Offshore Wind Farm Cape Wind Officially Comes to an End

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The Cape Wind offshore wind project is officially dead. Situated just off the coast of Massachusetts, the wind farm was the object of some ire from the Kennedy and Koch families back in the day.

Once expected to be the first offshore wind farm in the United States, all efforts to build the facility have completely ceased. Indeed, the farm’s developer, which is based in Boston, has informed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that its development lease from 2010 has been ended.

The closure of this wind farm is by no means sudden. In fact, Cape Wind has been slowly but surely moving towards death for some time now. From the get go the wind project came up against heavy opposition from powerhouse families, including that of the billionaire industrialist William Koch. The aim of Cape Wind was to supply energy to Cape Cod as well as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Despite Energy Management, the company in charge of the wind farm, coming out of numerous court cases victorious, the final blow came when its contracts to sell power to local utilities was cancelled in 2015.

On Friday, Amy Grace, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, praised Jim Gordon, founder of Energy Management. She said he was a visionary and said, “he brought the project to the goal-post. He just faced a very vicious and very well-funded lobbying organization to protect Nantucket Sound.”

Originally, the plan was to build up to 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound. It was predicted to be a pioneering movement for the United States towards a future of clean energy. The project was given the go ahead to build upon and develop an area 5 miles off the shore of Cape Cod. It was estimated by the U.S Energy Department that, once at full capacity, Cape Wind could have generated enough electricity to power 200,000 households.

Overall, the total cost of the project was going to be $2.6 billion and had already received a conditional loan guarantee of $150 million. It also had a number of big backers willing to offer debt packages and equity investments. These names included Mitsubishi, Siemens and Rabobank.

However, in the end all the backing it received couldn’t save it from its untimely death. The opposition proved too much and the project was called off. On the one hand, environmental activists said the wind farm would be a good thing and would decrease dependence on fossil fuels. This was countered on the other hand with shore-front real estate owners who said that the farm would ruin the views from Cape Cod and could interfere with fishing areas.

The project was hit with lawsuit after lawsuit and was seriously delayed, causing it to miss a number of contractual milestones. This is what led to its power supply contracts being cancelled in 2015. When this happened analysts declared the project ‘all but dead’.

Clearly the lesson to be learnt from all of this is simple: don’t build your wind farm within sight of the shore.

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The Fate of the Energy World Lies With China

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It is looking increasingly like the future of the global energy market is going to depend largely on China. Beijing is now such a momentous force in the energy market that anything they do, or don’t do for that matter, can be felt by everyone.

Indeed, China has done great things over the past thirty years. They have pulled half a billion people from the depths of poverty and placed them solidly into the world of modern consumerism – each of whom has energy requirements. Nowadays, almost 60% of the Chinese population is resident in the country’s big cities and this means energy demands are higher. In fact, the Chinese energy demand accounts for 25% of all global consumption.

Naturally, as the demand for energy grows the country will need to consider ways to accommodate this. This means changing the energy mix to create a more sustainable system. Unfortunately, it is proving difficult for analysts to predict what this change will look like and when it will come.

So far, there are three possible options – all of which are completely plausible.

The first option is the China starts developing its own shale gas. The country definitely has the resources to do this and if it is done successfully China might lose its dependency on imported energy and become self-sufficient. This would have a huge impact on gas exporter countries like Russia and Australia which have factored into their plans the assumption that China’s demands for imports will grow. With China being estimated to become one of the largest gas importers on earth, you can just imagine the chaos that would be caused by the country becoming energy self-sufficient and withdrawing its import demands.

The second option on the table is that China fulfils its traditional ethos of self-sufficiency and reduces its oil imports. This would mean that only a select few processes would use oil – and only in circumstances where no alternative would do. The use of electric cars would then fill the gaps left in the framework of personal mobility. China could then buy its reduced oil requirement from a compliant supplier in the Middle East (namely Saudi Arabia) and relinquish its dependence on oil from places like Angola and Venezuela.

Finally, China might well decide that they cannot afford to close down coal mines and other industrial operations. This could lead to widespread unemployment and would look very bad for the Communist party. This being the case they would have to keep the operations going at the expense of continuing to produce high emissions. Or maybe not. China could well close down the plants in the big cities where the air quality is at its worst and keep its rural operations going. This would improve air quality in the cities without increasing the national unemployment rate too much as workers will have plenty of alternative job options in the city.

Whichever path China decides to take, the knock-on effects will be felt around the world. In brief, the fate of the energy market lies in the hands of China.

 

What is Shale Oil

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We are all in a certain way familiar with oil as a slick, liquid substance that is able to be burned as fuel or used in other chemical processes. But though the gasoline we pump in our cars may seem pretty standard, same with heating oil, there are many different types of crude oil, each with their own characteristics based on the location and way it was extracted.

Shale oil has become more and more of a household term globally, though often confused with shale gas and hydraulic fracturing. Shale oil is the result of treating oil shale rock fragments in order to obtain liquid oil for further refining and processing for use as fuels. So in essence, it is the result of turning a solid rock into a liquid. As early as the 14th century humans have been using shale oil as a fuel source for heat and light.

The discovery of crude oil, a more cost-effective source of oil, in the Middle East meant the demise of much of the shale oil industry which was established in Australia, Brazil, the United States, China, Estonia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. However, some remained, and the industry was restarted in the early 21st century as a result of the rising cost of oil which made shale oil production feasible again.

Presently, the United States of America are known to have the largest deposits of extractable shale oil, maintaining 4 of the top 5 spaces with over 2,000,000 million barrels of in-place shale oil resources for these four, and over 3,000,000 million barrels when all reserves are added in.

As oil prices rise again in the coming years, we can expect these reserves to be increasingly exploited and growth in the sector.

What’s an Electricity Meter?

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Household electricity meters are one of the most common and most well known components of the electricity network. Utility companies use these devices to keep track of how much electricity is consumed, and will bill the customers accordingly.

Often, a customer will have someone from the utility company come by and “read” the meter, but this is no longer necessary in all cases. Many of the principles of metering electricity have remained the same, but the technology we use to log, store, and transmit these readings has changed significantly.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure, or AMI, is a wave of metering technology that allows for direct communication between the meters installed in homes and businesses and the utility. The benefits to utilities is that there is no longer the need to perform manual readings and checks, but also that any faults in the systems can be reported directly leading to a better management of outages.

Though these types of meters are not without their drawbacks. Consumer groups and industry watchdogs have cautioned against rapid deployment of these meters for privacy and security concerns. The more connected we are, in a way the more vulnerable we become, creating more portals for intrusion to take place. However, there are many safeguards and as electricity is seen in many jurisdictions as an essential public service, the government oversight and regulatory infrastructure is able to monitor and safeguard safety and consumer interests.

The benefits to consumers may not be as apparent with these so-called smart meters. Many rollouts have seen consumer backlash citing the disadvantages mentioned above. However, for consumers there is potential for more transparency and insight into energy use, and the integration of systems to allow for better management of consumption, to take advantage of lower rates in time-of-use billing scenarios.

Angela Merkel: The Fate of Humanity Depends on Climate Change

f-trukel-a-20161118.jpgAngela Merkel addressed the world’s nations at a recent climate change summit saying: “Climate change is an issue determining our destiny as mankind – it will determine the wellbeing of all of us.”

 

Attendees at the summit listened to a number of moving political speeches, urging them to use their time wisely and to do whatever they can to put the Paris Deal into action. The Paris Deal was agreed upon in 2015 and might just be one of the most important decisions of the century. Without it, it is expected that global warming will see the world heat up 3 degrees Celsius – the result of which would be utterly devastating.

 

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, spoke about his visits to the Caribbean in the wake of this year’s hurricanes. He commented on the catastrophic damage that had occurred and pinpointed climate change as one of the main causes for the disasters. He also directed his disappointment and disapproval at the $825 billion investment into fossil fuels that was made in 2016.

 

When Emmanuel Macron took the stage he openly criticised Trump’s decision to take the US out of the Paris Deal. But, he was met with hearty applause when he stated that France and its European partners would make sure that there would be no funding gap left by America’s departure. “They will not miss a single euro,” he said.

 

Macron went on to stress the importance of battling against global warming stating that “the fight against climate change is by far the most significant struggle of our times.” He also made it clear that it is up to the wealthy nations in the world to pay for the fight against climate change because it is they who are responsible for it. Climate change, he commented, adds yet another level of injustice to the world.

 

The French leader finished his speech with a rather unusual detail. He announced to the public that France aims to have all its coal plants closed down by 2021. He also said that there would be a ban on exploring new fossil fuels in all of its territories. These were among a number of measures he is adopting to drive out coal and gas and aim for a more sustainable future.

 

Angela Merkel has come under significant pressure recently to act regarding Germany’s coal-fired power stations. She acknowledged that Germany still uses a lot of coal but explained that it was important to take jobs into consideration before making any rash decisions. However, Prof John Schellnhuber, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said that the 20,000 jobs in coal about which she was concerned would most likely be lost to mechanisation anyway.

 

What’s more, Schellnhuber stated that as the economy expands each year, around 600,000 new jobs would appear. This would be more than enough to compensate for coal jobs that were lost due to phasing out the power stations.

Unconventional Gas

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In recent years there has been an increase in unconventional gas production, specifically shale gas in North America to increase the country’s self-sufficiency in energy resources. The definition of unconventional gas as given by Law and Curtis in 2002 as ‘Conventional gas resources are buoyancy-driven deposits, occurring as discrete accumulations in structural and stratigraphic traps, whereas unconventional gas resources are generally not buoyancy-driven accumulations. They are regionally pervasive accumulations, most commonly independent of structural and stratigraphic traps’. Here unconventional gas refers to tight gas, coal bed methane, shale gas and methane hydrates. These are part of a category of frontier and unconventional oil and gas that have been attracting attention recently as conventional resources are becoming exhausted or inaccessible to non-state energy companies’. Frontier resources refer to conventional reserves in challenging locations such as extremely deep, cold and/or very inaccessible regions or are gas deposits which contain acid or sour gas.

The unconventional resources referred to here are nothing new and have been known about for hundreds of years, but have only recently become economically viable and is still not competitive with competitive gas, unless transportation costs are considered.

Coal bed methane (CBM) is methane trapped in coal deposits and is also known as coal seam gas. Most of the methane is adsorbed to the surface.

Tight gas is trapped in ultra-compact reservoirs with a very low porosity and permeability. Therefore, unlike conventional gas, tight gas can’t flow freely.

Shale gas is gas in the ‘source rock’, a clay-rich sedimentary rock with a low permeability, and is either adsorbed in the shale or in a free space in pores of the rock.

What is a source rock?

‘The source rock is the geological layer in which oil and gas are generated. It formed when organic-rich sediments were deposited on the bottom of oceans or lakes, then gradually covered over by additional sediment layers. As they became more deeply buried, the sediments were consolidated into rock, and the organic matter was transformed into oil and gas (oil and natural gas). The oil and gas tended to migrate upward through the pores and cracks of the surrounding rock, sometimes reaching the surface, but some of them were trapped under an impermeable rock barrier and collected beneath this “cap.” With time, the accumulation developed into a petroleum reservoir, the target of conventional oil and gas exploration.

In the case of gas shale, some or all of the gas released during the transformation of the biomatter stayed in place. To be a candidate for gas extraction, source rocks must have reached sufficient maturity to generate the gas, without yet having expelled it’.

Nuclear Energy in Japan

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Many Asian economies have relied on nuclear power since the beginning of commercial use of the technology, and whereas Europe and North America have slowed down in the development of new nuclear power generating capacity, many Asian countries have continued building and developing new nuclear power plants well into the 21st century to keep up with growing power demand.

The events in Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011 have caused the technology to once again be called into question and in 2012, for the first time since the 1970s, Japan was again (briefly) without nuclear power generation. After safety reviews and despite large protests, Japan has started to re-start its nuclear fleet. Once providing over 30% of Japan’s power needs, the shortfall left from taking nuclear offline is significant.

As an island nation with very few natural resources for the production of energy Japan relies heavily on imports for its electricity generation. Nuclear energy has helped Japan’s economy grow and meet the ever-increasing demands for energy. Unfortunately, Japan is also a very seismically active country and frequently deals with earthquakes. Nevertheless, this has not stopped Japan from actively pursuing nuclear technology and the country continues to prioritize its use and development.

Though it has been fully offline since 2011, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant is considered the world’s largest nuclear power plant by capacity. The plant has a total of 7 reactors ranging in size from 1,100 to 1,356 MW. The plant was itself shut down due to an earthquake in 2007 and was not yet fully online at the time of the 2011 disaster. The earliest current projection to restart any of the 7 units at the plant is for early 2019.

Though public opinion has become quite opposed to nuclear power, Japan continues to explore its potential and develop safer, more reliable nuclear technology able to withstand the forces of nature. Many lessons have been learned, and optimism has certainly suffered when it comes to Japan’s nuclear fleet, but it does look like the technology is not yet written off.