ago. This is known as the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) and can carry enough energy from the windy parts of the state to the residential zones to power roughly 1,700 homes.

While CREZ has made a huge difference in Texas, it was at full capacity shortly after its completion – particularly at night when the wind blows the strongest. However, one expert has a possible solution to this problem. During the hot summer days in Texas, there is plenty of sunshine and very little wind, so it might be possible to fill the lines with solar power during the day and wind power at night. Given that the two forms of energy are not often produced at the same time, they could work in tandem to maximise energy output.

But, there is still a piece missing to the puzzle: cheap battery storage. This would allow the transmission lines to send power out when wind and solar are generating electricity and when they aren’t you could discharge energy from the batteries. The price of battery storage is falling but it still has some ways to go before it is a fully economically feasible solutions.


Regulators reject subsidisation of coal and nuclear plants as proposed by Energy Secretary Rick Perry


On Monday, a rule proposed by Rick Perry, Energy Secretary of the United States, was firmly rejected by regulators. This rule would have subsidised coal and nuclear power plants in various parts of the country.

However, the idea is not completely dead in the water as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has kept it alive by demanding that those organisations operating regional grids and power markets deliver a report to the FERC detailing any grid resilience issues in their respective areas.

On the issue, FERC released a statement saying, “We appreciate the Secretary reinforcing the resilience of the bulk power system as an important issue that warrants further attention.”

This rejection will act as a major setback for President Trump’s plan to keep coal-fired plants running along with nuclear power stations and to prop up the languishing mining industry.

The proposed rule by Perry was controversial the moment it was revealed back in September by the Department of Energy. It is known as the Proposed Rule on Grid Reliability and Resilience Pricing and would require regional markets responsible for determining electricity prices to compensate power plants that have at least 90 days of fuel supplies on site in storage. Generally, coal and nuclear plants match these criteria and would receive compensation.

Perry argued that supplies like this are necessary to prevent any outages in the U.S electric grid, such as were seen in 2014 when the Polar Vortex wreaked havoc on the country’s power supply. He went on the explain that power plants that are at risk of closing need to be kept alive and that they should be rewarded for making the nation’s power supply more reliable. This new rule would give the plants the financial recognition they deserved and needed to stay active.

However, Perry was met with fierce opposition from a range of different groups, including environmentalists, regional transmission organisations and renewable energy industries among others. The main point of contention was that fuel disruptions causing power outages were incredibly rare and if this rule were to be enacted, prices would be distorted in a power market that has been made deliberately competitive in order to lower costs.

After Perry attempted to expedite the decision on the rule, he was met with more resistance by claims that rushing the process was unnecessary given the fact that the power grid in the United States was not currently subjected to an imminent threat.

After rejecting the rule, FERC said that the Department of Energy had failed to justify its rule because it could not produce evidence to confirm that current electric power prices are “unjust, unreasonable, unduly discriminatory or preferential”.

FERC explained: “While some commenters allege grid resilience or reliability issues due to potential retirements of particular resources, we find that these assertions do not demonstrate the unjustness or unreasonableness of the existing RTO/ISO tariffs,”

The Commission did concede, however, that further exploration into grid resilience is a good idea and has requested information from organisations about resilience in their regions. These reports are to be submitted within 60 days.



Absorption of Carbon Costs Will Prolong Our Dependence on Coal


As we look towards the future and envisage a world that is entirely dependent on green energy, we need to look at how to reduce our usage of coal. Yet, while discussions generally revolve around coal mining and burning, there is little talk about the vital element that links the two: coal transportation. Transportation amounts to a significant cost of electricity and looks likely to be a cushion that will slow down the process of phasing out coal in the US energy system.

This is the conclusion that has been drawn by Louis Preonas, an Energy Institute PhD student. The paper, “Market Power in Coal Shipping and Implications for U.S. Climate Policy”, demonstrates how railroads make hefty profits from the transportation of coal. Indeed, in order to keep coal-shipping business, the railroads absorb some of the price increases carbon is facing. This is going to have a negative effect on a country trying to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Preonas estimates that the charges levied on generators, associated with their greenhouse gas emission aren’t actually affecting coal profitability as much as it is assumed. As coal prices go up, transportation costs seem to be falling, which evens out overall profits.

Not all railroads are absorbing these extra costs but the impact can be clearly seen at plants that are serviced by just one railroad. This counts for almost half of all coal-fired power plants in the US. Plants that sit near rivers and lakes that have multiple railroad access routes are less able to cushion the blow of the levies and to keep their customer’s plant running.

At the moment the cost of GHG emissions is quite low or non-existent across most of the country so it is difficult to assess the impact GHG pricing will have on coal-fired generation. Nevertheless, the actions of the railroads are an indicator of how transportation companies are likely to react if the carbon price becomes a factor to contend with.

Preonas notes in his work that this practice by the railroads of lowering their prices in order to keep certain plants in business means that greenhouse gas emissions have reduced 8% less than they would have had the railroads not been cushioning the blows of the increased prices. The fracking boom was expected to have a much more significant impact on the level of GHGs being emitted.

The effects of fracking are fascinating and are worth considering but what should really be at the forefront of policymakers’ minds is the effect it will have on the effects of carbon pricing on coal plants. Preonas indicates that some coal plants could have as much as a quarter of their carbon price absorbed, which means they would be operating with 25% less extra cost than other plants.

As of yet, the world does not have much experience with using market mechanisms to regulate environmental pollution. They certainly have much less effect at the moment than legislation designed to control pollution. It will be interesting to see how these market mechanisms develop in the future and to see how effective we can make them.


OPEC forecasts rise in oil demand, but now sees more US output growth

MW-DB861_oil_ba_ZG_20141218110209.jpgOPEC predicts that the global demand for crude oil is going to increase in 2018 along with an unexpected increased output from the United States and other various countries.

There has recently been an emphasis on capping oil production in order to reduce the global stockpiles that have affected prices for over three years. This is OPEC’s goal despite it having just extended output limits for Russia and another nine countries that produce oil. The total of main producer nations is now 24.

There are concerns that the supply increase from non-OPEC countries will make OPEC’s aim of reducing these stockpiles harder to achieve, despite the fact that OPEC’s production fell in November.

It has been forecast that production from non-OPEC nations will increase by almost 1 million barrels per day next year. That is significantly more than its previous estimate.

In a monthly report OPEC explained: “Higher-than-expected supply growth in the U.S., Canada and Kazakhstan have been the key contributors to the upward revisions, particularly U.S. tight oil.”

Oil production in the U.S has also been rejuvenated after it slumped, back in September of 2016. The current production rate is around 9.7 million barrels per day – up from 8.5 million. The driving factor for this new growth is the country’s shale fields, which use advanced and innovative methods of extraction to obtain oil and gas from rock formations. This system is also known as ‘tight oil’.

In 2018 the U.S was originally predicted to grow its production by about 180,000 barrels a day, but this has now be reconfigured and looks more likely to be around 1.05 million. This appears to be down to a number of reasons, including increased investment in tight oil and a more efficient extraction system. The same jump in growth has been forecast for other non-OPEC countries.

OPEC has stood by its bullish prediction for oil demand in the coming year and reckons that demand will grow by around 1.53 million barrels per day. This is a greater number than was forecast last month.

In the OPEC monthly report, it is recorded that November of this year saw oil production for OPEC drop by 133,000 barrels a day – taking the total down to 32.45 million. Angola is considered to be a notable factor responsible for this dip as its daily production went down almost 109,000 barrels per day. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also saw some decline, as did Venezuela – a feature that has been steady since the country fell into its economic crisis.

Fortunately, Nigeria made up for some of the decline from other countries by increasing its production by about 96,000 barrels a day. However, Nigeria and Libya have agreed not to produce more than they did this year in 2018.

When considering next year’s production total, OPEC took into account its own production as well as that of non-OPEC countries. It came to the conclusion that next year will average 33.2 million barrels a day, which is slightly more than was produced this year.

“Combined with continued efforts by OPEC and non-OPEC to support oil market stability, this should lead to a further reduction in excess global inventories, arriving at a balanced market by late 2018,” OPEC said.