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Peak Oil Review – 4 Dec 2017

By on 4 Dec 2017 in Peak Oil Review with 0 Comments

“The EIA’s [assumes] that better technology has been behind nearly all the recent output gains, and will continue to boost production for the foreseeable future. That’s not quite right. Instead, the MIT research suggests increases have been largely due to something more mundane: low energy prices, which led drillers to focus on sweet spots where oil and gas are easiest to extract. ‘The EIA is assuming that productivity of individual wells will continue to rise as a result of improvements in technology,’ said Justin B. Montgomery, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the study’s authors. ‘This compounds year after year, like interest, so the further out in the future the wells are drilled, the more that they are being overestimated.’ The problem with the EIA’s numbers, the researchers say, is that they give drillers too much credit for coming up with ways to improve fracking.”

From a Bloomberg News story (12/2)

Graphic of the Week

Contents

1.  Oil and the Global Economy
2.  The Middle East & North Africa
3.  China
4.  Russia
5.  Venezuela
6.  The Briefs

1.  Oil and the Global Economy

The long-discussed decision by OPEC and its collaborators on whether to extend their production freeze to the end of 2018 came last week and to nobody’s surprise was unanimous. After three months of hype, hints, rumors, and speculation, and a nearly $10 a barrel increase in oil prices, the matter is settled for another year. When the oil markets concluded there would be no immediate sell-off in reaction to the three-month price increases, oil futures started rising again. On Friday afternoon, increasing political turmoil surrounding the Trump administration and its relations with Russia roiled the market leaving New York futures at $58.35 and London at $64.10.

Attention is turning to where prices are likely to go in the coming year. Here there is mixed opinion with some seeing oil prices climbing into the $70s as the global oil markets continue to tighten and there is no longer a threat of a sudden surge in oil production. Fear of increased geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East will continue to contribute to higher prices. Others argue that prices will fall in the next six months as winter demand falls and US shale oil production increases in the second quarter.

The OPEC Production Cut: The most important message to come out of the OPEC freeze-extension seems to be the role that Russia is playing in the world oil markets these days. Moscow, rather than Riyadh seems to have taken the lead in the recent OPEC decision. Some are calling Russia’s President Putin the “King of OPEC”. Others are calling him the “World’s Energy Czar” noting that he is calling the shots in OPEC, a role the Saudis have had for the last 50 years.

With world oil prices now back in the mid-$60s and exporter revenue increasing, there is less pressure on OPEC members to cheat on the deal. The agreement by Libya and Nigeria to restrain their exports will contribute to the agreement’s effectiveness. The large share of the production cut that the Saudis are taking, however, is still the key to the production freeze.

US Shale Oil Production:  Questions are rising over the optimistic EIA and IEA forecasts about the future of US shale oil production. International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol recently said shale production would make the US the “undisputed leader of global oil and gas markets for decades to come.”  The EIA currently is forecasting that it expects US shale oil production to increase by another 500,000 b/d in 2018, leaving US oil production at 9.9 million b/d.

Last week MIT released a study based upon a detailed examination of Bakken oil production which concludes that EIA forecasts for US oil and gas production from new wells will be lower than currently projected. This study has important implications for the future of US shale oil production. “The EIA is assuming that productivity of individual wells will continue to rise as a result of improvements in technology,” said Justin Montgomery, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the study’s authors. “This compounds year after year, like interest, so the further out in the future when new wells are drilled, the more they are being overestimated.”  The EIA’s model assumes that technical advances — such as well length and the amount of water and sand used in fracking — increase output at new wells by roughly 10 percent each year; MIT findings from the Bakken region suggest it’s closer to 6.5 percent.

Extrapolating from the studies conducted in the Bakken basin, the research suggests that total US oil and natural-gas production from new wells could miss the EIA estimate by more than 10 percent in 2020. The over-estimates would get progressively worse each year after that as oil in sweet spots is exhausted, and technology fails to close the gap. Margaret Coleman, the EIA’s leader of oil, gas and biofuels exploration and production analysis, said in an email “the study raises valid points” and the administration is looking at ways to give its estimates a tighter focus. She added that many shale fields lack the detailed well data that informed the MIT study.

Others agree with the conclusion. “There certainly could be some validity to getting a rosier forecast because right now, the industry is working sweet spots,” said Dave Yoxtheimer, a hydrogeologist at Penn State University’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research. “When that’s all played out, they’re going to have to go to the tier-two acreage, which isn’t going to be as productive.”

While some observers are talking about US shale oil production soaring in response to higher prices, some are not so sure. The optimists are predicting that oil production in the Permian will double in the next three years from 2.2 million b/d to 4 million.  However, costs of land and drilling in the Permian are increasing rapidly, and with the new emphasis on making money rather than simply increasing production, many drillers may find that oil prices are not yet high enough to support profitable drilling. ConocoPhillips, the largest US exploration, and production company, has ruled out investing in projects that need an oil price of $50 or higher to make a profit, as it attempts to raise shareholder returns after years of poor profitability.

Another problem that could limit a new Permian boom is the looming glut of natural gas. Shale oil production in parts of the basin are turning out to contain more natural gas than expected and drillers are hard pressed to move this gas to markets. New pipelines are under construction but these are a least two years away.

Finally, we have the issue that shale oil (light tight oil) has an API gravity rating too high for many refiners and is becoming difficult to market. Even though the US has been exporting between 1 and 2 million b/d of late, some suspect that it the heavier grades that are being shipped out while shale oil inventories are building in central storage facilities such as at Cushing, Okla. This could have an impact on the demand for shale oil and condensate in future years.

2.  The Middle East & North Africa

Iran: The possibility of further US sanctions remains the top issue in Tehran these days. The Iranians are making an effort to retain their oil customers in Asia by offering better prices. The US Congress has until mid-December to decide on whether to re-impose the sanctions that were lifted after the nuclear agreement.

A small gas field on the edge of the British North Sea could become a litmus test for US policy towards Iran.  BP has agreed to sell to Serica Energy three fields in the offshore basin, including the Rhum field which is co-owned by a subsidiary of Iran’s national oil company.  Rhum was shut down for most of the first half of the decade due to western sanctions on Tehran before resuming normal operations in 2016 following the nuclear deal. Because of the Iranian involvement, BP needs a license from the US Treasury’s sanctions enforcement arm – the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) – allowing US nationals and companies to take part in the field’s operations.

Iran’s Abadan refinery was largely destroyed by fighting during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Since then Tehran has been dependent on imported refined products to meet its domestic needs. This has been costing the Iranians some $700 million a year. Recently China’s Sinopec signed a $2.7 billion deal with the National Iranian Oil Co. to build units producing high-grade gasoline at Abadan. Japan’s Marubeni Energy and JGC Corp. are in advanced talks over a separate deal to get involved, said Esfandyar Daemolzekr, head of the refinery. Omani, Qatari and Turkish companies are also discussing other investments in oil and gas projects. “This is the biggest foreign investment to start after the sanctions were removed,” Daemolzekr said. “The entire refinery will be renewed within the next four to five years.”

Syria/Iraq: Oil production dipped across Iraq in October by about 113,000 b/d, as the political and military conflict between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government took two major oil fields temporarily offline. Average total production for the country was 4.51 million b/d, according to an analysis of data gathered from each of the country’s producing fields – down more than 2 percent from 4.63 million b/d in September. The Iraqi Oil Ministry said last week that exports from southern ports set a record, but more work was needed to make up for losses from issues in the north of the country. The ministry said Basra recently sent out an average of 3.9 million b/d, the highest capacity ever reached there.

Iraq is exploring yet another option for moving oil from the Kirkuk oil fields that have been offline since Oct. 16, when federal military forces reclaimed them from the Kurdistan Regional Government. Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luiebi said Wednesday that the ministry is pursuing a project to rehabilitate and extend a 300,000 b/d pipeline southward from Kirkuk to feed refineries in Baiji and Baghdad. The Iraqis are also considering issuing a tender for rebuilding the old export pipeline from Kirkuk to Ceyhan, Turkey. Baghdad must feel that the defeat of ISIS makes the area secure enough to resume pipeline operations in the area.

The Iraqi Oil Minister said last Monday that the country would introduce significant changes to its next round of oil contracts. “The anticipated contracts with international oil companies represent an important step toward a new commercial model and financial terms that are different from the former contracts,” Luiebi said. In recent years the Iraqis have been famous for their oil contracts which only allow small profit for foreign oil companies. This policy has caused several large international oil companies to pull out. Reports emerged mid-September that Shell was looking to quit the Majnoon oilfield, but al-Luiebi claimed that negotiations between Baghdad and Shell over the field are ongoing and that it was not in talks with other companies. American Chevron and French Total have been eager to work on Majnoon. The field’s reserves are estimated at 38 billion barrels.

Saudi Arabia: The continuing detention of some 200 of Saudi Arabia’s richest citizens remains the top story in the country. The government has started to release detainees in return for their turning over assets acquired through graft to the state treasury. The government hopes to acquire some $300 billion in ill-gotten gains. The Saudis are also pressuring the Swiss banking community to turn over information on Saudi citizens hiding money in Switzerland.

The crown prince is now seen as offering a new policy to the youth of his country. He will relax the strict religious and social restrictions that have obtained in Saudi Arabia for decades in return for a complete lack of political dissent against the royal family. The policy has worked well in the UAE where no hint of political dissent is tolerated but social and religious rules are relatively relaxed. Women enjoy many rights denied to them in Saudi Arabia. An abundance of entertainment and shopping options keeps potential troublemakers busy.

Saudi Basic Industries Corp signed a preliminary deal to build a $20 billion complex to convert crude oil to chemicals. The project, which the partners said would be the largest crude-to-chemicals facility in the world is part of the Saudi government’s effort to diversify its economy beyond exporting crude. Private investment has slowed in the kingdom in the last few years due to low oil prices and government austerity, so Riyadh wants to develop manufacturing industries, including chemicals.

3.  China

The Chinese environmental cleanup is shifting its economy in unexpected ways and is stoking inflationary pressures that may soon be felt in supply chains worldwide. Chinese companies are scrambling to adapt to tighter regulation while investing in cleaner energy. In industries from steel to textiles and consumer goods, the resulting shakeout has left the survivors with far more pricing power.

Some northern Chinese cities failed to improve air quality last month, the government said, as it warned provincial officials to comply with stringent steps to clear the skies.  “Some cities did not improve air quality by much or even experienced some volatility, and in a way, they have dragged down the regional air quality level,” Ministry of Environmental Protection spokesperson, Liu Youbin, said last Thursday.

Oil prices could decline to $35 a barrel next year if China and India speed up the adoption of electric cars to cope with severe pollution, Steen Jakobsen, Chief Economist & CIO at Saxo Bank, said in an interview published on Wednesday. “I think down the road, this whole electrification which is a big issue in 2018 will really kick off.” India has a similar problem.  Through the turn of the current century, the US new-vehicle market was the world’s largest, and General Motors was for decades the world’s largest car company. Neither of those is still the case—and an increasing number of analysts, commentators, and industry executives have worried that the US may become less relevant to the future of automobiles in the 21st century.

China has issued crude oil import quotas for 2017 of 1.5 million tons to three independent refiners, a sign Beijing is easing its policy toward these companies sometimes known as teapots. This move may result in higher Chinese oil imports this month.

4. Russia

Russia plans to keep its oil production broadly unchanged at around 550 million tons per year, or 11 million barrels per day, until 2035, Moscow’s energy minister said in an interview last week. There are concerns that Moscow may have a hard time complying with the OPEC production freeze as production from the Sakhalin-1 project is set to rise by about a quarter to 250,000-260,000 b/d from January. The OPEC/non-OPEC production cuts hurt Russia’s economic growth in October, Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin said last week in the first negative comment about the pact from a high-ranking Russian official. Just after the pact was extended for the first time in May, it was Oreshkin who said that the deal was working and that Russia was “ready to live forever at oil prices $40 or below.”

A price range for crude oil of between $60 and $65 per barrel is a good point on which to base a budget, the head of Russian oil company Lukoil said Friday. Vagit Alekperov said that, for ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-members, the mid-$60 range was preferable for now. Revenue collected from the oil and natural gas industry is up 19 percent from last year, the federal tax director said last week. Total Russian crude oil production is up 1.8 percent from January.

Russia’s meteorological service said on Tuesday it had measured pollution of a radioactive isotope at nearly 1,000 times normal levels in the Ural Mountains, the first official Russian admission supporting Western reports that a nuclear incident had taken place. The data appears to back up a report by the French nuclear safety institute IRSN, which said on Nov. 9 a cloud of radioactive pollution over Europe indicated a leak had taken place at a nuclear facility either in Russia or Kazakhstan in the last week of September. So far Moscow has provided no details.

Denmark passed a law on Thursday that could allow it to ban Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from going through its waters. The measure allows the government to ban pipeline projects on the grounds of security or foreign policy. Previously, foreign and security policy issues were not valid grounds for regulators to ban pipelines in Danish territorial waters.

6. Venezuela

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said this week that PdVSA may retaliate against financial sanctions from the US by suspending oil exports to the country, sending crude to Asia instead. This seems highly unlikely, given that the US is one of its largest cash-paying customers. China is PdVSA’s largest customer in Asia, but it doesn’t receive payment for these shipments – it is using crude to pay off its vast debts instead. US imports of Venezuelan crude have been steady in recent years, averaging 773,000 b/d in 2014, 792,000 b/d in 2015 and 754,000 b/d in 2016. Steady flows make sense – not only because of the presence of Citgo refineries on the US Gulf Coast but because other Gulf Coast refiners are geared towards refining the heavy crude that Venezuela produces.

Exports this year, however, have dropped 20 percent below the 3-year average to 629,000 b/d. After normal imports during the first five months of the year, imports have dropped below 500,000 b/d in November. This is a result of falling Venezuelan production, which is now below 2 million b/d, a three-decade low. It also because US refiners have stopped buying from the state-run oil company due to both crude quality and credit issues.

President Maduro announced on Friday that more than 100 top officials of the state oil company PDVSA have been arrested on corruption charges, but he assured that there will be no “witch hunt” in the country’s main industry.  Last Thursday Venezuelan authorities arrested two former officials who had run the oil ministry and state energy company PdVSA. They were detained on accusations of graft and seeking to sabotage the nation’s ailing energy industry.  President Maduro named an active general to lead the state oil industry, the nation’s last major economic sector that had been outside the military’s control.

Venezuelan Attorney General Saab said the acting president and five directors of Citgo Petroleum Corp. tried to defraud the nation. American citizens were among the executives at Citgo Petroleum Corp. that the Venezuelan intelligence agency arrested, a development likely to exacerbate strains between Washington and Caracas.

The stare of Venezuela’s oil industry is dire. Until recently it has been held to together by foreign partners who now are finding it harder and harder to do business in the country.

7.  The Briefs (date of article in Peak Oil News is in parentheses)

Norway’s Statoil will continue to drill for oil in the Arctic Barents Sea next year even though its 2017 campaign was mostly disappointing. Statoil plans to drill between 25 and 30 wells in Norwegian waters during 2018; five or six are expected in the Barents, and the rest will be split between the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. (11/28)

Norway’s Statoil said Wednesday its Dudgeon wind farm off the British coast is now feeding the grid from its 67 6-MW wind turbines, with a combined capacity of 402 megawatts—enough to meet the energy demands of around 410,000 average households at peak. The project is part of the company’s strategy to develop from an oil and gas company to a broad energy major. Statoil plans to invest around $12 billion in renewable energy projects by 2030. (11/23)

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, is exiting the oil market—a fact that is sure to have shaken Big Oil to the core. Divesting $35 billion worth of supermajor stocks is no small thing. Opinions are divided on what this means for the industry. On the one hand, the divestment is all bad news for an industry that has only recently begun to recover from the heavy blow of the 2014 oil price collapse and is still vulnerable to price shocks. On the other hand, it shows the industry’s resilience to major shocks. (11/22)

In Denmark, energy company Maersk Oil said Friday it was moving ahead with a $3.3 billion effort to redevelop the offshore Tyra gas field, Denmark’s largest. When completed in 2022, company officials say production from the Tyra field itself has the potential to cover Danish gas consumption for a decade. (12/2)

Ministers from Egypt and Israel held a call last week to discuss the potential sale of Israeli gas to Egypt. Despite recent issues, Israeli gas exports to Egypt, which would be carried via pipeline, are still on the table. (11/27)

Saudi nuke bid: Toshiba-owned Westinghouse is in talks with other U.S-based companies to form a consortium to bid in a multi-billion-dollar tender for two nuclear power reactors in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia sent a request for information to reactor builders worldwide last month in a first step towards opening a formal tender. A nuclear newcomer, it wants to use atomic power to generate electricity at home so it can export more crude. (11/22)

Kazakhstan filed a $1.6 billion claim against foreign firms developing the Karachaganak gas condensate field in 2015. The Energy Ministry has said the row was over how each party’s share in the field’s output was calculated. Kazakhstan hopes to settle that long-running dispute in the coming weeks. (11/27)

State-owned Indian Oil Corp. and online transportation network company Ola said they took a “big leap” toward a greener India with the launch of the country’s first-ever electric vehicle charging station in Nagpur, the largest city of central India. (11/21)

Offshore Gambia, Australia-based FAR Ltd. said an audit of geotechnical data show the Samo and Bambo prospects off the coast of Gambia hold combined best estimate prospective reserves of 1.1 billion barrels. (11/22)

Offshore Brazil, French supermajor Total said production started at the pre-salt Libra field in the Santos basin, using infrastructure that could produce 150,000 barrels of oil per day. (11/28)

In Argentina, Norwegian energy company Statoil said it expanded its footprint by becoming the operator at an area near one of the world’s largest shale basins. The company said it was awarded a license in the Bajo del Toro Este area in the Neuquén basin, taking a 90 percent stake and serving as the operator. (12/1)

In Mexico, Pemex’s production and exports of crude oil increased in October. Crude output rose by 9.9 percent from the previous month to 1.902 million barrels per day (bpd) after suffering a sharp drop in September. Exports increased by 15.8 percent to 1.342 million b/d, the highest total since September 2016. Pemex’s crude output has been falling steadily since 2004, although an energy reform now underway is bringing billions of dollars-worth of fresh investment to the industry. Still, the results of that reform are expected to take years. (11/27)

In Canada, Exxon Mobil inaugurated the Hebron field in Newfoundland this week, just as OPEC gears up to announce extended cuts at its quarterly conference in Vienna at the end of the month. The field will produce 150,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak. (11/29)

The US oil rig count increased for the second straight week, growing by two to 749, according to Baker Hughes Inc. The increase came as crude prices traded near their highest levels since the summer of 2015 and as major oil producing countries extended a global deal to limit supply.  Gas rigs increased by 4 to 180.  The previous week, oil rigs increased by nine to 747 while gas rigs fell by one to 176.  (12/2 and 11/23)

US net oil imports, including crude and refined products, last week dropped to just 1.77 million barrels a day, the lowest level in data going back to 1990, the US Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday. That puts the country on track toward its lowest monthly imports since before the Arab oil embargo of 1973. Weekly net imports peaked in November 2005 at more than 14 million barrels a day. (11/30)

Gasoline exports: For the second year in a row, the US is on pace to become a net gasoline exporter once the year is over. The US EIA said last year was the first year that exports were higher than imports, with net gasoline exports averaging 56,000 barrels per day. (12/1)

Cumulative miles travel through September 2017 increased by 1.3 percent, or 31.4 billion vehicle miles, despite the impacts of major hurricanes Harvey and Irma, according to the US Dept. of Transportation. (11/21)

Holiday travel: Long-distance road trips increase by 54 percent around Thanksgiving, a huge number, especially when considering that the increase for Christmas is just 23 percent compared to the average for the rest of the year. The average mileage for these long-distance Turkey Day trips is a whopping 214 miles. Unfortunately, it’s looking like all those miles are going to add up to hefty tabs at the pumps this year; gas prices across the US are nearly 40 cents higher per gallon than they were at this time last year. (11/23)

Natural gas is gushing out of West Texas, a byproduct of frenzied drilling for oil. That is a problem for energy producers, who are running out of places to send it all. Pipelines running from the region’s Permian Basin to the Gulf Coast’s chemical plants, cities, and export terminals are essentially full. (11/21)

Big oil’s shale focus: oil majors that were slow to seize on shale are seeking further efficiencies by adapting technologies used in highly automated offshore operations to shale and pursuing advances in digitalization that have reshaped industries from auto manufacturing to retail. If successful, the US oil industry’s ability to bring more wells to production at lower cost could amp up future output and company profits. The firms could also frustrate the ongoing effort by OPEC to drain a global oil glut. (11/28)

ENI in Alaska: The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said, “achieving American energy dominance” moved a step closer with the approval of a permit for a US subsidiary of Italian energy company Eni to drill for oil from an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea starting in December. (11/30)

ANWR opened? Republicans aren’t advertising it, but a pro-growth bonus in the Senate tax cut bill is that it finally opens up a small part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil and gas drilling. Like the rest of the tax bill, Republicans can pass it with a GOP-only majority of 50. Or put to it another way, Lisa Murkowski’s ship has come in. (12/2)

…or maybe not: A quest by Republicans to open Alaska’s ANWR was slowed after a nonpartisan Senate official ruled late on Wednesday that the exploration was subject to environmental assessments by the Interior Department. (12/1)

In Washington state, a panel has rejected a project for the construction of an oil terminal at the port of Vancouver because the companies behind the project had failed to convince them that the site was acceptable. The project was conceived by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Cos. as a storage hub for oil transported by rail from North Dakota to the Washington coast, from where it will be loaded onto vessels that will take it to West Coast refineries. (11/30)

“Solar oil?” The Belridge oil field near Bakersfield, Calif., is one of the largest in the country. It has been producing oil for more than a century and last year produced about 76,000 barrels a day. Soon, its extraction operations will be partly powered by a massive solar energy project. (12/1)

Korean battery boost: Samsung Electronics has developed core battery technology using graphene to make lithium-ion batteries last longer and charge more quickly, a potential industry milestone if mass produced. The South Korean conglomerate said on Monday that its research arm has successfully synthesized “graphene balls” that can boost its battery capacity by 45 per cent and increase charging speed by five times the existing standards. (11/27)

Battery insight: American Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have now successfully observed with nano-scale precision how deposits form at the iron electrode during operation. A deeper understanding of the charging and discharging reactions is viewed as the key for the further development of this type of rechargeable battery to gain market maturity. Iron-air batteries promise a considerably higher energy density than present-day lithium-ion batteries. (11/27)

Global EV sales, of both battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, exceeded 287,000 units in the three months ended in September, 63 percent higher than the same quarter a year ago and up 23 percent from the second quarter, according to a report released Tuesday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. China accounted for more than half of global sales as its market for electric cars doubled amid government efforts to curb pollution. (11/22)

Driverless in 2019: General Motors aims to launch a public ride-sharing service across several cities that uses fully self-driving cars by 2019, potentially becoming the first traditional carmaker to deploy autonomous technology at scale in the real world. Describing self-driving cars as “the biggest thing since the internet”, the company said it expected to make profit offering rides to the public for as little as $1 a mile. (12/1)

Volvo Cars said it has agreed to supply Uber Technologies with a fleet of 24,000 self-driving taxis beginning in 2019—one of the first and biggest commercial orders for such vehicles. The deal between Volvo, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., and Uber was disclosed Monday as a framework agreement without financial terms. Such an order, though, would account for about 4.5% of Volvo’s current total sales. (11/21)

Tesla truck’s liability: One of Europe’s leading energy consultancies has estimated that Tesla’s electric haulage truck will require the same energy as up to 4,000 homes to recharge, calculations that raise questions about the project’s viability. (11/28)

In New York, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul announced at the recent American Wind Energy Association conference that it intends to develop 2.4 GW of offshore wind energy.  She said the commitment would generate thousands of in-state jobs. (12/1)

UK nukes: The UK’s ambitious program to build more nuclear-generating stations will begin with the massive Hinkley Point units. Yet, in a recent paper, Prof. Steve Thomas, a well-known energy economist in the UK, asked a question that had been on our minds, namely is it “Time to cancel Hinckley?” The timing of the paper and ensuing editorials coincided with record low prices for off-shore wind, £57.50 per MWh to be exact. The Guardian newspaper editorialized that this figure should “blow away the UK’s nuclear plans.” (11/30)

Sand and gravel are, by weight, the most-extracted materials on Earth. Sand is a key ingredient in concrete, glass, asphalt, electronics and oil and gas extraction. Sand is also essential in increasing land mass, moving the sand from one place to another. Because so little research into the negative effects of sand mining have been done on an international scale, it is hard to estimate the true impact sand mining has on the environment and populations, particularly in poorer countries. (11/21)

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