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Sunday, 11 September 2011

Oil dealers must invest in storage, task force reports

An oil industry task force has identified storage capacity as a key missing link in ensuring the country’s long term energy security particularly now with the planned conversion of the Kenyan refinery into a merchant facility which buys and refines products for sale.

An oil industry task force has identified storage capacity as a key missing link in ensuring the country’s long term energy security particularly now with the planned conversion of the Kenyan refinery into a merchant facility which buys and refines products for sale. 
By Zeddy Sambu  (email the author)

Posted  Sunday, September 11  2011 at  21:31
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Oil dealers will in future be compelled to invest in storage tanks as part of new requirements for licensing, raising the bar for entry into the capital intensive industry.
An industry task force has identified storage capacity as a key missing link in ensuring the country’s long term energy security particularly now with the planned conversion of the Kenyan refinery into a merchant facility which buys and refines products for sale.
The refinery has since its establishment been running on a contract manufacturing model, where it refined products for a fee on behalf of other marketers.
“Independents can undertake such investments jointly. Two or more firms could join to develop one storage facility,” says the report by the task force that was appointed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
The task force was chaired by Silvester Kasuku and its report - Petroleum Industry in Kenya - released last month.
It also proposes that the government constructs new storage facilities at Mtito Andei, Taveta, Konza and Nanyuki to ease distribution of oil.
Also proposed is expansion of storage capacity in of Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu and Eldoret. There are 53 oil companies in Kenya, many of them single outlet operations that rely on tankers to replenish their stocks.
The refinery boasts more than half a million cubic metres of storage space whose availability to marketers will be restricted once it changes its business model.
“The biggest risk regarding refinery storage is if it gets withdrawn from the market completely during the upgrade, which would mean we need more storage for imports, and this would be urgent,” said industry consultant Mwendia Nyaga.
Currently, the refinery allows dealers without own network to keep their products at a fee of a $3 (about Sh270) per cubic metre per month.
Big firms with a network of storage tanks mainly in Mombasa and Nairobi charge $6 per cubic metre for the same duration.
The refinery’s storage charge is likely to be reviewed in January when market rates start defining the cleaner’s pricing. The scarcity of storage space amid surging demand is likely to push prices upwards.
“Only Nock and Gulf Energy have recently built plants but they are small,” said Peter Nduru, director for petroleum at the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
Gulf Energy’s terminal however is a truck loading facility that will rely on the Kenya Pipeline storage in Embakasi.
The Gulf depot has an installed capacity of 3 million litres plus 400 000 tonnes of while State-owned Nock’s Nairobi terminal has a capacity of 3.7 million litres per day.

Google Reveals the Numbers Behind Its Massive Hunger for Electricity, and Its Plan for the Future

Google recently revealed that their data centers and operations around the world consume a whopping 260 million watts, or roughly the equivalent of 200,000 homes in the United States. While that’s an enormous amount of electricity, it pales in comparison to the amount that Google wants to create from investments in renewable resources: 1.7 gigawatts. More than enough to impress Doc Brown. Yet neither Google’s massive hunger for power, nor their dedication to green energy may ultimately be as impacting as their third claim: that Google products are the most cost efficient and environmentally friendly choices for businesses. Does going green mean going Google? One thing is for certain: as the titan of search continues its phenomenal growth, they reveal that their strategy is just as ambitious as their scope.
That Google consumes as much electricity as 200,000 households is very impressive, and it gives you a sense of how truly enormous this company has become in the past decade. The New York Times (who originally reported the 260 megawatts figure) puts that power in perspective by stating that it is roughly equivalent to 1/4 of a nuclear power plant, though I would have said 1/2 of a typical coal burning plant. In any case, the message is clear: Google is consuming electricity on the level of a (not so) small nation.
In the past Google has been seemingly loathe to reveal its power needs for fear that it may give away too much about their inner workings and data center deployment. Apparently, however, those fears are no longer an issue, as Google’s official blog and the Google Green websiterevealed even more about their power needs and their plans for the future in a new section titled “The Big Picture“. On every level, Google’s Big Picture is showcasing how they are deploying innovative, future-minded strategies to secure their energy needs. To date they’ve invested $780 million in renewable energy resources, hoping to create 1.7 billion watts of electricity. That’s considerably more than they’ll need in the next few years (though who doubts they’ll eventually require as much if not more?). Google Green also mentions that 25% of their electricity came from renewable sources in 2010, a figure they hope to increase to 30% for 2011. (They’ve been a “carbon neutral” company since 2007, buying offsets to balance their non-renewable energy.) The Google Green site is awash in videos demonstrating new ways they improve efficiency in their data centers, many of which are too esoteric to appeal to a general audience. One idea, however, is too cool not to share. In Hamina, Finland Google uses a salt water cooling process to keep their servers chilly. Check out the setup in the video below:
The big numbers about electricity and the focus on renewable energy, however are hiding the quiet but potentially industry shifting claim that Google exceeds all expectations with their efficiency. At the individual consumer level (which is forefront on Google Green) Google tell us that providing a user with a month of Google products requires about as much energy as running a 60 watt light bulb for three hours (180 watt-hours). In case you don’t use old incandescent bulbs anymore, The Big Picture gives you plenty of other comparisons: a year of Gmail is equivalent to making one bottle of wine, 3 days of YouTube requires as much energy as to make just one DVD,etc.
Google energy efficiency
Google energy efficiency5
Dig deeper and you’ll find this amazing report, which describes how cloud-based products, like those offered by Google, represent an enormous increase in efficiency compared to in-house server solutions. In some cases, Google claims that Gmail is 80 times more efficient than traditional systems. 80 times! Even against their data center competitors, Google claims to be twice as efficient. Not only that, but they compound their efficiency with their renewable energy habits to show that the carbon footprint of their services is a small fraction compared to other solutions.
Google energy efficiency2From green energy to efficiency, Google’s message from these announcements is clear: “We not just using more power than you, we’re using it better.”
Which is a very powerful message. In the ongoing efforts to “go green” businesses are pursuing a variety of changes to improve their carbon emissions and their public image. Environmental consideration is big business. Google has essentially pulled that business into their laps. Why spend millions on innovating your electronic services when you can just switch to Google products? Products which, at least on a small business level, are essentially free.
Yeah. I know what I  did. I use Google products all the freakin’ time.
Looking forward, it seems clear to me that Google plans on being the best at what they do at every level of their business. Google is not only investing in new energy resources, it has secured the rights to buy and trade energy as well. They not only are pushing for greater efficiency, they are trying to attract more users with that efficiency…which will help them further increase their efficiency. They are collaborating with other groups with similar goals in energy to form networks that raise the bar and enable new technologies in the field. You can look at Google’s impressive energy consumption numbers and say, “wow, these guys are huge” or you can look at their strategy and realize, “my God, they are going to get astronomically larger”. Bottom line, Google wouldn’t have made a big deal of announcing these numbers if they didn’t have a lot to gain from their release. A green mentality, great efficiency, and gigawatts of future energy all add up to one thing: Google’s growth is going to be irresistible.

18 months away from Proof of feasibility Global Geo politics about to change

The National Ignition Facility:

Ushering in a New Age for Science

Hot Hohlraum
“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”
—John Dewey
Scientists have been working to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion and energy gain in the laboratory for more than half a century. Ignition experiments at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) are now bringing that long-sought goal much closer to realization.
NIF's 192 giant lasers, housed in a ten-story building the size of three football fields, will deliver at least 60 times more energy than any previous laser system. NIF will focus more than one million joules of ultraviolet laser energy on a tiny target in the center of its target chamber—creating conditions similar to those that exist only in the cores of stars and giant planets and inside a nuclear weapon. The resulting fusion reaction will release many times more energy than the laser energy required to initiate the reaction.
Experiments conducted on NIF will make significant contributions to national and global security, could lead to practical fusion energy, and will help the nation maintain its leadership in basic science and technology. The project is a national collaboration among government, academia, and many industrial partners throughout the nation.
Programs in the NIF & Photon Science Directorate draw extensively on expertise from across LLNL, including the Physical and Life Sciences, Engineering,Computation, and Weapons and Complex Integration directorates. This goal is a scientific Grand Challenge that only a national laboratory such as Lawrence Livermore can accomplish.

Edward Moses 
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Friday, 9 September 2011

Peel successful with biomass plans

Peel Energy Ince Biomass

9 Sep 2011, 16:44

Peel Energy has been granted consent for a revised application to build a biomass energy plant at Ince Marshes in Cheshire.
The proposed plant will be capable of producing 20MW of electricity as well as heat and steam. It will use around 175,000 tonnes of waste wood each year. The original consent was for a plant to produce bio-ethanol, an industrial alcohol produced by fermentation. Changes to regulation affected the market and made the scheme unviable, Peel said.
Jon Burley of Peel Energy said: "We would like to thank the council for giving the plans a fair hearing. We realise that applications like these are not easy. However, these are exactly the kind of decisions that are required if the UK is to meet its renewable energy targets and avoid valuable resources going into landfill.
"We are very pleased with the outcome and look forward to taking the project on to the next stage, ultimately delivering renewable energy and jobs for the region. We are also keen to continue our dialogue with community groups via the Ince Park Community Forum as we have done throughout the application process."
The two-year construction of the plant could begin in 2012 meaning that the plant would be making a substantial contribution to regional targets by 2014.
The plant would sit next to another energy-from-waste plant at Ince Marshes planned by Peel in a joint venture with US firm Covanta, with a 95MW capacity.

Solar Hype and Failure: A Long Story

Solar companies Solyndra of California, Evergreen Solar Inc. of Massachusetts, and SpectraWatt of New York have all filed bankruptcy petitions and face drastic restructuring if not liquidation. “There is a crisis in the solar manufacturing world…no question about it,” recently stated Ken Zweibel, director of the Solar Institute at George Washington University.The crisis transcends the companies in question. The underlying reality is that solar power is radically uneconomical against conventional electricity generation on the grid. Thus special government favor for short-term profits sets up the industry for longer-term failure when the subsidies dry up—or if other countries bait the same perilous hook and beat us at our own political game.

We should know that solar is not competitive by a long shot. As DOE secretary Chu told the New York Times last year, solar technology would have to improve five-fold to find its own way in the competitive world.

Here are some examples of the falseprognostications made by solar advocates:
Environmentalist and erstwhile presidential candidate Barry Commoner (1976):
Mixed solar/conventional installations could become the most economical alternative in most parts of the UnitedStates within the next few years.
The head of the Solar Energy Industries Association (1987):
I think frankly, the—the consensus as far as I can see is after the year 2000, somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of our energy could come from solar technologies, quite easily.
Cynthia Shea of the Worldwatch Institute (1988):
In future decades, [photovoltaic technologies] may become standard equipment on new buildings, using the sunlight streaming through windows to generate electricity.

Enron’s Misdirection

Back in 1994, the New York Times excitedly reported that solar’s competitive moment had arrived thanks to Solarex, the second largest U.S. manufacturer of photovoltaic cells, operated and half-owned by Enron.
The feature, complete with a photo of an Enron executive holding a panel up in a sunny sky, concerned a project in the southern Nevada desert that would be the largest in the country, generating enough electricity from sunlight to power the equivalent of a city of 100,000 people. It was expected to begin operating by year-end 1996.
The project came with a bang and ended without a whimper. Here is what I wrote about the “smoke-and-mirrors” project in my book Capitalism at Work (pp. 310-11):
Enron hoodwinked the public back in 1994, claiming that its proposed $150 million project could produce solar power “at rates competitive with those of energy generated from oil, gas and coal.”
A business-section feature in the New York Times, “Solar Power, for Earthly Prices: Enron Plans to Make the Sun Affordable,” reported Enron’s pledge to deliver power for $0.055 per kilowatt hour from a 100 megawatt solar farm in the Nevada desert within two years, comparable to the average cost of delivered electricity across the nation. Enron’s rate was unheard of, exceeding even the most optimistic estimates from environmental pressure groups. But it was highly contrived, depending on a raft of government subsidies, as well as questionable assumptions about financing, technology, and delivery schedules. The rate was also back-loaded, with compounded annual cost escalations for thirty years.
Still, the article described the enticing profit prospects of Enron’s advances. Two officials from the Clinton Administration’s Department of Energy were quoted. “This establishes the benchmark we want and restarts a stalled solar industry,” said the head of DOE’s photovoltaic section. Deputy Secretary William White (aka Bill White, one of Enron’s last defenders [and later Houston’s mayor from 2004 through 2009]) stated his intention to try to help make the economics of the project work.
But the smoke-and-mirrors project was too much for the Clinton Administration—and even for Enron, despite a suite of special subsidies. It languished and quietly died. Nevertheless, it was a heady PR moment for a politically correct company and a credulous press that either did not know or did not report the whole story.
Don’t expect false hopes to disappear. The European solar lobby is now predictingthat solar will be cost competitive by 2020.
But the failed past of solar informs the present, and Obama’s new push for “green” energy should be judged accordingly. Although stand-alone solar power has a certain free-market niche and does not need government favor, using solar power for grid electricity has been and will be an economic loser for ratepayers and a burden to taxpayers.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

End of cheap Coal

World energy policy is gripped by a fallacy — the idea that coal is destined to stay cheap for decades to come. This assumption supports investment in ‘clean-coal’ technology and trumps serious efforts to increase energy conservation and develop alternative energy sources. It is an important enough assumption about our energy future that it demands closer examination.
There are two reasons to believe that coal prices are likely to soar in the years ahead.
First, a spate of recent studies [1–5] suggests that available, useful coal may be less abundant than has been assumed — indeed that the peak of world coal production may be only years away. One pessimistic study [1] published in 2010 concluded that global energy derived from coal could peak as early as 2011.

Second, global demand is growing rapidly, largely driven by China. Demand rose modestly in the 1990s (0.45% per year), but since 2000 it has been surging at 3.8% per year. China is both the world’s biggest producer of coal (40% of global production) and its biggest consumer. Its influence on future coal prices should not be underestimated.
Economic shocks from rising coal prices will be felt by every sector of society. Better data on global coal supplies is long overdue and energy policies that assume a bottomless coal pit need rethinking urgently.
Forecasting future supplies of coal is a murky business, largely because of the unreliability of national estimates. China claims that it has enough coal to fuel its growing economy at current rates. According to data collected in the 2000–10 national resource survey by the China’s Ministry of Land and Resources, the country’s proven reserves of coal total 187 billion tonnes, the second-largest reserves after the United States. For China, that is about 62 years’ worth of coal — at 2009 rates of consumption (roughly 3 billion tonnes a year). This simple ‘lifetime’ calculation is popular with industry and politicians but it can generate a false sense of security over the actual state of reserves.
‘Proven recoverable reserves’ are estimates of the national coal resources that geologists believe are technically and economically feasible to mine. New mining technology and higher coal prices could, in principle, increase the size of those reserves. But the overwhelming global trend, as revealed by national coal surveys over the past few decades, is for the size of countries’ estimated reserves to shrink as geologists uncover restrictions — such as location, depth, seam thickness and quality — on the coal that can be practically extracted.
For example, both German and South African reserves have fallen by more than one-third between 2003 and 2008. The first British coal survey, in the nineteenth century, suggested that the nation had enough coal to last 900 years. The current reserves lifetime is only 12 years [6], and the British coal industry is a tiny fraction of its former size. Similarly, the first official US coal survey, in the early twentieth century, suggested that the country had enough coal for 5,000 years. That estimate shrank to about 400 years in 1974 and stands at 240 years today. There are exceptions to this trend: estimates of reserves in Indonesia and India have grown. However, in aggregate, estimates of global coal reserves have dropped at a faster rate in recent years than can be accounted for by mining alone.

China’s reserves were last surveyed in the early 2000s, and the US reserves in the 1970s. China does not possess, as the United States does, vast deposits of surface-minable coal. More than 90% of China’s coal comes from underground mines that can be as much as 1,000 metres deep, presenting increasing engineering challenges. We strongly suspect that the current reserves figures are too optimistic. The coal is certainly there, but — like the majority of coal elsewhere in the world — most of it is probably destined to stay put. One way to estimate future production is to look at past production trends. This method was pioneered by geophysicist King Hubbert, who used 1950s data from the US oil industry to predict that US oil production would peak in the early 1970s. It did. Hubbert production profiles plotted over time assume the shape of a distorted bell curve, with a short peak and gradual decline (see graphic). Applying Hubbert analysis to coal, Chinese academics Tao and Li [7] forecast in 2007 that China’s production will peak and begin to decline long before the simple 62-years estimate, perhaps as early as 2025. During and after the period when production peaks, resource quality will dwindle and mining costs will rise, pushing up coal prices, as is already beginning to happen with Asia-Pacific coal.
Tao and Li used the Chinese government’s latest official reserves figure of 187 billion tonnes to arrive at their peaking date between 2025 and 2032. Other forecasts are more pessimistic. A 2007 forecast3 by the Energy Watch Group, based in Berlin, used a reserves figure of 114.5 billion tonnes (reported by China to World Energy Council in 1992) to forecast a peak of production in 2015, with a rapid production decline commencing in 2020. Analogous concerns raised in 1998 about the end of cheap oil [8] proved prescient. The price of oil has grown substantially since then, as have the costs of finding and extracting new supplies. The current price of more than US$80 per barrel is about three times higher than the upper range in official forecasts for 2010 that were being issued in the late 1990s [9]. New technologies have made marginal oil reserves accessible, but deepwater drilling and oil-sands production entail high costs and risks.
Similarly, new technology — underground coal gasification — may eventually make marginal coal reserves accessible, but it will take time and substantial investment to commercialize on a large scale. Meanwhile, the world’s highest-quality and most-accessible coal reserves are disappearing as demand for the fuel grows.

Coal consumption is accelerating fast, notably in China (see graphic). This renders meaningless reserves-lifetime figures calculated on the basis of flat demand. A 2009 report from China’s Energy Research Institute forecast that coal demand would rise by 700 million to 1 billion tonnes by 2020, reducing the reserves lifetime to about 33 years. If coal demand grows in step with projected Chinese economic growth, the reserves lifetime would drop to just 19 years [10].
China has few options for reducing its reliance on coal. It uses coal in many more industries than the United States, where coal mostly fuels power generation. About half of China’s coal provides 80% of the country’s electricity supply; another 16% supplies the coke for its iron and steel industry, the largest in the world. Hundreds of millions of people in northern China consume another 6% for their winter heat supply. The remaining 28% is primarily used in industries such as cement, non-ferrous metals, and chemicals. Although China is rapidly expanding its supply of natural gas, to replace just the coal used for heating would double its total gas consumption.
Urbanization is also driving demand for coal. Less than half of China’s population now lives in cities (compared with 80% for the United States and the European Union). To improve living conditions and opportunities for its citizens, the government wants the urban population to grow by 350 million people over the next 15 years, all of whom will require infrastructure such as housing, energy, transport, water supply and waste treatment. This will necessitate a steady supply of building materials such as cement, steel, aluminium and copper, all of which depend on coal for their production. Over the next decade, economic growth and urbanization are expected to use at the very least 700 million tonnes of coal — assuming that aggressive energy-efficiency and alternative-energy targets are also met [7].
Can China go elsewhere for its coal? The United States has the world’s biggest reported reserves, but almost all its current production — 1 billion tonnes — is used domestically. The biggest exporters of coal, Australia, Indonesia and South Africa, have much smaller reserves and production rates — some 250 million to 400 million tonnes a year. In 2008 the entire seaborne trade in steam coal (mainly used by power plants) amounted to about 630 million tonnes. Although this could grow (Australia, Russia and Indonesia are expanding capacity), growth will be limited, and prices pushed up, by the need to construct mines, railways and ports.
Russia has large but mostly undeveloped coal resources in Siberia. They are not located near demand centres, and rail transport of coal is expensive (which is why the largest exporters are coastal and trade is waterborne). Nevertheless, Russia could export Siberian coal to China more easily than to Europe, especially if China helped to build the railways.
China alone could absorb all current Asia-Pacific exports with just three years of import growth at current rates. Because other countries in the region also depend on coal imports, China clearly cannot take all, but competition for imports drives up prices. And then there’s India, where imports are expected to nearly double to 100 million tonnes by 2012. India is one of the few countries to revise its reserves estimates upwards in recent years, but its higher-quality reserves are limited and it is importing increasing quantities.
The inevitable result of soaring demand and dwindling supply will be rising coal prices globally, even in nations that are currently self-sufficient in the resource.
The poor quality of coal data globally means that uncertainty clouds every forecast. Even in the technologically advanced United States — the ‘Saudi Arabia of coal’ — most experts rely on decades-old coal surveys. These are commonly interpreted as indicating that the nation has a coal supply with a 250-year lifetime. This figure is not reliable enough for strategic energy planning.
In terms of energy output, US coal production peaked in the late 1990s (volume continued to increase, but the coal was of lower energy content). In 1995 the US Geological Survey (USGS) promised a new national coal survey, but it has not been seen as a high priority by that organization or by Congress. The most recent surveys [11],[12] of two key mining regions show rapid depletion of high quality reserves. There is still an enormous amount of US coal, but whether future energy production can be increased is doubtful, even taking into account new mining areas in Montana, Alaska and the Illinois basin.
At the very least, the USGS should urgently complete a new national coal survey. And it is essential for the security of energy supplies globally that Chinese domestic coal production and the timing of its likely decline is better understood.
We believe that it is unlikely that world energy supplies can continue to meet projected demand beyond 2020. Therefore, new limits on energy consumption will be essential in all sectors of society — including agriculture, transportation and manufacturing — and will be imposed by energy prices and shortages if they are not achieved through planning and policy.
Supply limits also have implications for the development of clean-coal technology. Also known as carbon capture and storage (CCS), clean coal is one proposal for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions while growing energy supplies. Because maintaining economic growth while cutting coal out of the energy equation globally will be difficult, and because nearly everyone assumes that coal will remain cheap far into the foreseeable future, the idea is to keep the carbon dioxide produced by burning coal from going into the atmosphere.
There are two hitches: the difficulty of scaling up such an enterprise, and its effect on electricity prices. As many analysts have noted, the scale and cost of clean-coal infrastructure will be vast [13]. Energy analysts agree that this will boost the price of electricity, but the scheme could work if coal prices remain low. If they don’t, building new coal plants — conventional or clean — makes little economic sense, except to replace ageing inefficient infrastructure.
Nations should immediately begin to plan for higher fossil-fuel prices and to make maximum possible investments in energy efficiency and renewable-energy infrastructure. Even then the world will have to accept a slowdown in economic growth.
Richard Heinberg and David Fridley are at the Post-Carbon Institute in Santa Rosa, California 95404, USA. \
Heinberg is the author of nine books, includingBlackout: Coal, Climate, and the Last Energy Crisis, The Party’s Over, Peak Everything, and the soon-to-be-released The End of Growth. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s most effective communicators of the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels.
David Fridley: Since 1995, David Fridley has been a staff scientist at the Energy Analysis Program at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. He is also deputy group leader of Lawrence Berkeley's China Energy Group, which collaborates with China on end-user energy efficiency, government energy management programs, and energy policy research. Mr. Fridley has nearly 30 years of experience working and living in China in the energy sector, and is a fluent Mandarin speaker. He spent 12 years working in the petroleum industry both as a consultant on downstream oil markets in the Asia-Pacific region and as business development manager for Caltex China. He has written and spoken extensively on the energy and ecological limits of biofuels.
This article was Originally published November 18, 2010 in Nature Vol 468. Republished with permission.
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