Daily Archives: March 2, 2009

Ed Crooks

Putting a price on something that does not even exist yet, and will require legislation that has not yet been passed, may seem like a supreme waste of time, but that has not stopped people trying to guess how much carbon dioxide emissions permits will cost in the US, if and when president Obama gets the cap and trade system he says he wants.

Kate Mackenzie

A study by Michael Pollitt and Christian Wolf at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School finds that privatised oil companies do much better than their nationalised peers.

This may sound a little obvious at first – studies showing the benefits of privatisation abound, and indeed this one  finds predictable advantages relating to efficiency, such as higher output per employee and better return on sales.

But this study shows a particularly big benefit seems to come in terms of overall output growth – the typical amount was 40% and 92% of companies studied had some level of increase.

Ed Crooks

Rosneft is the latest Russian oil company to report a rise in its reserves under Russian reporting standards, with 172 per cent of its production replaced to its reserves. At the end of last year it had 23.3bn barrels equivalent of oil and gas in its reserves under Russian standards, 17.7bn barrels of that in oil.

On the SEC’s definition, however, Rosneft failed to replace all the oil and gas it produced: its reserves fell very slightly from 14.5bn boe at the end of 2007 to 14.45bn boe at the end of 2008.

It was the same picture at TNK-BP, where on the SEC definition the company replaced just 82 per cent of its production last year.

Still, compared to some western companies, that performance is still pretty good.

Kate Mackenzie

On Energy Source this morning:

Opec run-up: Is Iran on board?

Protectionism for European biofuels

Beleagured media criticised for climate change reporting

More China-Russian collaboration on oil?

Biofuel from algae at $33/gallon

Elsewhere:

- Emissions caps and the ‘You first’ problem

- Is geothermal the next hot energy source?

- Wind farms’ biggest victims: bats

Kate Mackenzie

Time talks to a former Fortune editor, Eric Pooley, who argued in a paper for Harvard University that journalists should not simply take a “court stenographer’s” approach to covering the cost of climate change. Reasonably enough, Pooley thinks they should weigh the arguments for real substance. However few media outlets, the story says, have resources to devote to this sort of reporting of an extremely complex field, both scientifically and, increasingly, economically. (It even points out its stablemate, CNN, no longer has a full-time science reporting team.)

Rather than try to unpack the dueling economic models and figure out which side had a better claim to truth, Pooley argues that reporters fell into what he calls the stenography model of journalism, simply reporting both sides with equal weight. The problem is, the two sides weren’t equal. The skeptics’ models tended to assume, quietly, that the pace of technological advance for renewable energy would be sluggish — significantly raising the costs of trying to cap carbon emissions.

Ed Crooks

The European Commission has proposed tariffs on imported US biodiesel raning from €260 (about $330) to €410 (about $520) per tonne, Reuters reports from Brussels.

Kate Mackenzie

The Tianjin city government says a 200,000 barrel-per-day refinery planned by CNPC and Rosneft may go ahead begin in 2010.

Reuters reports the two countries failed to agree on pricing and mutual market opening, but Tianjin has planned to complete a feasibility study and application report by June, and it expected the plant to be ready by 2012.

“Some industry officials said the project might move along quickly as Russia, hit by slumping oil prices, agreed last month to supply 300,000-bpd of crude oil via a planned pipeline to China in the next two decades, in return for $25 billion of Chinese loans.”

Meanwhile Platts is reporting that both China and Japan say they will resume talks on developing a disputed Eastern China Sea gas field, known as Shirakaba in by Japan and Chunxiao in China.

Kate Mackenzie

As March 15 draws near, speculation about the cartel’s next move is building.

Algerian minister Chakib Khelil was reported earlier last week as telling the Algerian news service that a further production cut was “very likely” and that the latest round of quota reductions had probably prevented oil prices falling as low as $20/barrel.

Kate Mackenzie

A report in Greentech Media provides some sobering figures about algal biofuel:

Algae biofuel startup Solix, for instance, can produce biofuel from algae right now, but it costs about $32.81 a gallon, said Bryan Wilson, a co-founder of the company and a professor at Colorado State University. The production cost is high because of the energy required to circulate gases and other materials inside the photo bioreactors where the algae grow.

Exploiting waste heat at adjacent facilities may enable the price to go as low as $5.50 a gallon; but this is still equivalent to oil at  $150  a barrel.

Hat tip to Robert Rapier, who says the “biggest warning signal” in Wilson’s comments is the cost associated with energy.

This suggests a very poor energy return, which means that as oil prices rise, algae won’t necessarily become more viable. It will be subject to the Law of Receding Horizons, which simply means that energy sources that require high energy inputs will always see their point of economic viability pushed farther out as energy prices rise.

It may not be as bad as all that, however – Solix is also pursuing cost reductions through extraction techniques “that the company hasn’t discussed yet”, and Wilson also says other products produced from the techniques could bring revenue. Ultimately, he says, algae could be a much higher-yielding biofuel feedstock than soy or jatropha.

James Fontanella-Khan

Energy news from elsewhere:

- Nippon mining drops most in 3 months on merger delay (Bloomberg)

- Exxon says shuts Singapore refinery units for 6 weeks (Reuters)

- Anglo cuts 650 Australia coal jobs to fight costs (Reuters)

- Obama may have to give away 70% of carbon credits, Merrill says (Bloomberg)

- Capitol Hill coal power plant targeted by environmentalists (Guardian)

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