Daily Archives: July 21, 2009

Kate Mackenzie

US climate scientists are about to support research into geo-engineering, according to New Scientist. The magazine says a final draft of the American Meteorological position paper on the subject endorses further research on manipulating the earth’s environment to counteract the effect of CO2 emissions, making it the first major scientific body to do so.

The document states that “deliberately manipulating physical, chemical, or biological aspects of the Earth system” should be explored alongside the more conventional approaches to climate change. Conventional approaches means reducing emissions – “mitigation” in policy-speak – and adjusting to the unavoidable effect of climate change – known as “adaptation”.

The all too predictable reason is not so much that shooting sulfur into the sky or dumping iron filings into the ocean looks like a good way to address climate change, but rather that the more conventional options don’t look likely to be adequate:

The paper states that “even aggressive mitigation of future emissions cannot avoid dangerous climate changes resulting from past emissions.

Note that the paper will reportedly call for more research, and that it is not an out and out endorsement of geo-engineering. The association also wants that research to include the moral, legal and ethical aspects of  geo-engineering.

Stephen Holdren, the White House scientific advisor, raised eyebrows earlier this year when he made supportive comments about geo-engineering – although there was later some confusion about whether he was referring to his own personal views, or to White House policy.

The Atlantic’s current edition has a good piece explaining the most prevalent geo-engineering ideas, and highlights their crucial advantage is that they are not only potentially simpler than the myriad of efforts needed to avert the worst of climate change – they are also likely to be a lot cheaper.

Kate Mackenzie

The epic hostile takeover bid by nuclear power company Exelon for independent rival NRG is over, after NRG shareholders today voted Exelon’s proposal for nine new independent directors.

Exelon’s efforts were considerable. Its all-share bid represented a 37 per cent premium to NRG’s share value when it was first made in October, but this eroded to a few percentage points by mid-June, prompting Exelon to raised the offer in July. NRG fought back by pointing to the regulatory hurdles faced by the deal, which would make the US’ biggest power group, and using its precious cash reserves to make an acquisition of its own.

Kate Mackenzie

A new paper from Harvard’s Belfer Center estimates the cost of carbon capture and storage (CCS), and comes up with a few promising figures for the technology.

CCS technology is not proven at commercial scale and is expected to develop further, making it very difficult to reliably estimate how much power generated using CCS will ultimately cost. And estimating finance costs for such capital-intensive projects are tricky enough: McKinsey figures that weighted average capital costs could vary the cost of carbon abatement with CCS by as much as €9 per tonne – much more than coal, steel or engineering costs which were each estimated to have a €1 impact.

Despite coming out with slightly higher carbon abatement cost estimates than other studies, the Harvard paper has some positive conclusions for CCS in terms of costs and comparisons to other low-carbon energy technologies.

Kate Mackenzie

On Energy Source:

Markets: Oil inches higher while gold dips

Who declining North Sea oil will hurt most

Counting oil sands in reserve replacement

Further reading:

Workers protest the closure of the Vestas plant in Isle of Wight (savevestas.wordpress.com)

Q&A with Marshall Adkins of Raymond James Associates on his comments that oil production peaked a year ago (Energy Bulletin)

Chu argues the climate bill is needed to keep the US competitive (Platts)

How accurate is emissions reporting? (NY Times)

Why gasoline prices don’t predict investment in renewables (SeekingAlpha)

Methane controls before risky geoengineering, please (New Scientist)

FiveThirtyEight’s challenge to climate change sceptics bloggers (FiveThirtyEight)

Cloud computing could emit less than big data centres (Technology Review)

Oil prices inched higher on Tuesday but gold dipped below the $950 level and base metals eased as commodity markets consolidated after their recent gains.

Dr Frédéric Lasserre, head of commodities research at Société Générale, said that risky asset classes, including equities and commodities, were benefiting from a return of macro-economic optimism and risk appetite, on the back of strong quarterly results from major US banks.

Nymex August West Texas Intermediate rose 29 cents to $64.27 a barrel. The August contract was due to expire at the end of the session and the September traded flat at $65.29 a barrel.

Kate Mackenzie

The moribund outlook for North Sea production has been the talk of the UK oil and gas industry for much of this year. Dramatic numbers such as a 78 per cent year-on-year fall in exploration wells drilled in the first quarter sent the industry into a spin, and UK Oil & Gas, the industry group, has been repeating its calls for tax relief, arguing that a dramatic slowdown in investment could mean that some recoverable oil and gas is never produced.

But is it a problem for the companies operating there? For BP, the UK’s biggest oil operator, UK oil production fell 14 per cent from 2007 to 2008. And specifically, its North Sea production has almost halved in five years.

Kate Mackenzie

Exxon’s ability to replace its oil reserves is almost as legendary as its profitability. While many of its supermajor rivals struggle to make it to 100 per cent, Exxon reported a 103 per cent replacement in 2008.

Steve LeVine asked Exxon why its news releases and annual reports have put the replacement rate at more than 100 per cent for the past nine years, while its 10K filings to the SEC only put it at more than 100 per cent for four out of those nine years.

Strictly speaking, SEC rules don’t permit comingling of oil that’s pumped out of the ground, along with oil sands — exceptionally tar-like material that in most cases isn’t pumped, but instead is actually mined like a mineral, then mixed with chemicals in order to move it to a refinery for processing. But companies can comingle them in public announcements such as news releases and annual reports that are read by reporters, investors and Wall Street analysts, according to an SEC spokesman.

From next year, however, this discrepancy won’t be a problem: after lobbying from the industry, LeVine writes, the SEC will allow oil companies to include oil sands along with their regular crude oil reserves.

Related links:

Exxon, the chase for reserves and the oil sands (The Oil and the Glory)
A Brent with no North Sea oil? (FT Energy Source)

New Delhi pulled into Ambani gas conflict
Letter to Indian prime minister raises stakes (FT)

Oil and gas: Legal bid to create a national champion
Pending legislation would overhaul Nigeria’s petroleum industry (FT)

Samsung to spend $4bn on eco-tech
Company plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 (FT)

Carbon trading could slash ‘green’ costs
Greater ‘bang per buck’ than other methods (FT)

Power shortages: A long embrace with the dark
Nigeria struggles to solve riddle of electricity supply (FT)

Intelligent Energy to commercialise fuel cells
Raises £20m to finance hydrogen fuel cell technology (FT)

Oil pares gains, trades below $64, as recovery optimism fades
Stock markets in China, second-largest oil user, decline (Bloomberg)

Shell to restart Australia refinery end July
Clyde has been shut for 9 months for repairs (Reuters)

Sinopec first-half fuel sales down 8%, runs up 1.8%
Analysts say decline to slow in second half (Reuters)

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