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Japan utilities eye summer oil as LNG hits records

Ikuko Kao, Reuters
Japanese utilities may fire up more oil generators to meet peak summer demand if spot liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices, inflated by an unusually frigid winter and European outages, stay near record highs.

Soaring demand this winter has forced power firms in the world’s third-biggest energy consumer to increase oil purchases to the highest level in three years, with further spring buying seen as utilities restore depleted natural gas and oil stocks.
(22 Feb 2006)

World has bigger oil worries than size of reserves

“Production capacity over the next few years is more important than reserves,” said Sadad Husseini, a former top official at Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Saudi Aramco.

Controversy over alleged miscalculation of reserves resurfaced this year after a media report said OPEC producer Kuwait had only about half as much oil as officially stated and Kuwait stopped short of a robust denial.

Husseini put the size of Kuwait’s proven reserves at 48 billion barrels, compared with its official estimate of 99 billion, which he assumed also includes unproven reserves.

He said leading producer Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves estimate of 262.7 billion barrels was accurate. … “If accelerated depletion results in severe and rapid production drops, say within 10 or 15 years, that can’t be good for the global economy,” said Husseini.

“On the other hand, if reserves are left untapped for 30 or 40 years, the world will have moved on to other fuels and the remaining reserves may become irrelevant.” … “For me, the key question is not the reserves, but investment policies in the key producing countries,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist.

“If countries don’t invest, it doesn’t matter if they have one billion, or two billion or three billion barrels,” he said.

Despite Birol’s conviction the reserves’ size is not the overriding issue. The IEA is working, together with other institutions, to achieve more transparent data.

He admits the task is extremely difficult.
(21 Feb 2006)

Microorganisms key to ethanol production

Meredith MacKenzie, UPI
WASHINGTON — The secret to making ethanol production viable is invisible. Microorganisms such as yeasts and bacteria are being perfected as a way to ferment cellulosic material, like corn stalks or sawdust, into transportation-grade ethanol. The future, say scientists, is already here.

“There are no technical barriers to making ethanol from woody material today,” said Lonnie Ingram, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Florida.

Ingram said the goal of research like his is to make renewable energy from woody or cellulosic material such as sugarcane stalks, corn stalk and leaves, municipal grain waste, trimmings from trees moved for utility lines and debris from hurricane damage.

“These materials are typically buried in landfill. Why shouldn’t we make energy materials from that?” said Ingram. “Corn may not be the optimal crop and there’s certainly room for exploration.”

… “Pretty soon it will be a viable energy source,” she said of biomass ethanol. “But it’s a new industry and it takes time to become established.”

But, Ingram said, the best way to help battle U.S. energy addiction is conservation.

“We can make the biggest immediate difference in our consumption by conservation,” he said. “We won’t solve it by conservation alone, but we can do a better job using the materials we use today.”
(23 February 2006)

HighCountry special issue on energy

Various, High Country
The magazine High Country has several articles on energy, with an emphasis on the Western U.S. Most online articles are subscriber-only, but several are free:

The final energy frontier: The end of the oil and gas era may be in sight, but the current energy boom in the West means that a rough and wild ride is still ahead

Tapping into energy’s fringe: As companies drill for ‘unconventional’ natural gas, environmental impacts mount
(December 12, 2005 issue)
The November 28 issue also has some articles on energy, but they all seem to be subscriber-only.

Bush admits to ‘mixed signals’ regarding laboratory on renewable energy

Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times
President Bush acknowledged on Tuesday that his administration had sent “mixed signals” to the Department of Energy’s primary renewable energy laboratory here, where government budget cuts forced the layoff of 32 employees who were then hastily reinstated just before Mr. Bush’s visit.
(22 Feb 2006)

Alaska, energy firms agree on pipeline

AFX News Limited
Alaska has reached a tentative agreement with three of the world’s largest energy companies to build a new pipeline to transport natural gas from the North Slope to the lower 48 states, Gov, Frank Murkowski’s office said Tuesday.

The agreement with the North Slope’s major oil and natural gas operators – BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil was announced Tuesday by Murkowski, who brokered the deal.

When the pipeline is completed, no earlier than 2012, it could transport 4.5 billion cubic feet per day from the North Slope primarily to Chicago for distribution throughout the United States.
(22 Feb 2006)

We’re in for nasty weather – and no gas

Neasa MacErlean, Guardian
A severe fuel shortage is pushing prices up and threatening power cuts. Lay in the blankets until the huge supply surplus
Faced with gas price rises of up to 22% and average annual fuel bills climbing to more than £1,000 a year, UK householders might well be wondering when the increases are going to stop. At the current rate, average annual bills would top £2,000 by 2007.

In fact, a recent publication suggests prices may well fall beyond 2007. Energy prices, as with other commodities, revolve around supply and demand. Right now we are in the worst possible place, with supply only just meeting demand amid fears that a bout of bad weather in the next few weeks could lead to an energy deficit of up to 15%.
(12 February 2006)