Best in Energy – 11 January 2023

U.S. energy transition hits workforce shortage

FedEx cuts parcel deliveries on falling demand

India considers temporarily lifting solar tariffs

Europe’s mild winter increases drought threat

EU regulator launches LNG price assessment

Plastics boost petroleum consumption ($BBG)

Chesapeake’s recovery after insolvency ($WSJ)

U.S. electricity price volatility

Quantum computing ($FT)

EUROPE’s gas inventories are rapidly nearing a record high for the time of year following warmer than normal temperatures and reductions in industrial consumption. EU28 inventories were 937 TWh on January 9 closing in on the seasonal record of 944 TWh set in winter 2019/20.

Stocks were +247 TWh (+36% or +2.37 standard deviations) above the prior ten-year seasonal average up from a surplus of +92 TWh (+10% or +0.86 standard deviations) at the start of the winter season on October 1. The storage surplus is still increasing.

Inventories are projected to reach a post-winter low of 591 TWh with a probable range of 460 TWh to 749 TWh. If that proves correct, storage facilities would end the winter 52% full, with a likely range from 41% to as much as 66%:

Best in Energy – 13 December 2022

EU agrees carbon border tariff in principle

China deletes epidemic phone tracking app

China faces exit wave of infections ($BBG)

China’s internal aviation rebounds ($BBG)

U.S. shale oil revolution is maturing ($BBG)

Turkish Straits re-open to oil tankers ($BBG)

U.S. solar roll out slows on trade restrictions

U.K. grid cancels stand-by notices for coal units

Battery materials technology

COAL-FIRED generators typically require 2-3 hours from initial notification to reach full power from a hot start, 6-7 hours from a warm start, and 10 or more hours from a cold start. Assuming the two massive coal units at Drax are typical, if the U.K. transmission operator wants them to be available during the evening peak from 1600 to 1900 GMT, notice to light up and begin warming must be given by 0600 GMT. If the forecast reserve margin improves during the day, however, the stand-by notices can be cancelled later, as happened on December 12.

The table below shows typical timelines for coal-fired and gas-fired generators showing how it takes (1) from initial notification from the grid controller to synchronisation with the grid – at which point the generator can start providing power to the network; and (2) from synchronisation to reaching maximum power output (“Technical Assessment of the Operation of Coal & Gas Fired Plants,” Parsons-Brinckerhoff for the U.K. Department of Energy, 2014):

LONDON and southeast United Kingdom are now a quarter of the way through the typical heating season. After an exceptionally warm period from mid-October to late November, which depressed heating demand, temperatures have plunged far below normal, erasing the earlier deficit in degree days, and putting winter heating demand on an entirely different trajectory:

Best in Energy – 18 November 2022

India’s coal-fired generation rises over 10%

China solar installers hit by lockdowns ($BBG)

China food and energy security focus (trans.)

Hess chief marks the end of shale revolution

U.S. heating oil prices up 65% from year ago

Australia’s changing defence strategy ($FT)

Qatar Energy – company profile and ($FT)

BRENT’s six-month calendar spread has fallen to a backwardation of $4.90 per barrel (95th percentile for all trading days since 1990) down from $7.60 (98th percentile) a month ago and a record over $15-20 in the first months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The softening spread is consistent with a recession in Europe and China, possibly spreading across the rest of the world, easing pressure on oil supplies in 2023:

U.S. TREASURY yield curve is now more inverted between two-year and ten-year maturities than at any time since September 1981 at the start of the second instalment of the double-dip recession. U.S. interest rate traders anticipate an exceptionally rapid turn around in monetary policy. Such a rapid pivot is consistent with a soft-landing allowing the central bank to unwind rate rises quickly, or because a hard-landing eliminates inflation and requires it to support growth and employment instead:

Best in Energy – 12 August 2022

Australia presses producers to reserve gas for local market

Crypto-mining and electricity demand response

U.S. solar generation installations delayed

U.S./China try to manage Taiwan tensions ($WSJ)

U.S./Iran attempt to finalise nuclear accord ($WSJ)

EUROPE’s GAS INVENTORIES are well above the seasonal average and accumulating at a record or near-record rate as the region attempts to maximise its seasonal storage ahead of the winter and a possible disruption to gas imports from Russia.

  • EU28 gas inventories have risen to 823 TWh up from a post-winter low of 291 TWh on March 19.
  • Stocks are +62 TWh above the prior ten-year seasonal average (+8% or +0.48 standard deviations).
  • The increase in inventories to date from the post-winter low (+532 TWh) is the largest for at least ten years.
  • Inventories accumulated at an average rate of 6 TWh per day over the seven days to August 10, among the fastest seasonal increases in the last decade.
  • Inventories are on course to reach 995 TWh by the end of the refill season (with a likely range of 915-1069 TWh).
  • Expected post-summer stocks are significantly higher than the 878 TWh anticipated at the start of the refill season on April 1 (710-1066 TWh).
  • Expected post-summer inventories have steadily risen as operators have filled storage irrespective of prices.

Expected post-summer stocks are +63 TWh (+7%) above the prior ten-year average (932 TWh).

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Best in Energy – 21 July 2022

Russia restarts Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline

China doubles new solar power installations

EU urges member states to cut gas use by 15%

Shell chief discusses transition strategy ($FT)

EU energy system strained by heatwave ($FT)

China enters main flood season (trans.)

U.K. homes are worst in western Europe

What does an energy crisis look like in real-time to contemporary observers? The following secret diplomatic cable sent from the U.S. embassy in London to Washington on 7 February 1947 and reproduced in the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS, 1947, Volume 3, pages 487-489) illustrates how Britain’s coal and electricity crisis in the winter of 1946/47 appeared to observers at the time, without the colour of hindsight:

Telegram to the U.S. Secretary of State from the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in the United Kingdom

7 February 1947

SECRET

Shinwell, Minister Fuel, announced in Parliament today that beginning Monday no power would be furnished industrial consumers in London, southeastern, midland and northwestern areas, that power to all domestic consumers these areas would be cut off between 9 and 12 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. Drastic step taken in order to assure maintenance of power such essential services as sewage, water, lighting, hospitals, bakeries, etc.

Immediate cause emergency is snow and cold weather of past weeks which has nearly paralyzed road, rail and coastwise traffic and disrupted coal movement. Basic cause is shortage of coal stocks which country entered winter on November 1 and which has resulted in steadily worsening crisis ever since cold snap mid-December. Duration of emergency measures will depend on weather improvements but even after that it will take several weeks to build up coal stocks in order to provide general power requirements.

Meanwhile, industrial concerns throughout country whose deliveries had already been cut in mid-January to 75% in case of iron and steel and 50% all other industries, are rapidly exhausting their stocks, and press each day carries accounts of new factory close downs and production curtailment. Although government has not given out figures, in our opinion number unemployed already numbers over 100,000 with considerably larger number on short-time work, and effect of paragraph 1 will be to put several million out of work next week in affected areas. To make matters worse many households have already exhausted their yearly coal allocation which should have lasted until May 1.

Although coal traffic has been given priority on all rail lines traffic disruption has caused shortage of coal cars at the pits and forced serious curtailment coal production. Output in Yorkshire, largest producing area in Britain, is down 50% this week, other areas somewhat less.

In our opinion coal stock exhaustion throughout country is now such, that even with improved weather, the country can only limp through until mid-April. For until then country must live on current coal output which is not sufficient to meet winter needs, even if substantial increase in output, which occurred after January 1 when the mines formally passed into public ownership, is maintained when transport becomes normal.

Also in our opinion, government is now facing its first real loss of public support. Failure of production and export drive to forge ahead during past two months has already caused widespread misgivings, and with production and export declines inevitable during next three months in view coal position, we do not see how government can continue maintain popularity at same high levels during past 19 months. We do not, however, anticipate any government crisis or any attempt to form a coalition and discount all rumours to this effect. Only bright spot for the government is that Labor MPs who led the rebellion against Bevin’s foreign policy last fall and meant to renew their attack when Parliament resumed on January 21, have decided hold their fire in view of serious domestic situation in order not to embarrass government further.

Best in Energy – 27 May 2022

White House articulates strategy towards China

U.K. announces windfall tax on oil and gas firms

Europe protects households from energy prices

EU runs into problems negotiating Russia oil ban

Offshore drilling experiences cyclical recovery

U.S. hot economy has unwanted side effects ($FT)

Thailand/Vietnam explore rice cartel ($BBG)

Space-based solar power – how realistic is it?

BRENT’s six-month calendar spread is moving into an increasingly steep backwardation again as traders anticipate a growing shortage of crude. High margins for diesel and gasoline are encouraging refineries to maximise crude processing which is intensifying the downward pressure on already-depleted crude inventories:

U.K. DIESEL and gasoline inventories depleted further in March as late-cycle tightness was intensified by the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and some panic-buying by consumers and road haulage firms. Diesel/gas oil stocks were at the lowest seasonal level since 2014 and before that 2006:

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