Tag: oil

A total of 210,000 gallons of oil leaked Thursday from the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota, the pipeline’s operator, TransCanada, said.

Crews shut down the pipeline Thursday morning, and officials are investigating the cause of the leak, which occurred about three miles southeast of the town of Amherst, said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
This is the largest Keystone oil spill to date in South Dakota, Walsh said. The leak comes just days before Nebraska officials announce a decision on whether the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, a sister project, can move forward.
In April 2016, there was a 400-barrel release — or 16,800 gallons — with the majority of the oil cleanup completed in two months, Walsh said.
About 5,000 barrels of oil spilled Thursday.
“It is a below-ground pipeline, but some oil has surfaced above ground to the grass,” Walsh said. “It will be a few days until they can excavate and get in borings to see if there is groundwater contamination.”
There were no initial reports of the oil spill affecting waterways, water systems or wildlife, he said.
TransCanada said it was working with state and federal agencies.
View image on Twitter
“The safety of the public and environment are our top priorities and we will continue to provide updates as they become available,” the company said.
The Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring the situation and will provide resources and assistance if needed, a spokesman said.
“EPA is aware of the spill and is receiving periodic updates from the state of South Dakota, which is overseeing response activity at the spill site,” he said.

Concerns about the spill

The Keystone Pipeline system stretches more than 2,600 miles, from Hardisty, Alberta, east into Manitoba and then south to Texas, according to TransCanada. The pipeline transports crude oil from Canada.
The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which would stretch from Hardisty to Steele City, Nebraska, would complete the proposed system by cutting through Montana and South Dakota.
The sections of pipeline affected stretch from Hardisty to Cushing, Oklahoma, and to Wood River, Illinois, the company said.
The spill occurred in the same county as part of the Lake Traverse Reservation. The leak location is not on Sioux property, but it is adjacent to it and has historical value, said Dave Flute, tribal chairman for Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe.
“We want to know how long is it going to take to dig this plume of contaminated soil and how can we be reassured, without a doubt, that it has not and will not seep into the aquifer,” he said.
Flute, along with the tribal emergency management director and the manager of the tribal office of environmental protection, arrived Friday morning at the staging area of the leak site to meet with representatives from TransCanada. Flute said he was out there to offer assistance and to understand the cause of the leak and the environmental impacts it might pose.
“We want to find out, was there a crack in the pipe? We don’t know. We want to get that information,” Flute said. “More importantly, and to stay positive, they did clean up the site, they did contain it.”
Environmental activist group Greenpeace said the spill shows the new pipeline in Nebraska should not be approved.
“The Nebraska Public Service Commission needs to take a close look at this spill,” said Rachel Rye Butler of Greenpeace. “A permit approval allowing Canadian oil company TransCanada to build Keystone XL is a thumbs-up to likely spills in the future.”

New Keystone XL

In March, President Donald Trump’s administration officially issued a permit that approved construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Trump administration approves Keystone XL pipeline

The approval followed years of intense debate over the pipeline amid hefty opposition from environmental groups, who argued the pipeline supports the extraction of crude oil from oil sands, which pumps about 17% more greenhouse gases than standard crude oil extraction. Environmentalists also opposed the pipeline because it would cut across the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground deposits of fresh water.
Tar sands oil is much thicker and stickier than traditional oil, significantly complicating cleanup efforts. The fact it’s thicker also means it needs to be combined with other hazardous materials to allow it to be transported in pipelines.
Native American groups have argued the pipeline would cut across their sovereign lands.
Trump said the new pipeline will be a big win for American workers, but critics say it won’t be, because most of the jobs would be temporary.

Dakota Access pipeline

TransCanada said Thursday that the section of Keystone pipe that was leaking was isolated within 15 minutes after a drop in pressure was detected.
According to the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ website, this is the third pipeline spill in the state this year. Another came in April when about 84 gallons of crude oil leaked from the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline in Spink County.
That pipeline, which runs through both Dakotas and two other states, drew fierce resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, the tribe’s allies and environmentalists.
Opposition to the pipeline sparked monthslong protests, with as many as 10,000 people participating during the peak of the demonstrations. Clashes with police at the protests turned violent at times, with one woman nearly losing her arm after an explosion last November.

So … that was fast. US natural gas stakeholders barely had time to congratulate themselves for pushing coal out of the power generation market, and it looks like karma is already getting the last laugh. Low-cost renewable energy is beginning to nudge natural gas aside. In the most recent and striking development, California’s massive 262-megawatt Puente gas power plant proposal has been shelved, perhaps permanently.

Electricity Consumers Push Back On Natural Gas

Reporter Ivan Penn of the LA Times has the scoop on the Puente project, and he teases out several powerful forces at work against natural gas.

One key element is consumer pushback. At first glance, the proposal doesn’t seem overly controversial. The proposed plan, a project of NRG Energy, does not involve constructing a new facility. It would have replaced two existing gas units at the company’s existing Mandalay power generation facility in Oxnard, California.

All things being equal, the proposal would provide at least some degree of environmental benefit, because the new units would use 80% less water for cooling than the existing ones.

However, criticism of the new gas project was intense. Penn sums it up: earlier this month, a two-member review committee of the California Energy Commission took the rare step of issuing a statement recommending that the full Commission reject the plans after receiving “hundreds of messages protesting the project as another potential pollution threat to a community already overwhelmed by electricity-generating plants.”

The Rates Are Too Damn High

Aside from concerns about local air quality, Penn also cites an LA Times investigation indicating that the state’s energy policy has over-estimated the demand for natural gas power plants, resulting in artificially high rates:

“The commissioners’ recommendation followed Los Angeles Times investigations that showed the state has overbuilt the electricity system, primarily with natural gas plants, and has so much clean energy that it has to shut down some plants while paying other states to take the power California can’t use. The overbuilding has added billions of dollars to ratepayers’ bills in recent years.”

According to Penn, NRG officials maintain that older plant retirements by 2021 make replacement imperative to build up now.

At current costs, local ratepayers won’t get much relief if old power units are replaced with wind or solar.

My Beach, My Choice

Land use issues and environmental justice issues also come into play. NRG’s Mandalay power generation facility is located on the beach, and as NRG acknowledges, in 2014 the City of Oxnard enacted a moratorium on coastal development.

That complicates development plans within the power plant site, though NRG emphasizes that the final decision rests with state-level regulators.

Among those objecting to the plant from outside the local community is billionaire investor Tom Steyer, who co-authored an op-ed about the proposed facility raising the environmental justice issue:

“…in our state, not all beaches are created equal. That becomes painfully clear if you drive 50 miles north of Los Angeles to Oxnard, where the beaches have been seized by corporate polluters, marred by industrial waste and devastated by three fossil-fuel power plants that sit along the shoreline.

“Oxnard has more coastal power plants than any other city in the state, and not coincidentally, its population is predominantly Latino and low-income….”

Oxnard residents — and no doubt, real estate developers — are looking forward to transitioning coastal property out of industrial use altogether. Here’s LA Times reporter Dan Weikel on that topic:

“Many residents of this predominantly Latino city with a population of 205,000 say they are fed up with the degradation. Their growing dissatisfaction with the condition of large sections of beach has coalesced into an effort to deindustrialize and restore the shoreline of this city that is framed by Ventura and Camarillo and wraps around the town of Port Hueneme.”

So, What’s The Solution?

The Puente project has been suspended, not canceled. However, chances of revival are slim. Although the most recent study affirms that renewable energy is a more expensive choice currently, Steyer points out that the redevelopment of Oxnard’s beachfront could be balanced out by new economic activity related to tourism and recreation.

That opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms, as waterfront development typically drives up the cost of housing, squeezing former residents to outer rims with longer commutes and fewer resources.

Sticking to the energy cost issue, the basic problem comes down to local energy vs. long distance transmission.

NRG makes the case that local energy generation is more reliable. That’s a fair assessment as a general principle, as the old model of centralized power plants falls out of favor. Local and on-site generation is becoming a consensus argument among energy experts, regardless of the power source.

On the other hand, the risk involved in transmitting electricity from remote wind farms and solar power plants could be offset by local storage sites, where the growing microgrid movement would come into play.

New tools for financing energy efficiency improvements could also help tamp down local energy demand and ease the way for a more interactive grid that enables consumers to tweak their electricity consumption to help prevent outages.

Cities like Oxnard can also tap into a growing renewable energy knowledge base that leverages local opportunities for renewable energy development and energy efficiency improvements.

Most of all, the Trump administration’s willy-nilly approach to oil and gas development — for example, a new proposal involving drilling along the Pacific coast — raises the stakes for citizens far outside of the communities dealing with local land use issues, leading to a groundswell of support for alternatives.

Clean Technica

IDB Lead Investment Officer Stefan Wright speaks at the Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Tuesday, May 9, 2017.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said it would consider financing projects for waste to energy in Jamaica, but cautioned that the cost of doing so would have to be around US$0.12 per kilowatt hour for it to make sense to consumers.

“We could finance waste to energy,” but “at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to the cost. I think that’s a key component which I don’t know if it has been fully analysed,” said lead investment officer at the IDB, Stefan Wright.

He said that if solar energy was currently being produced at US$0.12/kWh,”it makes no sense financing waste-to-energy at US$0.20/kWh because JPS [Jamaica Public Service Company] won’t buy that.”

Renewable energy is a focus of the Inter-American Investment Corporation, the private-sector arm of the IDB which last year reorganised three of its four private-sector windows specifically to be more strategic, align with the IDB’s country strategy and become more effective in terms of how the Bank deploys private sector resources, Wright told a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Tuesday.

“We are working with entities in Jamaica now to finance renewable energy projects,” said Wright, noting that Jamaica has done a good job in bringing more renewable energy on the grid and reducing the 90 per cent oil bill, “and we are very much interested in partnering with those entities who want financing”.

Referring to Jamaica’s main garbage-disposal sites, including the Riverton dump in Kingston, Wright said it would be good to be able to use those resources in a more environmentally friendly way, “but at the end of the day it must make sense for consumers”.

He also pointed to the Government’s efforts, announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness with the formation of an enterprise team in October last year, to manage the State’s waste-to-energy programme, contracting out of solid-waste management and collection and divestment of the Riverton City landfill.

At that time, Holness was quoted as saying that the Government had received more than 30 expressions of interests to either bid on the waste-to-energy programme or to collect solid waste or both.

“We stand ready to finance projects which come out of that,” said the investment officer, noting that after the tender process is completed, entities wishing to invest in the facility would seek financing from the IDB to make the business a reality.

Key Requirements

However, he pointed out that one of the key requirements is that such entities engaging in such energy supply programmes must obtain power purchase agreements from the JPS.

“So we are certainly willing to help to participate in that,” he said. “We will finance any sustainable project which is helping to generate economic growth,” he added, noting that the IDB was offering loans between US$5 million and US$200 million per project, “and we don’t have any country limits now in terms of what we can finance”.

Wright said “we are looking at a number of projects and renewable energy and waste energy is something that we would certainly consider.”

General manager for the IDB’s Caribbean Country Department, Therese Turner-Jones, who also participated in the forum, said she has been to a series of renewable-energy conferences where private-sector interests offer various solutions, “and they look at the Caribbean as being ripe for investment because we’ve done so little”.

Comparing Jamaica with Hawaii, where the goal is 100 per cent renewables, Turner-Jones, noted that the US state is “almost there”.

“So it’s possible (for Jamaica) to do it. The technology exists,” she added.

JPS, which controls power distribution, is now reporting that renewables should account for around 12 per cent of its electricity production this year. Jamaica is aiming for a mix of 30 per cent by 2030.

Gleaner

Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world. In less than a decade, it’s likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere.

In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home.

Since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, solar may be cheaper than using coal on average globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“These are game-changing numbers, and it’s becoming normal in more and more markets,” said Adnan Amin, International Renewable Energy Agency ’s director general, an Abu Dhabi-based intergovernmental group. “Every time you double capacity, you reduce the price by 20 percent.”

Better technology has been key in boosting the industry, from the use of diamond-wire saws that more efficiently cut wafers to better cells that provide more spark from the same amount of sun. It’s also driven by economies of scale and manufacturing experience since the solar boom started more than a decade ago, giving the industry an increasing edge in the competition with fossil fuels.

The average 1 megawatt-plus ground mounted solar system will cost 73 cents a watt by 2025 compared with $1.14 now, a 36 percent drop, said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis for New Energy Finance.

That’s in step with other forecasts.

  • GTM Research expects some parts of the U.S. Southwest approaching $1 a watt today, and may drop as low as 75 cents in 2021, according to its analyst MJ Shiao.
  • The U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Lab expects costs of about $1.20 a watt now declining to $1 by 2020. By 2030, current technology will squeeze out most potential savings, said Donald Chung, a senior project leader.
  • The International Energy Agency expects utility-scale generation costs to fall by another 25 percent on average in the next five years.
  • The International Renewable Energy Agency anticipates a further drop of 43 percent to 65 percent for solar costs by 2025. That would bring to 84 percent the cumulative decline since 2009.

The solar supply chain is experiencing “a Wal-Mart effect” from higher volumes and lower margins, according to Sami Khoreibi, founder and chief executive officer of Enviromena Power Systems, an Abu Dhabi-based developer.

The speed at which the price of solar will drop below coal varies in each country. Places that import coal or tax polluters with a carbon price, such as Europe and Brazil, will see a crossover in the 2020s, if not before. Countries with large domestic coal reserves such as India and China will probably take longer.

Coal’s Rebuttal

Coal industry officials point out that cost comparisons involving renewables don’t take into account the need to maintain backup supplies that can work when the sun doesn’t shine or wind doesn’t blow. When those other expenses are included, coal looks more economical, even around 2035, said Benjamin Sporton, chief executive officer of the World Coal Association.

“All advanced economies demand full-time electricity,” Sporton said. “Wind and solar can only generate part-time, intermittent electricity. While some renewable technologies have achieved significant cost reductions in recent years, it’s important to look at total system costs.”

Even so, solar’s plunge in price is starting to make the technology a plausible competitor.

In China, the biggest solar market, will see costs falling below coal by 2030, according to New Energy Finance. The country has surpassed Germany as the nation with the most installed solar capacity as the government seeks to increase use to cut carbon emissions and boost home consumption of clean energy. Yet curtailment remains a problem, particularly in sunnier parts of the country as congestion on the grid forces some solar plants to switch off.

Sunbelt countries are leading the way in cutting costs, though there’s more to it than just the weather. The use of auctions to award power-purchase contracts is forcing energy companies to compete with each other to lower costs.

An August auction in Chile yielded a contract for 2.91 cents a kilowatt-hour. In September, a United Arab Emirates auction grabbed headlines with a bid of 2.42 cents a kilowatt-hour. Developers have been emboldened to submit lower bids by expectations that the cost of the technology will continue to fall.

“We’re seeing a new reality where solar is the lowest-cost source of energy, and I don’t see an end in sight in terms of the decline in costs,” said Enviromena’s Khoreibi.

Bloomberg

Crude oil and water pour from a well head at an oil field near Baku, Azerbaijan, on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009.  Since gaining its independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan has become an important energy exporter and transport hub for Caspian Sea oil and gas. Photographer: Jeyhun Abdulla/Bloomberg News

Last week, I wrote that OPEC needs friends and a miracle to re-balance the oil market. Could President Trump be that unwitting buddy, providing the miracle by tearing up the nuclear agreement with Iran and removing almost a million barrels a day of supply at a stroke?

Trump’s number one priority is to dismantle the “disastrous” deal — although his to-do list might have changed since saying that back in March. As luck would have it, that daily million barrels is about the same size as the cut OPEC needs to make, as I calculated last week.

OPEC’s Deepening Cuts
The cuts OPEC needs to make to reach its output target are just getting bigger and bigger
screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-11-12-23
NOTE: Assumes no further increases from Libya, Nigeria, Iran or Iraq. Cuts based on OPEC secondary source production estimates

Can he do it? Yes, despite assertions to the contrary from Iran’s President Rouhani and a slew of analysts. Here’s how:

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is snappily titled, wasn’t ratified by Congress, but brought into force by President Obama via executive order. Trump could rescind that. The fall-out would be messy, but it could be done (in theory).

There’s another way too, enshrined within the agreement itself. The dispute resolution mechanism allows any signatory to refer a perceived breach of the deal’s terms to the joint commission created to oversee the accord. If the complaining party isn’t satisfied with the outcome and believes the breach constitutes “significant non-compliance”, it can refer it to the U.N. Security Council. The Security Council would then vote — and here’s the killer blow — – not on whether to re-impose sanctions, but on whether to “continue the sanctions lifting.”

That might not sound like a big difference, but it’s critical. By framing the vote this way, the U.S. could, in theory, veto the resolution. All the U.N. sanctions on Iran would then be re-imposed. Simples.

That just leaves EU sanctions, which prohibited — among other things — the importing of Iranian oil into EU countries. We might expect some sort of European backlash against unwinding the deal, but it might not be very effective.

The tortuous process of re-establishing Iran’s oil trade with Europe shows that only too clearly. Although there were willing buyers and a very willing seller, the difficulty came in finding insurers who would underwrite the transactions, or shippers to carry the crude. All the big re-insurers had at least some U.S. involvement and they were extremely hesitant to pick up the business — even with the apparent backing of the Obama administration. They would drop the business like a scalding hot potato if the new president killed the deal. End of Iranian oil flows to Europe.

Iran’s Oil Export Surge
Iran’s crude oil exports have risen by more than 1 million barrels a day since sanctions were eased
screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-11-13-37
Source: Bloomberg tanker tracking
NOTE: Other includes Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan and Syria

Elsewhere, important Asian buyers were threatened in the past with the loss of access to the U.S. banking system to persuade them to cut their purchases of Iranian. This tactic would probably work again.

Of course, Iran would treat the move as grounds to abandon its own commitments. Coming shortly before Iran’s presidential election in May, it would be a huge boost to Tehran’s hardliners. You’d expect life to become more difficult for the Americans in Iraq, where it’s engaged alongside Iranian-backed militias in ousting Islamic State from its last stronghold in the country — another Trump priority.

But at least the crude price would recover, which would be great for U.S. oil, if not so good for motorists. I guess the new president will have to choose who to please.

Bloomberg

Prime Minister Andrew Holness addresses the opening ceremony of the Organisation of Caribbean Utility Regulators Conference in Montego Bay, St James, yesterday.

Asserting that “we must get it right”, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has urged utility regulators to take seriously their role in helping the Caribbean ease its dependence on oil and embrace technologies and renewables key to energy diversification.

The regulators’ role, he said, is linked to the creation of partnerships with investors who want returns, consumers and governments pushing for the economic development of their countries.

Holness was addressing the opening ceremony for the 14 Organisation Of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR) conference at the Secrets Resorts & Spa in Montego Bay, St James.

A variety of issues are set for discussion over three days by the more than 160 regional and international experts.

However, Holness, noting the importance of energy to the region’s development and the current high levels of dependence on oil, made it clear that the issue should be at the top of the agenda.

“Energy is clearly the mission-critical frontier,” he said, pointing to the role of Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) in helping Jamaica introduce liquefied natural gas (LNG) as part of the energy mix.

“The OUR approved the funding for the conversion of the Jamaica Public Service Bogue plant to enable the move from heavy dependence on oil to diversifying to LNG. I applaud the OUR in this regard for being a strong regulator and helping to make this move a reality – to take Jamaica on this new platform. This is a great example of collaboration among Government, regulator, and utility,” Holness added.

A shipment of LNG supplies arrived in Jamaica last week Saturday, and in two weeks, is expected to be in full use.

TAKE ROLE SERIOUSLY

The prime minister emphasised that regulators have to take seriously their role in helping the Caribbean Community implement the Caribbean energy policy that was approved in 2013.

That policy promotes a shift in sustainable energy through increased use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, among other things.

“OOCUR, you have your work cut out for you as not only is Jamaica focused on diversifying its energy mix, so, too, is CARICOM, and we must get it right in the region. Access to affordable energy is a necessary requirement for addressing sustainable development in the region,” Holness said.

He also argued that while there is need for partnership with all stakeholders in the provision of utilities, the providers must insist on self-regulation to ensure that standards are upheld and service delivery is at a high quality.

Earlier, Albert Gordon, chairman of OOCUR, said the conference was happening at a time when regulation was becoming more important for sustainable development.

The conference schedule has placed heavy emphasis on renewable energy and investment.

Jamaica and many other small-island states of the Caribbean are heavy importers of oil, which increases their vulnerabilities to external shocks such as sharp oil price rises. Except for Trinidad and Tobago, the only net exporter of oil and natural gas, all other Caribbean countries are net oil importers.

“For importers other than Suriname, around 87 per cent of primary energy consumed is in the form of imported petroleum products. Imports are mostly diesel fuel for electricity generation, gasolene for transportation, and liquefied petroleum gas used as cooking gas in households,” experts noted in a paper titled ‘Caribbean Energy: Macro-Related Challenges’ released in March by the International Monetary Fund.

This, they said, has led to consistently high electricity rates, which affects the competitiveness and development of CARICOM nations.

Gleaner

Governor of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) Brian Wynter and Financial Secretary Everton McFarlane have come out defending the costly ‘insurance’ Jamaica has taken out against oil prices as the expiration date nears and a new one is being prepared for Parliament’s approval.

Hedging is an investment position used to reduce substantial losses that could be incurred based on actual or perceived fluctuating developments.

Last year June, Jamaica entered an arrangement with Citibank, which covers the period from June 2015 to December 2016, and for which the bank has been paid approximately J$3.3 billion (US$27.9 million) in premiums. The arrangement involved three contracts.

Under the arrangement, Jamaica would get a payout if oil prices exceed US$66 per barrel. Up to yesterday, the West Texas Intermediate crude rate used under the hedge put the latest oil prices at US$51.60 per barrel.

McFarlane told Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) yesterday that the Parliament would be approached to approve funds to extend the hedge as no provision was made in the 2016-2017 National Budget, approved in May.

“In the coming Supplementary Estimates, we are looking to find the resources so that we’re covered a longer period of time,” he said. He added in a Gleaner interview later that “the details as to the period to be covered and the level of coverage are to be finalised in short order.”

He said the resources would come from budgetary reallocations.

NUMBER OF BARRELS DECLINING

The BOJ Governor also noted that with just two months to go under the last contract, the number of barrels has been declining.

“We’re not covering the full monthly amount now. This is the tail end of what was being hedged over a year ago. It’s a little under 200,000 barrels per month, whereas when you’re covering (fully), you’d be up there at about 700,000 or 800,000 barrels per month,” he said.

Concerns had been raised that because prices have remained low, Jamaica was losing millions under what some critics held was an unnecessary hedge.

PAAC member Franklyn Witter, using similar concerns, questioned whether the risks that gave rise to the hedge still existed.

“You have a projection over the medium term for oil to remain within $52 per barrel, so given that projection, why do you think it would be important to continue with the hedge?”

McFarlane responded that the risks still existed and that “Jamaica’s interest in continuing the hedge is based on the loss of foreign exchange that can entail or the budgetary loss that may arise in the event of significantly higher prices”.

Wynter, meanwhile, noted that investors have questioned how Jamaica would cope when oil prices increase even if other risks are low.

“There are several different answers to give. One answer is to build the Net International Reserves up by an extra billion so that we have it sitting down. The other extreme is to pay the $20 million or $30 million, still a lot of money, which, if nothing happens, you lose the premium, but if that event occurs, you get the payout that someone else has to have to pay you.

“We do look at what makes more sense,” he added. “Accumulating reserves is good for all sorts [of] reasons, but it’s also costly. So what we’ve done is try to strike the balance.”

The hedge has been funded by a special consumption tax on fuel.

The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica has supported it.

No date has been given for the tabling of a supplementary budget, which the Finance Minister Audley Shaw has indicated will be coming.

In January, while on opposition benches, Shaw said the administration may have been ill-advised in pursuing the hedge.

Gleaner

Outside view of International Conference Center in Algiers, Algeria, where energy ministers from OPEC and other oil-producing countries are gathered to attend the opening session of the 15th International Energy Forum Ministerial meeting in Algiers, Algeria.

OPEC nations reached a preliminary agreement on Wednesday to curb oil production for the first time since the global financial crisis eight years ago, pushing up prices that had sunken over the past two years and weakened the economies of oil-producing nations.

Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada, Qatar’s energy minister and current president of OPEC, announced the deal after several hours of talks in the Algerian capital. The levels must still be finalised at an OPEC meeting in Vienna in November.

The preliminary deal will limit output from the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to between 32.5 million and 33 million barrels per day, he said. Current output is estimated at 33.2 million barrels per day.

Benchmark United States crude jumped US$2.38, or 5.3 per cent, to US$47.05 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, was up US$2.72, or 5.9 per cent, to US$48.69 a barrel in London.

Long-running disagreements between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran had dimmed hopes for a deal at Wednesday’s talks.

Iran had been resistant to cutting production, as it is trying to restore its oil industry since emerging from international sanctions over its nuclear program earlier this year. According to Wednesday’s deal, Iran exceptionally will be allowed to increase production to 3.7 million barrels a day, according to Algerian participants at the meeting. It is currently estimated to be pumping around 3.6 million.

The OPEC officials met informally on the sidelines of an energy conference in Algiers to try to find common ground on how to support oil markets.

POSITIVE DEAL

“We reached a very positive deal,” said Nigerian Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu. He said all countries will reduce output but the specific quotas will be set in Vienna in November.

Earlier, Iranian Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh had played down the OPEC gathering, calling it “just a consultation meeting”.

The price of crude oil has fallen sharply since mid-2014, when it was over US$100 a barrel, dropping below US$30 at the start of this year.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer and Iran’s rival for power in the Middle East, appeared to be more amenable to some sort of production limit, certainly more so than in April when OPEC failed to agree on measures to curb supplies.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih this week promised to “support any decision aimed at stabilising the market”.

Over the past couple of years, OPEC countries, led by Saudi Arabia, had been willing to let the oil price drop as a means of driving some US shale oil and gas producers out of business. Shale oil and gas requires a higher price to break even.

Those lower prices have hurt many oil-producing nations hard, particularly OPEC members Venezuela and Nigeria, but also Russia and Brazil.

Gleaner

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 15.28.29

Malvern, St Elizabeth — Eighteen months after ground was broken, the 36.3-megawatt wind farm run by BMR Jamaica Wind at Potsdam, Malvern, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, was formally commissioned in mid-August.

Priced at US$89.9 million, the wind project, located across the road from another wind farm run by light and power company Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), is being described as the single largest investment in St Elizabeth since construction of the Alpart alumina plant at Nain in the late 1960s.

The BMR project includes eleven wind turbines, which will provide energy to JPS’s national grid at US12.9 cents per kilowatt-hour.

BMR Jamaica Wind is a subsidiary of US-based BMR Energy. Guests at the recent formal commissioning were told that billionaire British investor, Sir Richard Branson — who turned up for the commissioning — was in the process of acquiring BMR through his wide- ranging and far-flung Virgin Group.

Branson, who triggered laughter by ripping up and throwing away what he said were his speaking notes, told his audience that his motive for the acquisition was to promote a clean energy revolution.

“I decided recently that we needed to get one or two core (clean energy) companies under our belt so that we can actually get out there and speed up this revolution …” he said.

“ We were delighted to acquire BMR and we will be out there trying to hustle and bustle governments all over the Caribbean and other countries to hurry up towards carbon neutrality by 2050. Personally, I don’t need to make money out of it, if it makes a bit of money, fine; if it doesn’t, fine. I just want to get the wind out there get the solar out there, … be powered by sun, wind, sea… a green energy revolution and bring the cost of energy down for everybody; get rid of the dangers of coal and oil and the dirty energies that we are using today… ” said Branson, founder of the Virgin Group.

Funding for the BMR project in Malvern was sourced through a package including a US$42-million loan from the US quasi-government investment agency Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which pushes US overseas investment globally; US$10 million from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which promotes private sector development; US$10 million from the IFC-Canada Climate Change Programme and equity investment of US$26.9 million from BMR Energy.

Jamaica’s energy minister Andrew Wheatley said the BMR wind farm formed part of the government’s drive to significantly reduce reliance on fossil fuels and reduce the current annual oil bill of about US$2 billion. Ninety-two per cent of Jamaica’s energy needs are currently met by oil imports, he said.

The project was in line with the target of 30 per cent renewables in the national energy mix by 2030, as stated in the National Energy Policy, and in keeping with Vision 2030 Jamaica, the minister said.

“Projects like BMR continue to establish Jamaica as a clear renewables market leader within the Caribbean. By the end of this year, we would have added 80 MW of renewable energy to the national grid, through Wigton III (a wind farm at Rose Hill in southern Manchester), Content Solar (solar plant in Clarendon), and this facility,” Wheatley said.

Bruce Levy, president of BMR Energy, said the company had plans to expand the wind farm at Malvern by an additional three wind turbines. Small farmers would co-exist with the energy-generating operations, he said.

Jamaica Observer 

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.16.19

As LNG partner New Fortress Energy begins shipment of liquefied natural gas to the island, power distributor Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) is indicating that savings will depend on pricing, which varies from month to month.

Chief Financial Officer of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) Dan Theoc told the Jamaica Observer: “The cost of LNG at Bogue is likely to be cheaper than the cost of oil next month (September) when Bogue is expected to come on line.”

But, based on current price differentials and the fact that Bogue will only represent approximately 12 to 15 per cent of the generation mix, it is expected that total savings — based on this price differential – will be marginal (less than five per cent), all other things remaining equal, Theoc told the Business Observer.

Spot prices for LNG on the Henry Hub (HH) index registered US$2.82 per million Btu in July after starting the year at US$2.28 in January and falling to US$1.73 in March.

Crude, on the West Texas Intermediate index, started the year at US$30.32 per barrel and crested at US$44.65 in July.

“Unfortunately, we cannot say definitively what the impact of natural gas will be in the future because of the volatility in oil prices relative to natural gas prices,” Theoc said.

JPS will be buying natural gas from Fortress under a 20-year exclusive gas supply agreement and they will be responsible for all of the supply chain logistics and infrastructure costs.

That includes the mode of delivery to the island, the frequency of delivery, the storage of the LNG, the regasification and the distribution by pipeline to the property.

Theoc noted, “We will pay for gas based on the Henry Hub Index plus an agreed margin (which we cannot disclose), similar to how we buy fuel today from Petrojam based on the US Gulf Average Mean Index plus an agreed margin.”

In general, he added, “It is worth noting that the HH index in the past five years has been far less volatile compared to Oil-based Indices (like US Gulf, WTI and Brent Crude), so we view the move to HH as being a plus for price stability.”

It is expected that Bogue will actually make up 12 to 15 per cent of the generation mix on natural gas and that when the 190MW plant in Old Harbour comes on line in 2018, approximately 40 per cent of our generation mix will be based on gas-fired power plants.

In general, it is expected that renewables penetration will increase from five per cent in 2015 to 12 per cent by 2018.

The consequence, Theoc said, will be an improvement in fuel diversity from a situation where 95 per cent of production was oil-fired last year to a situation where less than 50 per cent is fired by oil.

The CFO said the pending award of a gas project to Jamalco will also potentially increase the percentage of generation units which are fired by natural gas by about ten per cent to further replace oil-fired units by 2019.

Jamaica Observer