Daily Archives: May 10, 2010

Ed Crooks

BP is turning to desperate measures in its battle to stop its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, proposing to fire bits of tyre and golf balls into the failed blow-out preventer on the sea bed, to plug the leaking pipe.

It has been forced to consider such extreme tactics by the failure of its attempt to use a “coffer dam” – a 100-tonne steel and concrete box – to trap the oil. As the attempt started, BP warned that coffer dams had never previously been used in such deep water, and its experience has shown that the conditions 5,000 feet down do indeed make things much more difficult.

The problem at those depths has been the formation of gas hydrates, ice crystals described as “jelly like” by one former drilling engineer, which filled the top of the container and made it impossible to use it to pump the oil up to the surface.

The problems have highlighted the issue of gas hydrates: strange substances that create a variety of hazards, but may also offer a huge opportunity.

Carola Hoyos

With so many theories of what went wrong – and who was in charge – on Deepwater Horizon that fateful night of April 20, Energy Source has decided to enlist the help of ‘on the rig’ expert Mike Clarke, who started his career as a mud engineer on the Diamond M92 rig offshore Louisiana in 1969. After a long working life in the industry, including as a consultant, Mr Clarke is now retired.

Kate Mackenzie

There’s been an awful lot of speculation about what the Gulf of Mexico oil leak will mean for the chances of an already-challenged US climate bill getting through. Intuitively, it makes sense. But looking at the Senate numbers makes passage much less convincing.

We may find out soon, as two of the original three sponsors say they will introduce the bill on Wednesday.

Kate Mackenzie

Oil sands-rich Canada is the biggest foreign supplier of oil to the US. But how much of that unconventional oil then ends up in Europe, where oil majors Shell and BP are facing campaigns against their investments in tar sands production?

A study commissioned for Greenpeace has attempted to work out how how much product, specifically diesel, is sold to Europe via big refiners on the US Gulf coast. The authors (who were also behind the oil sands/peak demand report last September) are confident that some product – albeit a small amount – does.  A breakdown of all US shipments of diesel to Europe breaks down like this:

There are quite a few caveats to this breakdown, however.

Kate Mackenzie

Coal miners in Shanxi province, ChinaWhen US coal giant Peabody reduced its bid for Australia’s Macarthur Coal by 6.3 per cent, the newly-announced Australian resources tax was easy to target as a scapegoat.

Indeed, Peabody said the revision “follows Peabody’s due diligence as well as the introduction of the Australian resources profit tax proposal”. It’s now offering $A15 per share, down from its previous bid of $16 but still higher than its original $13 offer. The bid was raised amid fears of a competing move from Noble, a major shareholder in Macarthur — and as the FT reported, the newfound Chinese enthusiasm for coal imports was a big factor in the ensuing sparks.

However quite a few other things are going on in commodities markets beyond the debate over Australia’s resources tax – not least of which is uncertainty over whether China’s massive demand for base metals will continue, after bank reserve rules were tightened last week.

Kate Mackenzie

The FT’s Guy Dinmore reported from a big solar conference in Verona:

Executives speaking at the Italian PV Summit and trade fair in Verona last week were heartened by higher forecasts of demand for solar power made by the Paris-based International Energy Agency but they also warned of the dangers of a bubble forming in fast-growing Italy following the bursting of the Spanish market last year.

Several executives talked about consolidation and the need for scale — a First Solar executive likened it to one of the shake-outs that the auto industry has seen over the years.

Behind the shifting market dynamics are cuts to feed-in tariffs, which have been weighing heavily on the minds — and in some cases, the share prices — of solar manufacturers that operate in Europe.

Kate Mackenzie

- A shortage of barriers

- Do we really care about the oil spill?

- Scaling the Deepwater Horizon spill

- Canada counts its oil sands blessings

- Greek crisis a “little thing” to Saudi Arabia

Kate Mackenzie

- BP plans to use debris to staunch oil leak - FT

- BP’s preparedness for major spill is questioned - WSJ

- BP shareholder sues directors over safety lapses – Bloomberg

- BP outlook cut to negative by S&P – Bloomberg

- Coal mine explosions cast shadow over Russian celebration - FT

- China carbon tax likely, experts predict - China Daily

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