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Weekly Highlights | From the consequences of the Ukraine conflict to the Chinese role in the energy landscape
Weekly Highlights | From the consequences of the Ukraine conflict to the Chinese role in the energy landscape
illuminem
By illuminem
Feb 15 2022 · 6 min read

Illuminem Voices
Oil & Gas · Renewables · Sustainability

1. Major breakthrough on nuclear fusion energy

By BBC

  • The UK-based JET laboratory has smashed its own world record for the amount of energy it can extract by squeezing together two forms of hydrogen. If nuclear fusion can be successfully recreated on Earth it holds out the potential of virtually unlimited supplies of low-carbon, low-radiation energy
  • However, There's huge uncertainty about when fusion power will be ready for commercialisation. One estimate suggests maybe 20 years. Then fusion would need to scale up, which would mean a delay of perhaps another few decades
  • Most likely, fusion will not be a solution to get us to 2050 net zero. This is a solution to power society in the second half of this century

2. World to China: Time to step up on climate

By Politico

  • China’s carbon emissions are now so high, that even “if China continues its current path, we will have trouble,” said Li Shuo, the Beijing-based senior global policy adviser at Greenpeace East Asia
  • Majorities in every age group, income bracket, ideological affiliation and gender across 12 developed and developing countries agree that China needs to be held to the same standards as Western countries when it comes to reducing emissions and combating climate change
  • China broadly shares the views of citizens in other countries when it comes to what climate actions should be prioritized. Chinese respondents prefer environmentally-friendly infrastructure investments ahead of banning gasoline-powered cars and coal in the next 20 years

3. What the Ukraine conflict means for Europe’s energy crisis

By Energy Monitor

  • As well as peace in eastern Europe, another issue in the crosshairs is Europe’s energy security. The deepening tensions with the region’s largest gas supplier have stoked fears that the Kremlin may restrict energy exports to Europe in the face of potential sanctions
  • The gas transit from Russia via Ukraine to other countries has decreased by 70% between 1998 and 2021. Russia has indeed since diversified routes to depend less from Ukraine via the Yamal-Europe pipeline through Belarus and Poland, the Blue Stream and TurkStream pipelines to Turkey, and the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany (with Nord Stream 2 awaiting certification).
  • Europe depends on Russia for around 40% of its gas and 25% of its oil imports, and any disruption would exacerbate the current energy crisis

4. Rivian Loses Its Shine as Investors Fret About Production Delays

By The New York Times

  • Three months after Rivian’s debut on the stock market, the company is facing troubles with meeting expected production levels of its pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and delivery vans. Though Rivian is still worth about $55 billion, its stock has fallen by nearly two-thirds from its peak and is well below its I.P.O. price
  • Investors’ anxiety about Rivian’s prospects can be traced in part to its failure to meet a modest goal of producing 1,200 vehicles for individual buyers in 2021. The company also appears to be struggling to provide delivery vans to Amazon
  • Rivian has one factory, in Normal, Ill., where it eventually plans to produce 150,000 vehicles a year, and it announced plans to build a second, in Georgia, with capacity for 400,000 a year. Rivian has a large cash hoard — close to $20 billion after raising money in the I.P.O. and a debt offering

5. Maybe green energy needs ‘information batteries' too

By Grist

  • With solar and wind becoming more dominant, navigating their intermittency is becoming critical. Options are many: using electric cars as a network storage of power, or using “information batteries” which store pieces of information
  • This yet-to-be tested way (precomputation) works by predicting which data will be used when solar and wind power are high during the day to save computational power; it would work mostly with big data users like Amazon and Google on routine tasks
  • For example, at peak times, Netflix could already compute popular movies to save energy on crafting recommendations for users, like a baker that prepares pies in the morning. They could also switch their computational power to where solar and wind are available, using world-wide data centres

6. Big Oil is living on borrowed time

By New Statesmen 

  • In the past week ExxonMobil and Chevron reported combined net annual profits of nearly $38.6bn for 2021, the highest since 2014, as reported by the Financial Times
  • For all their fine words and slogans about climate action, in 2020 clean energy investments by the oil and gas industry accounted for only around 1% of total capital expenditure, says the IEA
  • Nevertheless, according to Carbon Tracker, companies could waste as much as $530bn on unneeded assets this decade as climate action ramps up, demand for fossil fuels declines and the oil price falls back to around $40 a barrel

7. Internationalism in climate action and China’s role

By Grantham Research

  • To achieve lower emissions and to lead by example, China should: expand its energy storage capacity; promote green hydrogen from electrolysis and upgrade the existing natural gas storage system to accommodate hydrogen; support further development of EVs; increase distributed renewable generation and go further in reforming the electricity market.
  • The authors argue that there are now opportunities for China to demonstrate global energy leadership in 2 ways: its role as provider of finance and one of the world’s biggest creditors; and as a pioneer in research and innovation for green technologies
  • As a provider of finance, China should: focus on promoting sustainable economic development in the countries to which it lends to minimise the risk of climate-related debt crises; continue and step up its participation in multilateral climate and sustainability initiatives; look to join initiatives such as the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action; and encourage more of its private sector institutions to join the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero

8. Water Supplies From Glaciers May Peak Sooner Than Anticipated

By The New York Times

  • Glaciers worldwide may contain 11% less water than previously thought according to recent satellite studies, putting millions depending on them at risk for drinking water, crop irrigation and daily consumption. Global warming is further increasing this risk
  • There is still high uncertainty, especially in regions that highly depend on glacier water for their livelihoods, including the Andes and Himalayas. The latter provides for the livelihoods of 1.5 billion people, and thus is a high risk place
  • New satellite-based techniques can provide invaluable information, as only a few thousands of glaciers have been studied and most in a rough way. This “big data” revolution will make predictions more accurate

9. Blockchain rare earth scheme to certify sustainable output for EVs

By Reuters

  • Rare earths production is set to spread geographically as the United States and Europe seek to wean themselves off dependence on China, which supplies about 90% of the world's rare earths
  • An EU-funded certification scheme using blockchain is being developed for rare earths as automakers demand proof that materials used to make magnets for electric vehicles (EVs) are not linked to toxic pollution
  • The system will track rare earths using blockchain tokens, or digital passports, through the complex supply chain from mining to end-of-life, said Teresa Oberhauser of Circularise

10. Energy price rises drive construction costs higher

By Financial Times

  • The wholesale forward contract cost of gas rose by 80% between May and November 2021, according to Ofgem, the UK energy regulator
  • Fabricated structural steel prices rose 66% in the 12 months to November, while the cost of doors and windows rose by 12.9%, and particle board rose by 64.3%, according to business department data
  • UK Steel, the industry trade body, said companies had “done their best” to absrob most of the increase from higher input costs, notably energy, coal and carbon, but that many “have had to implement temporary surcharges to recover some of this
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