Peak Oil Review Dec 26 2017

December 26, 2017

Quote of the Week

“We haven’t seen anything like this since the 1940s. The discovered volumes [of oil worldwide] averaged at ~550 million barrels of oil equivalent per month. The most worrisome is the fact that the reserve replacement ratio in the current year reached only 11% (for oil and gas combined) – compared to over 50% in 2012 and 100% in 2006. [Additionally] Low resources per discovered field can influence its commerciality. Under our current base case price scenario, we estimate that over 1 billion boe discovered during 2017 might never be developed.”
Sonia Mladá Passos, Senior Analyst at Rystad Energy

Graphic of the Week

Roughly two-thirds of the world’s oil that is shipped by sea starts out by exiting the Strait of Hormuz.  However, some of that oil also passes through other potential pinch points of geopolitical vulnerability.

1.  Oil and the Global Economy

Last week started with a combination of the North Sea pipeline outage and a strike by Nigerian oil workers pushing prices up. In the background is the steady decline in world oil stocks that has convinced many that the oil glut will soon be over, and the steady increase in US shale oil production which has a few predicting that another price plunge is coming soon. The Nigerian oil strike was quickly settled, and by week’s end it seems that the North Sea pipeline outage will be at least partially repaired by early January.  Prices moved up slowly after closing Monday at $58.35 in New York and $65.04 in London.

On Wednesday, the EIA reported that crude stockpiles fell by 6.5 million barrels the week before last, exceeding both analyst expectations and even a 5.2-million-barrel decline estimated by the API on Tuesday. The decline came in stark contrast to the five-year average of a 2.2-million-barrel build for this time of year.  Analysts say the decline was largely because of refiners’ increased production. Gasoline stockpiles rose by 1.2 million barrels and distillate stockpiles increased by 800,000 barrels. This increase in oil products may weigh on prices in the future.

At this time of the year, there is always much discussion as to where oil production and prices have been in the past year and where they are going in 2018. A recent study draws some interesting conclusions. Non-OPEC oil production less Russia, Canada, and the United States has been in decline since 2004. The decline rate is about 250,000 b/d per year. While the US oil production increase of 6 million b/d since 2007 is credited for the price slump, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Canada, added another 6 million b/d of oil production during the period.

While OECD oil consumption has been nearly flat for many years, non-OECD consumption has been increasing by an average of 800,000 b/d each year since 1996.

Assuming there are no major geopolitical upheavals between now and 2025, a reasonable projection of what might happen in the future could look like this: US conventional oil production will continue to decline; US shale oil production will grow as long as the Permian Basin holds out; Russian production will remain about the same; expensive Canadian tar sands production will grow slowly; other non-OPEC production will continue to decline by about 250,000 b/d each year as depletion takes its toll.

Assuming Iraq does not fall apart in the next seven years, its oil production could increase by 2 million b/d in the next few years – even more, if all goes well. For the rest of OPEC, depletion will start to set in causing a slow decline in average OPEC production of 300,000 b/d each year.

Trying to net all this out over the next few years is likely to be off the mark, but if non-OECD demand, especially from India, continues to increase at over 1 million b/d each year, shortages, and of course higher prices which would cut demand, could develop in the early 2020’s.

For the year ahead, some analytical firms say they are “increasingly confident’ that the oil markets will remain undersupplied in the coming year and that global inventories will fall to the five-year average by next summer. This is largely based on the extension of the OPEC-Russian production cut through 2018 and the inability of US shale oil production to grow fast enough to make up for the shortages.

As usual, forecasts are mixed. Barclays expects that WTI oil prices will fall back into the mid-$50s by next summer as US shale oil production increases by 1 to 1.2 million b/d over the next year.

The OPEC Production Cut: Talk about an exit strategy from the OPEC-Russian production cut is on the rise. Most countries recognize that the sudden dumping of 1.8 million b/d or more on the oil markets would be disastrous for oil prices so that some reasonable phase-in of the missing production is necessary. If prices rise too high, too quickly, there is a danger that demand could suffer. Last week, Goldman’s suggested that the global oil surplus could come to an end much sooner than expected forcing OPEC to end the production cap sometime around mid-year. According to a Goldman’s spokesman, “The oil re-balancing continued its progress through November,” driven by factors including “stellar”’ demand growth, bank analysts including Jeffrey Currie said. “Global inventories will have re-balanced by mid-2018, leading to a gradual exit from the cuts.”

US Shale Oil Production: Discussion of what will happen to US shale oil production next year rolls on unabated. With numerous factors bearing on this issue, it is mostly a question of what will have the most impact. If the EIA is anywhere near correct, shale oil production is growing rapidly. The EIA says average US daily oil production hit 9.78 million b/d in the second week of December and shale oil production is on course to hit 6.4 million b/d in January, an increase of 94,000 b/d from December. New numbers suggest that there has been a marked increase in the amount of oil hedged by oil drillers during the recent price increase. This action may enable shale oil drillers to keep increasing production in the coming year, even if prices drop.

Despite concerns that the bulk of shale oil drilling has been unprofitable for the last ten years, recent discussions with knowledgeable financiers by Reuters suggest that the Wall Street spigots are still open. “If you’ve got the rocks, you can get the money,” is the refrain being heard. Private equity is taking on a larger role in the shale industry as traditional banks pare back lending.

According to the Wall Street Journal, investors have funneled $200 billion to private equity firms that have had a focus on energy since 2014.  Some believe that while shale oil may be a losing proposition in the short term, the lack of new oil discoveries in recent years is a strong indication that oil prices will be much higher in the next decade.  This could make investments in shale oil profitable in the long run provided the companies one invests in do not go bankrupt in the short run.

Overshadowing all the optimism is the rapid fall in production rates from shale oil wells and the recent concentration on drilling mostly in “sweet spots” to maintain and increase production. Most observers believe that these “sweet spots” will only be productive for a few more years at most, after which profitable shale oil production at prices below $100 a barrel becomes a very dubious proposition.

2.  The Middle East & North Africa

Iraq: Iraq’s oil ministry says it has started to take over operations of Majnoon oilfield from Shell and plans to lift output in future. The ministry also said it plans to increase output from Majnoon to 400,000 b/d from the current 235,000 b/d in “coming years” without giving a precise timeline.

Most of the news this week concerns the dire state that the Kurds have fallen into after being driven out of the Kirkuk oilfields by Baghdad’s forces. Kurdistan’s Cabinet is enforcing new cuts to the salaries of its armed forces as part of the austerity measures to cope with the financial crisis that has recently deepened due to a loss in oil revenues. As a result of the austerity measures, violent protests broke out across Kurdistan last week protesting the regional governments handling of the independence referendum in September that resulted in a precipitous decline in the region’s fortunes and a large decline in revenues.

The Kurds are warning that federal Iraqi security forces are preparing to launch a new offensive, which could spark a battle for control of the Khurmala Dome of the Kirkuk oil field. So far, the Kurds have pulled back in the face of superior Iraqi forces.

Saudi Arabia: The government reported that its GDP shrank 0.5 percent in 2017 due to a drop in crude production, as part of the 2016 Vienna production cut agreement, and lower oil prices. The last time the Saudi economy contracted was in 2009 when GDP fell 2.1 percent after the global financial crisis sent oil prices lower. Riyadh also posted a higher-than-expected budget deficit in 2017 and forecasted another shortfall next year for the fifth year in a row due to the drop in oil revenues: the finance ministry said it estimates a budget deficit of $52 billion for 2018.

Saudi Aramco has appointed US investment bank Citi to lead a $2 billion financing backed by Britain. The loan is relatively small and will not be particularly lucrative, but is seen as a way of getting closer to securing work on Aramco’s planned initial public share offer, which may value the company at an unrealistic $2 trillion.

A missile fired at Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh was shot down moments before it hit a royal palace. This is the second Iranian supplied missile fired at Riyadh further damaging relations between the two countries. If one of these missiles succeeds in doing substantial damage to the Saudi capital there is no telling where this confrontation could go. Some 17 million b/d of the world’s oil supply pass through the waters between the two countries each day. Just one sunk oil tanker would almost certainly lead to a different world order.

Saudi Aramco is holding talks to buy a stake in a US company and has inquired about acquiring assets in the Permian and the Eagle Ford shale oil basins. Aramco is not producing oil or gas outside of Saudi Arabia so that the purchase of oil and gas assets in the US would mark a major shift for the Saudi oil industry which has been seeking to diversify while it still has the chance.

The Saudis will hold talks with the US administration within a few weeks about the participation of US nuclear energy companies in the Kingdom’s first civilian nuclear energy project. Saudi Arabia should not forfeit its “sovereign” right to enrich uranium under its planned civilian nuclear program, especially as world powers have allowed Iran to do so, a senior Saudi prince told Reuters last week.

Libya: Libya’s General Haftar—the man largely responsible for freeing up Libyan oil production after two years—is hinting that he may run for elections and upset the fragile political balance. General Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA) and allied with the Eastern government, said that Libya’s U.N.-backed government is obsolete.  This is being interpreted as Haftar planning to run in the country’s next elections.

OPEC’s production cut extension sparked talk about whether Libya, so far exempt from cuts, would reach its 1.25-million-barrel production target by the end of 2017. The country is currently producing around 1 million b/d. It seems unlikely that the country could increase production by another 250,000 b/d in the near term.

3.  China

The natural gas shortage was still the top energy story in China last week. New gas-fired boilers have been installed across much of northern China as part of an ambitious gasification program under which millions of households, and some industrial users, are switching from coal to natural gas for heating as Beijing tries to clean the tainted air. The problem is that there is still not enough natural gas to fire all the new furnaces and many are going cold. Hebei province, for instance, has converted 2.3 million households to gas, far above the target for 1.8 million households.

Executives from major gas suppliers Sinopec and PetroChina told Reuters inadequate communication between government officials and producers over the number and type of projects has caused them to underestimate the pace of the gas expansion program this year.  In early spring, one Sinopec official estimated that nationwide gas demand could rise as much as 30 billion cubic meters this year versus a consensus estimate of less than 15 billion.  CNPC, the country’s largest producer, estimated in December 2016 that gas consumption would grow 5.9 percent in 2017. Instead, demand rose 19 percent in the first 11 months.

Executives at gas producers said they are struggling to construct more storage facilities, which take millions of dollars and five to six years to build.  The AP reports that Chinese authorities have commandeered supplies of natural gas to heat homes, disrupting supplies to industry. Utility companies in areas throughout China have reduced or cut off gas supplies to factories and other industrial customers.

Chinese natural gas consumption surged through the first 11 months of 2017, up 19 percent year-on-year. China is the third largest consumer of natural gas in the world, behind the US and Russia, and is expected to show the strongest demand growth over the coming decades—propelling it to second place by 2040.

This situation will sort itself out in a few years and will likely lead to higher LNG prices as China imports increasing quantities of gas. In the meantime, GDP growth is likely to take a hit.

4. Russia

Economic relations between Moscow and Beijing continue to strengthen as the two find mutual advantage in their current situations. Moscow is a country in economic decline which still has large reserves of natural resources. As Russian geopolitical machinations in Europe and the Middle East have damaged its trade relations with the West, it has increasingly turned to China for markets and badly needed investments. As China’s oil production falters, and its need to reduce coal burning is becoming critical, Beijing is willing to take as much gas and oil, along with other minerals from Siberia, as it can get.

Moscow is busy trying to figure out ways to get around the US and EU sanctions. The best way to do this is to use Chinese investment or equipment for new oil and gas projects.  Italy’s Eni and Rosneft are using the Scarabeo 9 ultra-deepwater rig to drill in water more than 6,000 feet deep in the Black Sea. It’s the first well drilled by a western company at a Russian oil project that falls under US sanctions imposed in 2014.  The oil rig was built mostly in China and drilled its first well in Cuba.

5. Nigeria

As has been normal in Nigeria for many years, the strike last week by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) was called off after 24 hours settling the crisis once again. The end of the strike has done little to end the fuel shortages that have plagued the country for the last few weeks.

Gasoline shortages have brought Nigeria to a standstill many times in the last few years through day-long queues for fuel and widespread power cuts at businesses that rely on gasoline-driven generators to withstand frequent power outages. Last week Nigeria’s state oil firm said it has more than doubled the daily supply of fuel for motorists to 80 million liters, amid a run on gasoline that has seen queues lasting hours at filling stations around the country. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation attributes the shortage to rumors of a planned increase in gasoline prices that led to hoarding.

Nigeria’s refineries have been failing for lack of maintenance for many years so that most motor fuel for the nation of 190 million is imported. The importation of petroleum products has led to a complex supply chain that is so rife with corruption that an unknown, but significant, share of consumer fuels ends up on the black market.

6. Venezuela

As the political/economic situation continues to deteriorate, Caracas continues to pay bond interest at the last possible minute fearing that a default would make matters even worse. The social fabric of the country is coming unstuck as security forces execute perceived foes of the regime and children are dying by the hundreds for lack of proper nutrition and medicine.

Some analysts are saying the slump in Venezuela’s oil markets in the coming year could be much worse than the several hundred thousand per day drop in production that the markets are anticipating. Official figures still put oil production at around 1.7 million b/d, but anecdotal evidence suggests the situation could be much worse. PDVSA is in talks with the international trading company Trafigura to swap 10 percent of its crude production for fuels to keep the economy running. US sanctions have made it difficult for PDVSA to get credit to import fuels so that it has to resort to barter. Venezuela has already resorted to contracting in euros as the Maduro government will no longer deal in dollars.

Venezuela has awarded licenses to a unit of Rosneft to develop two offshore gas fields. Under the agreement, which is valid for 30 years, wholly-owned Rosneft unit Grupo Rosneft will become the operator of the Patao and Mejillones offshore gas fields, Moscow is taking advantage of the situation in Venezuela to get hold of a piece of its oil and gas reserves. The Chinese who are owed billions by Caracas are doing likewise.

It is difficult to see how the country can continue in its current direction during the coming year. The likelihood that the country will be exporting very little oil by the end of 2018 seems very high.

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

Discoveries at rock bottom: The global oil industry has discovered less than seven billion barrels of oil equivalent so far, this year—a drop-off from the 8 billion discovered last year. Last year’s total was the lowest since the 1940s. The 2017 figure is down by more than half from the 15 billion discovered in 2014-2015, and down sharply from the 30 billion discovered in 2012. (12/22)

UK and Scottish government representatives see a bright future. The North Sea oil and gas industry isn’t done yet; that’s the message UK and Scottish government representatives want to get across after recent figures revealed a 25 percent drop in employment in the region since 2014. They say up to 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent is up for grabs. (12/23)

Norway’s long slide: The demise of the North Sea doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Norway’s petroleum era—far from it. Still, despite significant reserves in the Barents Sea, Norway is about to embark upon a long period of structural decline as its benchmark fields inch closer to depletion and its reserves taper before our very eyes. Its oil workers must prepare for a future that is much more Arctic, smaller-scale and gas-based. There’s ample evidence to conclude that all the sweet spots of Norway’s continental shelf have been found. (12/19)

Germany’s total primary energy consumption is expected to have increased by 0.8 percent this year, with oil and natural gas share rising and nuclear and coal share dropping off. In petroleum use, consumption of gasoline and diesel increased by 2 percent compared to 2016, kerosene use rose by 0.7 percent, light heating oil use went up 2 percent, and naphtha consumption in the chemical industry increased 7 percent. (12/22)

The French legislature passed a law prohibiting all oil and gas exploration and production within its borders and territories by the year 2040—right around when oil is expected to reach peak demand. The new measure is largely symbolic as France produces enough fossil fuels to account for just one percent of demand. (12/20)

Ukraine’s Naftogaz and Russia’s Gazprom both claimed victory on Friday in a long-running gas dispute, each saying a Stockholm court had ruled in its favor over a gas contract. In line with its policy, the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce declined to comment or even to confirm it is handling the case, so it was not possible to obtain an impartial account of what is the final ruling in this case. (12/23)

In Kazakhstan, Italy’s Eni said Friday it grabbed a stronger hold over a reservoir it said has a “significant” potential for oil resources. The Kazakh government and a state-controlled energy company transferred 50 percent of their subsoil usage rights in the Isatay basin in the Caspian Sea over to Eni so it can move on with an exploration and production campaign. (12/23)

Saudi Arabia made the first payment totaling US$533 million (2 billion riyals) as part of its new household allowance program that reaches 10.6 million beneficiaries before it starts raising food and gasoline prices. The allowance is aimed at easing the direct and indirect impact of the gasoline and electricity price hikes, and the VAT increases on food and beverages. (12/23)

North Korea pinched: The UN Security Council resolution against North Korea comes in response to a Nov. 28 missile test that leader Kim Jong Un said proved he could deliver a nuclear bomb to the US. The resolution would cut deliveries of petroleum products, including diesel and kerosene, by almost 90 percent, to the equivalent of 500,000 barrels. That’s a further reduction from a September resolution that reduced petroleum product sales to 2 million barrels annually starting Oct. 1, down from 4.5 million barrels. (12/22)

China is pushing a switch to natural gas for households and industrial users to clean up its badly polluted air. The effect of the dramatic switch has been felt globally, with internationally shipped gas prices almost doubling this year to more than $10 per million British thermal units, the highest since the end of 2014. However, due to poor coordination among government bodies and gas producers, and miscalculations in demand, which have sent gas prices soaring, many residents are left freezing in their homes, and factories have shuttered. Where there is gas supply, it cannot reach homes in some cases as the replacement gas infrastructure has not been installed. (12/22)

Japan’s LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) imports from the US are expected to double in 2017 to a record and account for around for around half of its total purchases, government and shipping data showed. As with crude oil, the American exports displace LPG from the Middle East, where the top regional producer of crude and LPG Saudi Arabia is losing market share. (12/22)

Asian slump: Surveying the ocean floor for oil and natural gas reserves is gradually emerging from a multi-year slump, everywhere apart from Asia. That’s despite Asia seeing its production fall faster than anywhere else. The reasons for Asia’s dearth in offshore exploration and production include high costs in Australia’s promising waters, declining reserves in production hotspots Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as territorial disputes in the oil- and gas-rich waters of the South China Sea. (12/20)

Offshore Egypt, Eni SpA announced Wednesday the production startup of Zohr, the largest ever discovery of gas in the Mediterranean Sea. The field has potential resources of more than 30 trillion cubic feet of gas in place (around 5.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent). (12/21)

For ENI, it’s been a busy week. The Italian oil giant started production at the largest natural gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean. But Eni’s CEO also just found out that he will face trial in Milan over a bribery scheme. (12/21)

Offshore Senegal and Mauritania, BP and New York-listed Kosmos are partners on oil and gas blocks. Natural gas discoveries there contain sufficient reserves to warrant two LNG projects, they said. (12/21)

Ivory Coast, located in the center of Africa’s oil and the gas-rich Gulf of Guinea, has granted licenses following a roadshow in October in Cape Town, South Africa. Africa-focused Tullow Oil has picked up six blocks in recent weeks. SECI, a local unit of French industrial group Bouygues, has signed contracts for two blocks. (12/21)

Offshore Sierra Leone, exploration results show net prospective oil resources were about 75 percent higher than the last estimate from 2015 to more than 2.5 billion barrels. (12/22)

In Mexico, 29 companies including a bevy of majors are seeking to pre-qualify for bidding in the second auction of deep-water oil blocks in the Gulf of Mexico, scheduled for the end of January. The auction is Mexico’s second for deep-water areas under the 2013 overhaul of the state-run energy sector, which opened oil exploration and production to private and foreign capital for the first time in almost eight decades. (12/23)

Canadian oil producers are running out of options to get crude to market, driving prices to four-year lows and increasing the risk of firms having to sell cheaply until at least late 2019. This will drive down the profit margins for the oil sands industry, already struggling to compete with cheaper and abundant supplies from US shale. Several foreign oil majors have left Canada’s oil sands to invest in more profitable US shale plays, selling over $23 billion in Canadian assets this year alone. Canada’s oil sands output is still growing – but only as projects under construction are completed, and smaller expansions come online. Oil firms are not commissioning large new projects because they cannot build them profitably with oil in the $50s a barrel. (12/18)

The US oil rig count was flat last week, staying at 747, according to Baker Hughes.  The gas rig count increased by 1 to 184.

LNG exports: Despite the Asia-Pacific region’s strong potential demand, Latin America is becoming a steadily growing market for US LNG exports. Since the US started exporting LNG in 2016, half of the cargoes have gone to Latin America. Brazil is increasing its LNG regasification capacity with three terminals running and three more planned. (12/22)

New Permian pipeline: A final investment decision has been made to move forward with a 1.9 Bcf/d pipeline being jointly developed by Kinder Morgan, DCP Midstream and Targa Resources. This project would allow more shale gas to move from the Permian Basin to the Texas Gulf Coast after the project secured long-term shipper commitments for about 85 percent of its capacity. (12/22)

Oil demand may jump in the new year, thus US refiners plan to take fewer units offline than last winter, freeing them up to churn out more fuel. Crude unit shutdowns in the first two months of the year are expected to be 35 percent below winter 2017. (12/22)

Refineries humming: The EIA weekly report showed US refinery crude processing at 17.1 million bbl for the week ending December 15. Rates above 17 million b/d are common during the summer months, in light of high demand, but the high average is unusual this time of year because demand is typically lower. However, the latest demand measurement – 9.4 million b/d – is the highest December demand number seen since December 2014. (12/22)

Pioneer Natural Resources, in its first-ever report of its kind, said it wanted to become an oil and gas leader, but in a sustainable way. “Climate change is an important concern for Pioneer and our stakeholders, and our strategy is to proactively manage our environmental footprint and emissions,” President and CEO Timothy Dove said in a statement. (12/22)

Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration are poised to offer up a bevy of new opportunities for oil exploration in lands and waters owned by the government. They happen to be doing it, however, at a time when a glutted oil market has companies less eager to find new sites to drill. The tax bill that cleared Congress Wednesday includes a provision to lease most of the coastal plain in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And the Department of Interior is also pushing to expand offshore drilling. Millions of acres could be opened to oil extraction for the first time. (12/21)

Oil divestiture: While some US political trends are diverging from public opinion, environmentalists said it was people power that led to New York divesting from fossil fuels. Advocacy group said its activism over the years helped convince New York state leaders to step away from fossil fuels. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said part of his 2018 agenda was divesting the state’s retirement fund from significant fossil fuel investments.

Alaskan battle: Congressional Democrats and environmentalists are preparing for a legislative and legal fight against oil and natural gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after Congress this week approved drilling there for the first time in decades. (12/22)

Nukes win vote: Georgia officials voted Thursday to continue building two half-finished nuclear reactors even though construction is more than $10 billion over budget and five years late. (12/22)

Global coal demand will be subdued over the next five years, growing at just 0.5 percent a year, marginally higher than current levels, due to lower consumption in China, the IEA) said on Monday. Coal consumption fell last year by 1.9 percent to 5.357 billion tons from a year earlier as lower gas prices, a surge in renewables and efficiency improvements dampened demand. (12/18)

Coal takes a lump: It’s been a pretty good 18 months for the coal industry following the disastrous price crash of 2015, but on Tuesday miners got a big lump in their stockings. BHP, the world’s largest mining company, announced it may quit the World Coal Association, the industry’s lobby group. BHP cited the WCA’s support for abandoning Australia’s proposed Clean Energy Target as one reason for its preliminary decision to bow out. (12/20)

Wind’s “whew!”  Denmark’s Vestas, the world’s top wind turbine maker, said on Thursday it was pleased the final US tax bill retained production tax credits for wind energy projects after concerns over the bill had sliced almost a quarter off its share price. Earlier versions of the bill would have removed the credits, a move that the renewable energy industry said would threaten $50 billion in planned investment in wind energy projects in the United States. (12/22)

The UK’s installed solar photovoltaic capacity at the end of November was up 7.7%, or 902 MW, year on year to 12,642 MW across 935,120 installations. An energy department said 46%, or 5,810 MW, of total installed solar PV capacity, was in large-scale installations greater than 5 MW (12/21)

EV sweep: Toyota Motor Corp. is making a serious commitment to bringing electrified vehicles into its fleet. Toyota announced on December 18 that it would be electrifying all its vehicles by 2025, and hitting a target of selling 5.5 million electrified vehicles by 2030. That will include 1 million zero-emission vehicles – battery electric vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles similar to the Toyota Mirai. By 2025, the automaker will have every Toyota and Lexus model available as a dedicated electrified vehicle, or it will have an electrified option available. Electrified options include all-electric, plug-in hybrid, fuel cell, or hybrid. (12/22)

ZEV ships: Lloyd’s Register and University Maritime Advisory Services released a new study— Zero Emission Vessels 2030 —that aims to demonstrate the viability of zero-emission vessels by identifying what needs to be in place to make them a competitive solution for decarbonization. (12/20)

ExxonMobil will allow shareholders to meet members of its board, as new chief executive Darren Woods moves to end restrictions that had vexed some large investors. The company said that its board had decided, “where appropriate, to engage directly with key shareholders.” The move follows Exxon’s decision, announced last week, to bow to a shareholder vote calling for it to report on the potential impact of climate policy on its business. (12/20)

Climate lawsuits: The city of Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz County announced Wednesday the filing of separate lawsuits in state court against 29 oil, gas and coal companies seeking damages related to the companies’ impact on global climate change. The jurisdictions will join the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, the counties of Marin and San Mateo, and San Diego County’s city of Imperial Beach in filing lawsuits to hold specific fossil fuel companies accountable for contributing to more frequent crises like wildfires, droughts, and strong storms. Santa Cruz also alleges a plot in which the fossil fuel industry concealed the dangers of its products from consumers, much like the tobacco industry did decades ago. (12/22)

In Indonesia, Jakarta is sinking, and the problem isn’t just rising seas from climate change.  Jakartans are digging illegal wells, drip by drip draining the underground aquifers on which the city rests — like deflating a giant cushion underneath it. About 40 percent of Jakarta, a city of 10 million, now lies below sea level. (12/22)

Fusion: It’s been a decade since construction began on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor plant, known as ITER. The project, which involves 35 nations including the U.S., aims to demonstrate that nuclear fusion — the combining of hydrogen isotopes to form helium, the same process by which stars generate light and heat — could be a viable future source of power generation for an energy-hungry world.  It is now 50% complete.  (12/21)

Tom Whipple

Tom Whipple is one of the most highly respected analysts of peak oil issues in the United States. A retired 30-year CIA analyst who has been following the peak oil story since 1999, Tom is the editor of the long-running Energy Bulletin (formerly "Peak Oil News" and "Peak Oil Review"). Tom has degrees from Rice University and the London School of Economics.  

Tags: geopolitics, oil prices