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Nuclear plants ‘to cost UK billions’

Dan Box and Dominic O’Connell, Sunday Times
A NEW generation of nuclear power stations could be built in Britain, but only if the UK government is prepared to throw billions of pounds worth of public money into the project, according to a leading economic think tank.

The report by Oxera, published tomorrow, concludes that the potential returns on investment in new nuclear power stations are too small to justify the risks for private companies. Unless the government provides them with huge capital grants or debt guarantees, the eight new nuclear power plants required would not be built by industry.
(26 June 2005)

Coal rush? Power project signals boom, debate

Associated Press
Wisconsin proposal opposed by environmentalists – and Illinois
OAK CREEK, Wis. – Environmentalists and the state of Illinois are lining up against a proposal to construct a mammoth coal-burning power plant on the shores of Lake Michigan, warning it will pollute the air and water across the Midwest and set off a “coal rush” to build more such projects around the country.
(24 June 2005)

US power plants could run short of coal

Steve James, Reuters
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Some U.S. power stations could run out of coal if a long hot summer pushes up demand at plants with already low stockpiles, the chief executive of the No. 2 U.S. coal producer said on Monday.

“I don’t think there’ll be blackouts but I think there’s a possibility in a hot summer that somebody could go very, very low on coal,” Arch Coal Inc. (ACI.N: Quote, Profile, Research) Chief Executive Steven Leer told the Reuters Energy Summit. Arch fuels approximately 7 percent of the electricity generated in the United States.

Coal inventories at many power stations are historically low, he said, and rail disruptions have delayed shipments of coal at a time when demand is soaring from higher oil prices.
(24 June 2005)

More power plants in Indonesia likely to be shut due to fuel shortage

JAKARTA, June 21 (Xinhuanet) — A 750-megawatt power plant in Grati, Pasuruan, East Java Province of Indonesia, stopped operation on Monday as it ran out of fuel stock, the Antara news agency reported on Tuesday.

As a result the Java-Bali interconnection will have a deficit of 658 MW in power supply and the stated-owned electricity company PLN will be forced to reduce power supply proportionally to various areas in Java and Bali island, including Jakarta.

Those areas will have their turn of blackout at peak load, PLN said.

Meanwhile, another gas and steam powered power plant in Tambak Lorok in Semarang, in Central Java province is also facing shortage of fuel supply and may have to stop operation unless the government could cope with the fuel shortage. The 1,000 MW power plant has fuel enough only until Wednesday.

Earlier Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantgoroi said the government would overcome the problem over fuel shortage.
(21 June 2005)

Natural Gas Cliff

Big Gav points to a Reuters article quoting the biggest “put the best face forward” big oil spokesman, CEO Lee Raymond of Exxon/Mobil, who realistically admits “Gas production has peaked in North America”.

The USA has gone over a peak once before, specifically pertaining to oil production in the early 70’s. However, because of the long tails of oil depletion, e.g. stripper wells producing for years beyond their prime, we can’t necessarily depend on the smooth glide path of the last 30 years. (smooth glide path? yes, see the following quote)
(26 June 2005)

Natural gas fuels a boom in Fort Worth

Howard Witt, Chicago Tribune via Seattle Times
FORT WORTH, Texas — Imagine a gold rush where nobody actually has to bother panning for gold, an oil boom without any unsightly oil wells and a lottery that pays out proceeds for a lifetime. Picture entire neighborhoods suddenly making out like Jed Clampett.

Think of all that, and you can come close to understanding the wild good fortune that has recently bubbled up under the feet of hundreds of thousands of residents in and around this north Texas city, which just happens to be located atop what experts predict could be the largest natural-gas field in the United States.
(27 June 2005)

Oil and gas rules ‘non-enforceable’ says Sierra report

James Vassallo, The Daily News (Canada)
A scathing new report is highlighting major flaws in [British Columbia’s] oil and gas laws.

Released yesterday, This Land is Their Land by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund explains that while industry revenues are booming, the B.C. government has failed to protect the environment and landowners’ rights. The audit gives B.C.’s laws an ‘F’ for failing to protect landowners’ rights.

“When I started this audit, I didn’t realize just how bad things are for these property owners,” said Tim Howard, Sierra Legal Defence Fund lawyer.

“B.C. landowners are at an enormous disadvantage, even compared to their counterparts in Alberta, where conflict between landowners and companies is growing fast.”

Companies in B.C. have the right to drill for oil and build pipelines on private lands, even when the property owners object. Landowners are not notified when oil and gas rights are sold from underneath them, and have no right to appeal an approval of a well site on their land. As well, sour gas wells — which can allegedly lead to a host of negative health effects — can be built as close as 80 metres from a family home, with no adequate emergency response plan for the neighbourhood.

There is also no compensation available for landowners should seismic surveys damage water wells or polluted waste is spread on their lands, said the report.
(24 June 2005)

Federal court allows less-stringent refinery rule
Thousands can skip costly upgrades to cut emissions

Miguel Bustillo, Los Angeles Times via SF Chronicle
A federal appeals court Friday largely upheld a Bush administration rule that allows thousands of power plants and refineries to avoid installing newer pollution control equipment when they modernize, rejecting arguments by California and 12 other states that the rule violated the Clean Air Act.

The mixed ruling — parts won praise from environmentalists, while others were cheered by industry groups — was the latest in a long legal and political battle over the federal government’s approach to cleaning up the nation’s oldest and dirtiest factories and power plants.
(25 June 2005)

Nuclear confusion

David Fleming, Prospect Magazine via Australian Financial Review
There are two things to be said for nuclear power. It is based on an energy process which does not produce carbon dioxide. And it is a way of generating energy which is not directly at risk from the looming scarcities affecting oil and gas. These two killer arguments tend to be conflated into one persuasive and rhetorical question: “What’s the alternative?”

There are arguments against it too, and most of them are well known. It is expensive and, without hefty government subsidy, offers little potential for profit. It leaks low-level carcinogenic wastes into the air and water. It produces high-level radioactive waste, requiring standards of treatment and storage which are seldom met. It produces the materials for nuclear proliferation. Its accidents can potentially devastate continents.

But there are two other arguments against nuclear power that are not so well recognised. The first is that nuclear power actually produces quite a lot of carbon dioxide: every stage in the process uses fossil fuels (oil and gas) – with the exception of fission itself. Uranium ore has to be mined and then milled to extract the uranium oxide from the surrounding rock; it has to be enriched; the wastes have to be processed and buried, safely; nuclear power stations have to be constructed, maintained and then eventually chopped into bits and stored away.

But it is the second argument which shocks: nuclear power depends on a supply of uranium ores from scarce, rich deposits, which face a depletion problem every bit as serious as that of oil and gas. That rich ore will soon no longer be available. The poorer grades of ore that would then have to be used take more energy to process than they yield.
(24 June 2005)
Other aticles by David Fleming in Energy Bulletin: After Oil and The Lean Economy: a vision of civility for a world in trouble.

Politics and Economics

Chavez warns petrochemical companies over contracts

Patrick Markey, Reuters
CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has warned private companies working with a state-run petrochemical company that he will end their contracts unless they give priority to domestic demand before exports.

The left-wing president’s tough line came as his government reviews foreign oil contracts to tighten control over the energy resources of world’s No. 5 petroleum exporter and help finance projects for the poor.
(26 June 2005)

Reading between the pipelines

Oliver Balch, The Guardian
Are policies adopted by energy firms exploiting Latin American resources sufficient to protect the continent’s indigenous peoples?
Presidents come and go in Bolivia. Eduardo Rodríguez, appointed earlier this month, is the country’s fifth head of state since 2001.

What doesn’t change, however, is the country’s position as Latin America’s poorest nation. Two other facts also merit note: it boasts the region’s largest indigenous population (62%) and it sits on the continent’s biggest gas reserves after Venezuela.

Put together they make for a volatile mix, and not just for politicians. Months of street protests and roadblocks ground much of the local economy to a halt, particularly around the capital, La Paz.
(27 June 2005)

‘Iran’s oil policy to be reviewed’

Iran’s president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that oil production and export deals in the world’s fourth-largest crude producer needed to be clarified.

“The country’s biggest capital today is the oil industry and our oil reserves,” the ultra-conservative Tehran mayor said in a radio address after winning presidential elections.

“The atmosphere ruling over our deals, production and exports is not clear. We should clarify it,” he added, without elaborating. Ahmadinejad also pledged that he would favour domestic companies in the awarding of future oil contracts.

Political analysts expect Ahmadinejad to make sweeping changes in the management of the state-run oil industry after repeated comments during the campaign in which he accused powerful “mafias” of monopolising oil revenues.
(26 June 2005)