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Sweden goes for green as Nordics mull energy future

Simon Johnson, Reuters via Common Dreams
Twenty years after Sweden alerted the world to the meltdown at Chernobyl, it aims to phase out nuclear power and end dependency on fossil fuels, putting the country in the vanguard of green energy policy.

With soaring oil prices, rising demand, uncertain supply and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, energy is in focus and the European Union is calling for coordinated policy.

But the Nordic region — united by history, a shared concern for the environment and a harsh climate which puts heavy demand on power — is divided on energy, not least nuclear power.

…It now aims to break with fossil fuels by 2020, when it also wants greenhouse gas emissions, blamed by many for global warming, cut by 25 percent against 1990 levels.
(21 April 2006)

Coal-to-diesel breakthrough could cut oil imports

News service, Rutgers State University
Professor Alan Goldman and his Rutgers team in collaboration with researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have developed a way to convert carbon sources, such as coal, to diesel fuel.

This important advance could significantly cut America’s dependence on foreign oil – what President Bush called “an addiction” in his 2006 State of the Union address. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, our 286 billion tons of coal in the ground translate into energy reserves 40 times those of oil. Diesel engines provide the power to move 94 percent of all freight in the U.S. and 95 percent of all transit buses and heavy construction machinery, consuming approximately 56 billion gallons of diesel fuel per year.

Goldman explained that the breakthrough technology employs a pair of catalytic chemical reactions that operate in tandem, one of which captured the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. This dynamic chemical duo revamps the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process for generating synthetic petroleum substitutes, invented in 1920 but never developed to the point of becoming commercially viable for coal conversion.

“I study catalysts, the little molecular machines that control chemical reactions. With our new catalysts, one can generate productive, clean burning fuels economically and at unsurpassed levels of efficiency using Fischer-Tropsch,” said Goldman, a professor in the department of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers.

The work grew out of a National Science Foundation-funded research consortium, the Center for the Activation and Transformation of Strong Bonds, based at the University of Washington.

Fischer-Tropsch yields a wide distribution of molecular weight hydrocarbon products but without any way to control the desired mix. The low-weight and the high-weight Fischer-Tropsch products are useful – the light as gas and the medium-heavy as diesel fuel, Goldman explained.

“The problem – the greatest inefficiency of the process – is that you also wind up with a substantial quantity of medium-weight products that are not useful and you are stuck with them,” Goldman said. “What we are now able to do with our new catalysts is something no one else has done before. We take all these undesirable medium-weight substances and convert them to the useful higher- and lower-weight products.”
(April 2006)

Energy news from Australia

The big squeeze – effect of oil prices on business (The Age)

Now is the time to prepare for oil-scarce future (The Age)

Oil price increase prompts inflation fears (ABC)

As always, Big Gav supplies energy news from an Australian angle. (today’s offering.)

(2X April 2006)

Gulf production: plenty of repairs still to go

Jim Kennett, Bloomberg (via Houston Chronicle).
19 Apr 2006 by g Archived on 22 Apr 2006.
Six weeks before this year’s hurricane season begins in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil and gas industry is far from finished repairing the damage done by last year’s storms.

Divers have yet to inspect half of the platforms hit by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Dennis. Some crews that are usually available to fix platforms and oil rigs are permanently shutting smaller wells that aren’t worth restoring.

“Repair and assessment operations are going on as we speak and the hurricane season is just around the corner now,” said Eugene Kim, a senior energy analyst at Wood Mackenzie in Houston. “Resources are already stretched to the limit.”

About 22 percent of Gulf oil production and 13 percent of gas production is still out of service, according to a government report Wednesday. Concern that the storm season, running from June to November, may bring further disruption helped push oil prices to records this week.

“We just have to basically hope that we don’t have a hurricane come back into the Gulf of Mexico this summer,” said Matt Simmons, founder of Simmons & Co. in Houston, an oil and gas industry investment bank. “We haven’t fixed yet, by any stretch of the imagination, everything that got broken.”

About 1,500 offshore platforms have yet to be assessed for underwater damage because of shortages of divers and boats, said Caryl Fagot, a spokeswoman in New Orleans for the U.S. Minerals Management Service.
(19 April 2006)

Qatar to boost oil output, plans investment abroad

Reuters via Trade Arabia
Opec producer Qatar is expanding its oil output capacity and looking at energy investments abroad after spending the last decade tapping its natural gas reserves, the world’s third largest.

The country’s gas sector has seen meteoric growth, with output expected to hit around 25 billion cubic feet a day by 2011, a decade earlier than planned, from a current 11 billion.

Now Doha is reviewing reserves at its North gas field, the world’s biggest, and future projects will have to wait until the study on how to maintain sharply increased output is completed.

Oil Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah has said Qatar — which aims to triple LNG production to 77 million tonnes by 2010 — wants to avoid damaging its gas reserves and to book them to expand long-term sales contracts after terms end.
(22 April 2006)
Related story from Zee News.

Comments from submitter DD:

Summary – After over a decade in mega investments in natural gas (LNG, GTL, Petrochemicals etc) Qatar is now reviewing its reserves. Interestingly last year Qatar cancelled/delayed two proposed NG projects.

Reading between the lines, they appear worried. That they are setting up an Qatar Petroleum International to expand its “energy portfolio” by investing abroad appears they now have a longer term view.

For those who think LNG is a solution to PO think again – Where is the LNG going to come from? The rapid expansion in the use of gas in OPEC and Arab states means that previous exporters are now importers e.g. Dubai, while even those with large reserves will be importers e.g. Abu Dhabi via the Dolphin Project from Qatar.