USA to remain dominant global oil producer in 2019 – IEA

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In the closely watched IEA Oil Market Report, the agency predicts that the USA will reaffirm its position as the world’s leading crude oil producer. OPEC nations together with a number of non-OPEC producers have recently agreed to further reduce output in an effort to maintain oil prices above their recent lows achieved through a pre-Christmas supply glut and weakened demand.

With major producers Saudi Arabia and Russia keeping supply off the market, the US has edged into the top spot in recent months, and it looks as though this will be the case for the rest of 2019. The USA is increasing its production and aiming to reassert itself on the global stage to increase market share. To put the situation into numbers, the US is currently producing at a rate of 11.9 million barrels per day, up over 2 million barrels in recent months.

Demand for oil is growing steadily, however, major economic growth is cooling down which may start to affect the demand side of the market pushing prices even lower should output levels remain unchanged. Consumers are benefiting from the lower prices with reduced fuel costs, however, many companies such as airlines and delivery services are reluctant to pass on any savings to their customers.

NRG Expert does predict that 2019 will be a volatile year for oil prices, but our medium-term outlook remains unchanged that oil will again climb closer to $100 in 3-5 years.


Everything You Need to Know About Geothermal Energy

Believe it or not, we have been using geothermal energy for millennia. That’s right. Before we had cars and planes and central heating, earlier humans were using geothermal energy for cooking and heating. Now, it is time to go back to these simpler times and take a leaf out of our predecessor’s book. It is time for geothermal to make a come back and become a big player in our global energy mix.


Geothermal energy is simply energy that is harnessed from the natural heat that comes from the planet. Dig below the surface of the earth and you will find that the temperature gets increasingly hotter until you reach molten rock, known as magma. The thermal energy we want to get our hands on is much closer to the surface than magma and can found by digging less than a mile into the earth’s crust. Eventually we will hit an underground reservoir of hot water and steam and it is from here that we will extract our geothermal energy.


How Is Geothermal Energy Extracted?


Geothermal energy is a sustainable way to heat our homes and generate electricity and extracting it does very little harm to the environment. First a well is made and then a geothermal heat pump system is used to pump hot water out. The heat is extracted from this hot water and the cool water is then pumped back into the ground. Once it has heated back up again, the process begins again and can go on forever. The constant temperature of the earth makes this one of the most reliable forms of sustainable energy.


What Are the Advantages?


There are a lot of reasons why geothermal should become a bigger part of our energy mix but here are some of the best. Firstly, the energy can be extracted without the need for burning any fossil fuels. That means you don’t need to worry about carbon emissions being released in the process. Secondly, as mentioned before, geothermal energy is consistent. Unlike wind or solar power, which depend on a windy or sunny day respectively, geothermal energy does not depend on any external factors. Finally, geothermal energy is cheap to produce. Experts estimate that, compared with fossil fuels, direct geothermal energy use can be up to 80% less expensive.


Are There Any Negatives?


If geothermal energy is so great, why aren’t we all using it all the time? Well, geothermal still has a few environmental side effects. One of the primary concerns over the production of geothermal energy is the release of hydrogen sulphide, a polluting gas that smells like rotten eggs. Not only does this harm the environment, but the unpleasant smell means well cannot be dug near residential areas. Another issue is that while geothermal sites are consistent with the heat they give off, eventually the areas around the wells may cool down. This would mean digging new wells, which uses more energy and money.


Widespread use of geothermal energy is very much within the realm of possibilities over the next decade or so. However, there is some fine tuning and problem solving that needs to be done before we can add the sustainable energy into our global energy mix. Until then, let’s just keep an eye on what our scientists are capable of doing.

5 tidal power producing plants around the world

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The tidal flows and ocean currents can produce vast amounts of energy; however, we have very limited means to harness this energy. Despite high efficiency, building the plants and generating electricity has thus far proved being a costly endeavour. Despite this, there have been some commercially successful plants, as well as demonstration and testing plants that provide electricity to our grids. Here is a listing of a few of those plants.

Rance Tidal Power Station, France

Opened in 1966, this was the world’s first tidal power station. At a capacity of 240 MW, it was also the largest tidal power station in operation for 45 years until the Sihwa lake tidal station was commissioned in 2011. Sitting in the estuary of the Rance river, the 24 turbines produce approximately 500GWh per year. With costs fully recovered, the plant is able to produce very inexpensive power and compete with France’s nuclear fleet.

Jiangxia Tidal Power Station, China

Opened in 1980, the Jiangxia Tidal Power Station currently ranks as the fourth largest in the world with an installed capacity of 3.2MW. Taking advantage of an 8.39m maximum tidal range, the plant supplies energy to nearby villages together with an on-site solar generation facility.

Annapolis Royal Generating Station, Canada

The bay of Fundy is known for its great tidal ranges and draws in many tourists to see this unique feature of nature and geography. Harnessing this power has been an engineering dream that was finally realized in 1984 with a 20MW plant. With much more energy potential, it is expected that this area may see a host of other projects come online.

Uldolmok Tidal Power Station, South Korea

This 1MW plant was originally commissioned in 2009, expanded to 1.5MW in 2011, and was built at a cost of US$10 million. Still being built on, the plant’s ultimate design goal is to have 90MW of capacity installed to harness the tidal flows reaching up to 6.5 m/s in the Uldolmok Strait.

Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station

Completed in 2011, this is currently the world’s largest tidal power plant. The tidal barrage boasts an impressive 254MW of capacity. Built in part to better regulate the water behind the seawall in which the plant sits, the plant only harnesses the inflow of tidal water, making it less efficient than other designs or plants, despite its size.

Innovation in the Energy Landscape

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Innovation is everywhere. Information technology has fundamentally changed many aspects of our lives and the energy industry is no exception. Simply, the increased demand for energy to run IT systems has already shown to be a driving force for change and adaptation among market players. For the economy to flourish and thrive, a stable, reliable energy supply is more paramount than ever. So too has the increased demand for energy increased the risk of failure of the system and increased the potential for greater disruption in such events. Innovation of the future will have to address issues of energy shortfall owing to capacity shortages and demand increases.

Shifts in the use of technology are also shaping and guiding the direction of innovation. These shifts can be fostered through regulation and intervention by way of subsidies or tariffs but may also develop organically or in response to a specific need. We continue to see innovation in many areas of the energy industry; none perhaps more prevalent than in the green energy space.

Innovation can be met with resistance, and there will always be varying opinions on where and how to allocate finite resources. Innovation is best fostered when there is wider cooperation and a larger common goal. The desire to reduce carbon outputs and increase the use of green energy has been one of the main driving forces of innovation and it is a great case-study to see the adaptive capabilities of the overall energy markets. One of the next major impacts and innovation spaces will likely be transportation. We are already experiencing a change in the way we transport ourselves and our goods caused in part by rising fuel costs and costs of energy. Electric vehicles and battery technology go hand in hand and innovations in these areas will have cross-sector implications.


Environmental impacts of oil shale production

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Land use in the oil shale industry is extensive for both surface and in situ oil shale extraction and can impact the biodiversity of any production region. Furthermore, the disposal of both solid and liquid waste needs to be carefully managed and may require the use of additional land.

It is reported by the European Academies Science Advisory Council that the waste produced occupies as much as 25% more volume than the extracted material. Although, real word evidence backing this up is limited. Pollutants in the waste can be a cause for concern as some are toxic and/or carcinogenic (i.e. cancer causing), for example sulphates, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). This waste may need pre-treatment before going to a landfill, especially as there is a risk of it leaching through the soil at the extraction site and at other stages in the process. Landfilling waste also comes at a cost.

Projects need to comply with legislation both on land use and wildlife on the site. For example, in 2010 the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the Greater Sage-Grouse was warranted for listing as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. This grouse is found on land with oil shale and tar sands. In the US a significant proportion of oil shale sites are located in or next to conservation and wilderness areas and scenic sites.

The actual process of surface mining affects the runoff pattern in an area, and thus groundwater levels may have to be managed to prevent contamination. The effect of this may affect the surrounding land, which may be very detrimental if it is forestry or agricultural land. Experience from other mining industries could be used to mitigate the impacts of surface mining of oil shale. For the in situ oil shale mining the surface impacts are lower. There is some concern over the impact of run-off and fugitive dust emissions from transportation and storage of products and waste. Impacts will also be caused by the drilling of holes for heating and wells for oil or gas extraction. Once the project is completed, surface mining process will require remediation, which would be costly, and in situ projects would require the plugging of any holes and wells drilled. Infrastructure such as piping, roads and so on may need to be construction to support the oil shale project, which would have a footprint and require an environmental impact assessment.


WiFi Technology – Shaping the Green Home Energy Sector

-Jacqueline Allen

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The UK Government has committed to achieving an ambitious target that will require the entire country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Part of this plan is that by 2020 every household will be required to install a smart meter that monitors energy use and communicates with suppliers in order to not only collect data but make the necessary adjustments. Riding on the coattails of this surge in energy optimism, however, are individual homeowners and consumers looking to help to lessen the blow that is caused by necessary heating and cooling costs.


How Home Automation Decreases Energy Use


Service providers are beginning to develop technologies that allow homeowners to connect numerous aspects of their homes wirelessly to their smart devices. This means that, as different industries such as the home sector, internet providers and smart technology companies continue to invest in the innovation of home automation, consumers will continue to see an increase in their ability to fully automate all of a home’s functions. This includes, but is definitely not limited to, the ability to adjust heating and cooling systems remotely and also the ability to manage their energy consumption by controlling things such as the lights.


What to Know About Smart Thermostats


Perhaps one of the greatest innovations that have been introduced into the energy sector in recent years is the smart thermostat, which is aiming to transform and optimize both energy use in the UK as well as utility bills for homeowners and renters alike. Smart thermostats such as the Nest Learning Thermostat, the Honeywell Lyric T5 and the Ecobee3 provide people with the ability to more easily control their heating and cooling systems by using integrative WiFi technology, apps and a network of sensors. The goal is to reduce consumption and optimize the process when it’s in use. The sensors work by detecting whether or not someone is home and defaulting to an “away” mode that saves energy.


Saving Energy and Money


These types of technologies are what consumers really want and need out of tech innovation. A smart thermostat that can not only help reduce your carbon footprint but also lower your monthly energy bills is the perfect mixture of sustainability and practicality. It works, in a financial sense, to lower the costly energy bills by only turning on when someone is home or when it has been activated to do so remotely. This means that, in a cold winter, there won’t be the need to heat a home all day long, wasting energy and money. Someone with the app downloaded can remotely turn on the heat while they’re driving home, ensuring that their home will be warm but won’t be wasting energy when it’s not needed. Ecobee has released statements that their thermostat can help save up to 23% on heating costs.


Innovations for Different Heating Techniques


As the industry evolves, more companies are beginning to develop different technologies to fit various different heating styles, marking a big shift in the UK and European markets as most older homes can rely on radiators to heat a home. Tado, for example, has come out with a thermostat that fits onto a radiator and not only works in the same way as the others but also measures humidity and air quality which can help to optimize ventilation. Not only does this improve the health of an entire home and the people living in it, but it can also help to save on additional energy and heating costs.


Looking Ahead


The government’s commitment to a sustainable future seems to be causing a ripple effect of social consciousness in which consumers are eager to engage with technology that benefits them while also benefiting the environment. As smart technology and integrative WiFi capabilities continue to evolve, consumers will find themselves with more choices and green options that will only continue to improve over time.


Around the World in Natural Gas Consumption and Production

Around the World in Natural Gas Consumption and Production.jpgThe recent news that Qatar will be leaving OPEC in the very near future has sparked conversation among energy experts about what the future of oil will look like. It is clear from the slow break down of this once almighty organisation that oil is not what it used to be. Qatar’s main reason for leaving OPEC was in order to spend more time developing its natural gas production. Whether this is the whole truth and nothing but the truth remains unclear. But, what we can be clear about is that natural gas is on the rise.


Before we start analysing who uses the most natural gas and which countries are the top producers, it is a good idea to have a basic understanding of what natural gas is and where it comes from. First of all, you should know that natural gas is a fossil fuel. This means that it is created over millions of years and, as a result, there is a finite supply.


Natural gas is formed when decomposing plant and animal matter are heated and crushed by the pressure of the Earth over the course of millions of years. The energy that the plants absorbed from the sun during their life is stored in the chemical bonds that make up the gas. The gas is then extracted through wells that are drilled in areas where there are gas deposits.


The main gas that forms natural gas is methane, which stays in the atmosphere for a lot less time than carbon dioxide. The problem with methane, however, is that it is very effective at trapping heat, meaning its potential for causing global warming is far higher than that of carbon dioxide. As a result, the use of natural gas is far from ideal for a world that is trying to bring down the global temperature. Nevertheless, scientists are looking to natural gas a bridge between traditional fossil fuels and renewable energy sources. While the methane is a problem, the energy source is still cleaner that oil or coal.


So, where does all of this natural gas come from? Well, we know that Qatar is ramping up its production of natural gas and it currently sits at number two on the list of natural gas exporters. First place goes to Russia, while Iran, Turkmenistan and the USA take third, fourth and fifth. If Qatar is looking to become the number one exporter of natural gas, it will have a mission on its hands if it wants to overtake Russia. Russia currently supplies around 40% of all of the EU’s natural gas imports, with many countries are 100% dependent on Russian gas.


Fortunately, there are plenty of other countries that import natural gas. Japan, for example, is one of the world’s top consumers of natural gas, but it produces virtually nothing itself. This is a troubling situation for any country to be in, as a lack of domestic energy can lead to energy security issues. Russia, Iran and the USA are also big consumers of natural gas, but this is less of a concern given that they are able to supply themselves with the energy source.


It is unlikely the world will ever be entirely dependent on natural gas, but the energy source plays an important role in the immediate future. Increased usage of natural gas instead of coal could reduce air pollution and provide a cleaner way of meeting peak electricity demand.