Sunday, January 2, 2011

Regional Roundup

A quick partial regional roundup for the start of the new year – my emphasis added. The Sydney Morning Herald leads off with,
Asian hunger drives coal, oil price rise
SMH, December 31, 2010
Strong demand from energy hungry Asian economies will drive the price of thermal coal even higher in 2011, as wet weather continues to shrink supplies of major global coal producing regions.
Oil prices are also expected to rise in 2011, while analysts have broadly slashed their outlook for natural gas due to an oversupply arising from American coal-seam and shale-gas projects.
Despite concerns about global warming, coal is still the fastest-growing energy source globally, with demand rising three per cent in 2010.
The economies of India and China are behind the surge, offsetting weak economic growth in Western economies that could otherwise have led to a slump on world energy markets.
"On the supply side, Indonesia is playing catch up," UBS commodities analyst Tom Price said.
"They have had very high, unusually high rainfall, well beyond their wet season.
"By the end of the year when the Chinese started restocking heavily on Indonesian coal, the coal just wasn't there."
In December, a severe coal shortage in China forced power cuts in the nation that relies on coal for 70 per cent of its energy needs.
Indian demand for thermal coal imports is expected to grow at nine per cent a year for the next five years as domestic supplies run out.
In Australia, uncertainty surrounding government policy on carbon pricing continues to hang over the energy sector, delaying investment decisions and projects.
Perhaps Lovelock is right and Gaia is striking back with some disruptive possibly climate change induced rain. I would change the statement “well beyond their wet season” to something like the unusually wet dry season. Unlike previous years, this last dry season (it is now the wet season) nearly every week had showers. Anyway, the Straits Times (Singapore) reports that,
China-Russia oil pipeline starts operation
Jan 1, 2011
Sergei Luzyanin, deputy director of Moscow's Far East Institute, noted that the project would influence the shape of the global energy market and change the flow of global energy supply and consumption.
'Russia, as a [large] energy producer, turns its head from West to East. This had happened the first time in decades. Europe can not compete with China in terms of investments into Russian economy,' Mr Luzyanin said.
In recent years, Russia has been largely dependent on European consumers for its oil export and is seeking alternative markets. Now China becomes a new choice.
Analysts said the pipeline will greatly boost bilateral trade and help diversify the markets of an energy-rich Russia and the source of China's energy imports.
Picking up on the Indian coal shortage theme, The Hindustan Times has an opinion piece on India's alternative energy choices.
It's time for India to turn to the sun
Kirit Parikh, December 30, 2010
A major energy transformation is around the corner. A shortage of hydrocarbons in light of the rapidly growing economies of developing countries, their continuing profligate use in developed countries and the growing threat of climate change ordain it. By 2030, India will need three to four times as much energy as we currently use, if our economy is to grow at 8% to 9% a year.
We import nearly 80% of our oil consumption - which was 133 metric tonnes (Mt) in 2008-09 and is expected to be around 142 Mt in 2010-11.
Meanwhile, though total coal production in 2011-12 is expected to be around 570 Mt, from a long-term point of view, we are short of coal. Our known extractable reserves will not last beyond 2050 if our coal consumption continues to grow as it has been growing over the past 25 years. Meanwhile, the recently prescribed 'no-go' areas for coal mining, as laid down by the environment ministry, have also reduced extractable coal reserves and we may now run out of coal earlier than expected.
Where do we get our oil, and what to do when our coal runs out?
We could try to access oil by acquiring oil assets abroad. While this would help us face the market risk of high oil prices, it would not necessarily increase our access to oil. In times of global shortage, the government [or] host country could forbid the export of its oil. Instances of such resource nationalism are already being seen.
However, in the long run, price rise will be restrained by the availability of alternatives. Among these are shale gas or tar oil and renewables such as ethanol and biodiesel. Sugarcane- and corn-based ethanol require land and water and are therefore not a serious option for us, since this would compete with food production. Cellulosic ethanol made from agricultural waste and byproducts could be a very large and very important source that would not compete with food production. We could produce 200 Mt to 300 Mt of cellulosic ethanol a year. The only catch is that the technology is not yet economically viable.
Natural gas could also be an important substitute, even for transport fuel, as we have seen in CNG buses, taxis and three-wheelers. Due to the increased availability of natural gas, most cities will be served by piped gas instead of LPG, with the latter provided to rural households as a clean cooking fuel [replacing biomass-based fuels such as wood and dung, which cause … respiratory diseases, eye infections and premature deaths … as many as half a million … a year.
So how do we replace coal? Alternatives that greatly reduce carbon emissions are nuclear and solar energy.
We are, unfortunately, short on nuclear fuel, with domestically available uranium enough to run over their lifetime only 10,000 MW of first-generation nuclear plants of the type we have today. To put that in perspective, our installed capacity in the country is currently about 170,000 MW and the projected requirement for 2030 is about 800,000 to 1 million MW.
However, our strategy is to build fast breeder reactors that can run on the plutonium and depleted uranium produced by the first-generation plants… [t]he catch is that this takes time and, over the next 20 years, based only on our own resources of uranium, we could set up no more than 50,000 MW of nuclear plants.
Later…  fastbreeders are used to convert thorium to uranium 233, which is a fissile isotope, and then run nuclear plants on it. We have vast amount of thorium and the ultimate capacity could be as large as 5 million MW.
Given the timeline for developing a nuclear plant, solar energy becomes our most readily available energy resource. With just 10 million hectares of land covered with today's commercially available photovoltaic cells with an efficiency of 15%, we could collect all the projected energy requirements of 2035. The land could be desert land or other unproductive land and there would be no competition with food production.
Kirit Parikh is the chairman of independent research institute Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe) and former member of the Planning Commission. The views expressed by the author are personal.
In Thailand, the Bangkok Post reports on Thai bio-fuel plans,
Alternative fuels gain momentum
Alternative fuel development in Thailand is gathering pace in 2011, as global oil prices are still rising and the country is committed to energy saving and fossil fuel consumption reduction.
Even though palm oil is in short supply, the government is likely to move ahead with plans to replace B3 biodiesel with B5 by the middle of the year. B5, containing 5% palm-based biofuel, was supposed to have become mandatory today but the recent palm shortage has caused officials to delay enforcement.
Rapid expansion of ethanol-based fuels such as E20 and E85 gasohol is also expected, according to Peeraphol Sakarin, director-general of the Department of Energy Business.
Energy Minister Wannarat Channukul said the draft renewable energy master plan for 2011-30 would set clear targets for lowering greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades.
The plan calls for renewable energy such as biomass, biogas, biofuel, solar cells, wind power and CNG to account for 20.4% of Thailand's energy consumption by 2030, compared with 6% now.
Krairit Nilkuha, director-general of the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency (DEDE), said attempts to increase public awareness about nuclear power would also be stepped up. “This is the year that the government needs to make a decision about whether to go ahead with nuclear in the power sector,'' he said.
The Energy Ministry forecasts LPG consumption this year will rise 17.8% to 7.1 million tonnes from 5.9 million in 2010, CNG in the transport sector will rise 30.6% to 6,400 tonnes per day from 4,900, ethanol 4% to 1.28 million litres per day from 1.23 million, and biodiesel by 10% to 1.9 million litres per day from 1.72 million in 2010.
And with a slightly different perspective on the Rare Earth theme the Bangkok Post reports,
China mulls rare earth export quotas
China is considering new export quotas on rare earth alloys, a report said Thursday -- a move that would further restrict shipments of the minerals used in a variety of high-tech industries.
So far, China has issued a single export quota for rare earths -- 17 elements critical to manufacturing everything from iPods to low-emission cars, wind turbines and missiles.
Beijing has moved to tighten controls over the minerals by cracking down on heavily polluting producers, cutting quotas for overseas shipments and hiking export taxes.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters on Thursday that China would continue to supply rare earths to the global market but called on other countries with reserves to also "shoulder the responsibility".
Jiang said China was looking for alternative rare earth resources and welcomed "countries with sophisticated technology to provide assistance."
Japanese firms such as Mitsui & Co. have been massively buying waste glass rich in rare earth elements from China to evade increasingly stiff curbs on the raw minerals, the 21st Century Business Herald said Thursday.
AsiaOne (Singapore) has a tech-retrospective on the 9 gadgets that have been or are in the process of being replaced by the modern crop of so called smart phones. I was given one, and I suspect its making me dumber!
9 gadgets the smartphone has overtaken
DigitalOne 29-11-10
1. PDAs. Palm, which produced one of the leading PDAs in the market lost about half its market share in the US when the demand for smartphones increased.
2. Handheld video cameras. [T]he camcorder or handheld video camera may appeal only to a small group of consumers.
3. Mp3 players. 42% of smartphone users have reduced or stopped using portable digital music players.
4. Digital cameras. Low end digital cameras may soon become extinct.
5. Handheld video games.[Y]ou're likely to see more people playing games on their phones rather than a PSP or Nintendo DS.
6. GPS. More and more phones are including GPS technology.
7. PCs. Gartner predicts that smartphone sales will overtake PC sales by 2012.
8. Regular mobile phones.
9. Alarm clocks.
Or course you could be a retro revolutionary and opt for The anti-smartphone (Johns Phone) which has one function… making calls. The upside is that it has a battery standby time of more than 3 weeks and the address book can survive a thermonuclear EMP up to the flash point of paper.

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