Watching oil prices fall as impressively as they have over the past six months, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to predict a challenging road ahead for the U.S. oil and gas industry. Some American producers are facing particularly difficult straits, as falling crudes prices threaten the financial viability of shale production, given the capital-intensive nature of hydraulic fracturing. And there seems to be little hope for a quick rebound in oil prices: after OPEC’s decision late last month to maintain current output targets, Credit Suisse cut its first-quarter forecast for Brent to $68 per barrel from $87 in October. The Dow Jones U.S. Oil & Gas Index fell 7 percent the day after the OPEC announcement, for an overall 23 percent decline since June.
So oil stocks may not be flashing too many “buy” signals at the moment. But there are diamonds in the rough. Consider those companies with balanced asset portfolios that include refineries, which benefit from lower feedstock costs and therefore help to offset declining revenue on the production side. The stocks of European majors are also trading more cheaply than their U.S. counterparts of late, says Credit Suisse analyst Edward Westlake, making them worth a closer look.
There’s also the matter of timing. Falling oil prices notwithstanding, U.S. majors ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips are both about to see improvement, rather than deterioration, in their financial results. That’s because both are winding down the major capital expenditure phase in a handful of very large projects. ExxonMobil’s 2014 capital expenditures, for instance, are on target to come in at $37 billion, down from $42.5 billion in 2013, as the company reaches the end of its planned investment in a $19 billion LNG project in Papua New Guinea. ConocoPhillips’ capital expenditures are also due to taper off next year as it decreases investment in its Surmont oil sands project in Canada and an LNG project in Queensland, Australia. “The majors are entering a period of improved cash generation because of the timing of these mega projects,” says Westlake.
Big Oil also has experience on its side. After all, it’s not the first time that major oil companies are grappling with volatile prices. Barely over a decade ago, a combination of increased OPEC supply and reduced demand sparked by the Asian financial crisis sent oil plummeting to below $20 per barrel in the late 1990s. Companies couldn’t do anything about crude prices, so they controlled what they could: their own expenses. In response, U.S. majors invested in productivity-enhancing technology and also reduced their staff. Westlake expects a similar focus on rooting out inefficiencies this time around. Majors also know how to keep their eye on the future. While oil markets are currently imbalanced in part due to the strong growth in U.S. shale, the world will need the oil and gas from shale to meet rising longer-term demand.
In other words, the smart money isn’t fleeing oil stocks en masse at the moment but rather positioning itself properly within the industry. Could there be further downside? Of course. But as Lord Rothschild famously said, it’s better to buy when there’s blood in the streets. Much of the oil and gas industry is struggling right now. But those that survive the current downturn could emerge stronger than ever.
Photo of oil well courtesy of Shutterstock.com / Annzee
Recent reports state technologies have allowed some markets in renewable generation to be competitive with coal or natural gas. This is good news, however, renewable energies intermittency and massive size challenges will continue without industry changes. SheerWind’s INVELOX attends to the intermittency and size issues by combining the best traditional wind technologies with a unique wind delivery system that produces more efficient and powerful wind generation machines.
Ultimately combining technologies will allow us to achieve the necessary power generation capacities to transform wind energy into a reliable base-load power source. This includes reducing intermittency issues by producing power at lower wind speeds, placing turbines safely covered at ground level allowing installation close to the end user. This could be the beginning of transforming wind power into the base-load power source that coal has been since the early 1900s.
Multiple turbines in a single INVELOX tower means nearly zero operational downtime because maintenance can be done on one turbine while the others continue producing energy. With INVELOX capacity factor at 60–90% and turbines installed safely and conveniently at ground level, maintenance costs and failure is greatly reduced. See video.
Benefits of multiple turbines in single tower
- 120% additional power output at minimum added cost of turbine-generators
- Reduced capital expenditure per kilowatt
- Increased production capacity
- Gain in output without increasing footprint
- Offers upgradability to meet increase in power demands
- Minimizes operational downtime
“This is a great achievement, for the first time in wind industry history three turbines may run in series in a single tower to produce more energy. This means customers can gain an increase in output from a single INVELOX tower —reducing cost per kilowatt—all without additional structure or land use,” said Steve Hill COO of SheerWind, “Plus increased capacity allows production in areas previously limited by low wind speed, size or land constraints.”
Founded in 2010 in Chaska, MN, SheerWind is changing the course of power generation. Its patented INVELOX wind funnel technology brings wind energy production to ground level. By capturing, concentrating, and accelerating wind energy, ultimately reducing costs, while solving major problems that have plagued the industry, including low turbine reliability, intermittency issues, and environmental impacts. SheerWind is poised to turn wind power into a major power source for the globe. For more see: SheerWind or SW facebook
Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that the price of getting solar panels installed on a home is lower than ever, but has it gotten to the point anywhere in the U.S. where it’s actually cheaper than traditional grid power yet? –Lester Milstein, Boston, MA
Rooftop solar panels on have always been the province of well-to-do, eco-friendly folks willing to shell out extra bucks to be green, but that is all starting to change. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the cost of putting solar panels on a typical American house has fallen by some 70 percent over the last decade and a half. And a recent report from Deutsche Bank shows that solar has already achieved so-called “price parity” with fossil fuel-based grid power in 10 U.S. states. Deutsche Bank goes on to say that solar electricity is on track to be as cheap or cheaper than average electricity-bill prices in all but three states by 2016—assuming,that is, that the federal government maintains the 30 percent solar investment tax credit it currently offers homeowners on installation and equipment costs.
But therein could lie the rub. The federal tax credit for residential solar installations expires in 2016, and it’s anybody’s guess whether and to what extent the Republican-dominated Congress will renew it. Legislative analysts report that while Congress is unlikely to abandon the program entirely, big cutbacks could be on the way. But Deutsche Bank maintains that even if the credit is reduced to 10 percent, solar power would still achieve price parity with conventional electricity in some 36 states by 2016.
Meanwhile, homeowners in states where additional local incentives are available and there’s lots of sunshine—such as across the Southwest—may in fact already be able to power their homes cheaper with the sun than from the grid. Homeowners looking to go solar should check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency (DSIRE), a free online database of all the different state and local incentives for solar and other forms of renewable energy.
And prices for solar are expected to keep falling as technologies improve and financing becomes more affordable. Solar leasing has helped hundreds of thousands of Americans realize the dream of going solar without breaking the bank. The companies behind such programs—SolarCity, SunRun and others—take care of installation, maintenance and upgrades while the customer ends up paying about as much for clean, green power as for grid power from coal or other fossil fuels.
Of course, solar is still a bit player in the scheme of things in terms of U.S. and global electricity production. But with costs coming down, we can expect to see a lot more solar panels going up on rooftops across the land in the coming decade. Environmentalists concerned about our changing climate say the sooner the better, as our dependency on coal and other fossil fuels for electricity is a big contributor to global warming.
Congress will definitely be considering whether or not to extend the solar investment tax credit when it reconvenes in 2015. If you’re part of the silent majority of Americans who would like to see the credit extended so that middle class Americans can continue to afford to convert to solar power, be sure to speak up and let your Congressional delegation know.
The National Gallery in London, home to some of the world’s most treasured artwork, has achieved and 85% energy saving on lighting through a combination of highly efficient LEDs and a digital control system installed by UK company Open Technology.
LEDs are an ideal choice for museums because they don’t produce UV light, which can be harmful to artworks and with the LiGO system they work in harmony with the natural light which pours into the building.
The innovative Open Technology’s LiGO control system reacts in real time, making automatic adjustments to roof blinds according to the angle of the sunlight; Which in turn, works in conjunction with low energy LED lighting. The whole LiGO system is in tune with it’s surroundings, making a series of fine adjustments throughout the day and producing improvements which are estimated to achieve annual energy savings for the Gallery of 765,000 kWh at a saving of around £53,600.
“The LiGO control system has enabled us to integrate a digital dimming system for our lighting. With our previous system we could only switch on and off, whereas LiGO has enabled us to progressively dim and bring up the light in conjunction with daylight levels,” explains Steve Van Dyke, Head of Building and Facilities, The National Gallery, London.
This high profile projects showcases the ingenuity of 21st century lighting systems and the cost and energy savings that can be made in large public spaces.
Story via Clickgreen.org.uk
Allen & York are a leading global Building & Energy Services Recruitment Consultancy. Current building and energy services jobs include;
Zero Net Energy (ZNE) buildings are those that consume only as much energy as they generate within a year, and they are on the increase according to a report published by BCC research last month.
Zero Net Energy Buildings: Global Markets states that the global market for ZNE commercial buildings was valued at $30.9 million in 2013, increasing to $44.5 million in 2014; should total $239.7 million by 2018, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 50.6% between 2013 and 2018.
Although the market is at an early stage, ZNE has become one of the prime focuses of the building and energy services industry and planners in most major geographic markets are getting involved.
The European Union (EU) targets for energy reduction in government, commercial and residential buildings is driving the green building industry in the UK. Europe is the 2nd largest (AsiaPacific, mainly China being the 1st) and fastest-growing region in the market and is projected to reach to nearly $75 million in 2018 and register a CAGR of 47.5%.
In April, Honda unveiled its net zero energy “Smart Home” on the University of California, Davis campus. The building, which includes a charging facility for a Honda Fit EV and is intended to demonstrate Honda’s vision for zero-carbon living and personal mobility, will on average generate more electricity from on-site renewable energy than it receives from the local utility.
We’re looking forward to this catching on, over the pond!
Story via Sustainablebrands.com
Allen & York are a leading global Building & Energy Services Recruitment Consultancy. Current building and energy services jobs include;
Re-blogged from Forbes.com – 19 November 2014
SunEdison, the St. Louis, MO-based solar power juggernaut, said today that it would acquire First Wind, one of the largest wind power developers in the United States, for $2.4 billion.
The acquisition of First Wind, which is based in Boston, MA, will make SunEdison the leading renewable energy development company in the world.
TerraForm Power, an indirect subsidiary of SunEdison that owns and operates renewable energy projects acquired from SunEdison, is also involved in the transaction.
TerraForm Power is SunEdison’s “yieldco” platform, a new type of investment vehicle that went public in 2013. Yieldco companies like TerraForm Power are similar to Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs), but do not possess assets that qualify for pass-through tax treatment. Like MLPs, Yieldco companies are designed to appeal to investors seeking stable and growing dividend income from a diversified portfolio of lower-risk high-quality assets.
The First Wind acquisition will expand SunEdison’s project installation pipeline for 2015 by an estimated 500 megawatts. In addition, the acquisition will expand the total capacity of TerraForm Power’s power generating portfolio by more than 50%, which should have a favorable impact on future dividend payments for investors.
“The acquisition of First Wind transforms both SunEdison and TerraForm Power into diversified renewable energy companies and will make SunEdison the leading renewable power plant developer in the world,” said Ahmad Chatila, President and Chief Executive Officer of SunEdison.
The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of 2015.
Watch as The Rainforest comes to life and reminds humans that rainforests make life possible. “I have always been there for them and I have been more than generous. Sometimes, I’ve given it all to them, now gone forever,” states The Rainforest.
“Nature’s message is clear: we can’t keep doing what we’re doing now. Clean sustainable energyis crucial and cannot wait … we have to start listening to nature now,” said Spacey.
Did you know rainforests filter water, offer medications and release oxygen.
According to Conservation International:
- Every second a slice of rainforest the size of a football field is mowed down.
- Deforestation accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars and trucks on Earth combined.
- Forests are the lungs of the Earth. They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen.
Conservation International is working to ensure important forests are protected, including an area of about 99 million acres close to the size of the state of California. However this isn’t enough, Conservation International is working to change the global economic framework that currently tells us trees are worth more cut than standing.
Nature Is Speaking is a series of short films voiced by some of the biggest names in Hollywood including Penélope Cruz, Harrison Ford, Edward Norton, Robert Redford, Julia Roberts, Ian Somerhalder and Kevin Spacey.
Help share this great film by using the #NatureIsSpeaking hashtag on social media platforms. HP will donate $1 to Conservation International each time the hashtag is used.
Last night, just weeks after the largest climate mobilization ever, the world’s two biggest polluters—the U.S. and China—announced their most ambitious climate action yet. That is not a coincidence: it’s a sign that our pressure is working, and that we need to apply much more.
Here’s my take on what the just-announced plan from President Obama and Premier Xi is, and isn’t:
1. It is historic. John Kerry was right to use the phrase in his New York Times opedannouncing the deal: for the first time a developing nation has agreed to eventually limit its emissions. This is a necessity for advancing international climate negotiations.
2. It isn’t binding in any way. In effect President Obama is writing an IOU to be cashed by future presidents and Congresses (and Xi is doing the same for future Politburos). If they take the actions to meet the targets, then it’s meaningful, but for now it’s a paper promise. And since physics is uninterested in spin, all the hard work lies ahead.
3. It is proof—if any more was needed—that renewable energy is ready to go. The Chinese say they’ll be using clean sources to get 20 percent of their energy by 2030—which is not just possible, it should be easy. Which they know because they’ve revolutionized the production of solar energy, driving down the cost of panels by 90 percent or more in the last decade.
4. It is not remotely enough to keep us out of climate trouble. We’ve increased the temperature less than a degree and that’s been enough to melt enormous quantities of ice, not to mention set the weather on berserk. So this plan to let the increase more than double is folly—though it is good to see that the two sides have at least agreed not to undermine the 2 degrees Celsius warming target, the one tiny achievement of the 2009 Copenhagen conference fiasco.
5. It is a good way to put pressure on other nations. I’ve just come back from India, which has worked hard to avoid any targets of any sort. But the lesson from this pact is, actual world leaders at least need to demonstrate they’re talking about climate; it makes the lead-up to the global negotiations in Paris next year more interesting.
6. It is a reason projects like Keystone XL and fracking make even less sense than ever. If President Obama is serious about meeting these kinds of targets, then we need serious steps; the surest way to undermine this commitment would be to approve new pipelines or authorize other new fossil fuel developments like fracking. If you pledge sobriety and then buy a keg of beer, people are going to wonder.
7. It is another reminder that it is past time to divest from fossil fuels. The burgeoning divestment movement has been arguing not just on moral grounds, but also making the point that the future will inevitably lead to a downsloping curve for the old energies. This is another warning—for anyone who looks more than a few quarters out, the writing is on the wall that the fossil fuel era is on its way out.
8. It’s not, in any way, a stretch goal. These numbers are easy—if you were really being cynical, you could say they’re trying to carefully manage a slow retreat from fossil fuels instead of really putting carbon on the run. The Germans, for instance, will be moving in on 60 percent of their energy from clean sources by the mid-2020s, when we’ll still be cutting carbon emissions by small increments.
9. It is—and this is the real key—a reminder that movements work. President Obama first endorsed the 80 percent by 2050 goal he enshrined in this pact when he was running for president in 2007, a week after 1,400 demonstrations around the nation demanded that goal. This comes seven weeks after by far the largest global climate demonstrations in history, and amidst ongoing unrest in China about the filthy air in its cities.
10. It isn’t, in other words, a reason to slack off one bit in the ongoing fight for a livable climate, a fight we must continue at all cost. If we want this to be a start, and not a finish, we’ve got to build even bigger and more powerful movements that push the successors of these gentlemen to meet what science demands.
Today is an achievement for everyone who’s held a banner, signed a petition and gone to jail—and a call for many more to join us going forward!
The evidence continues to mount that the U.S. economy’s tepid recovery is finally turning more robust. Growth figures are solid, the unemployment rate continues to drop, and wages are starting to increase—albeit very slowly. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to have some insurance, especially when other developed economies are on shaky ground. Say, for example, a tax cut? It wouldn’t hurt, but in this gridlocked political environment, it’s also a non-starter.
Enter the price of crude. Brent has been trending steadily downward since its high of $115 per barrel in June, and it currently sits at $85 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate has followed suit, dropping from $108 per barrel in June to $78 per barrel as of early November. Nor do the trends appear likely to reverse anytime soon.
Thanks in part to U.S. shale production, growth in supply from non-OPEC countries is exceeding global demand growth by as much as 1 million barrels a day. OPEC doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to cut production, and last week Saudi Arabia unexpectedly reduced the cost of crude it sells to the U.S. Coming at it from a demand perspective, oil prices have surely been constrained by sluggish growth in Europe and China. Altogether, Credit Suisse expects the price of oil to keep falling, and lowered its forecasts for Brent from $98 per barrel to $92 for the fourth quarter, and predicts an average of $87 a barrel for the first quarter of next year.
For American drivers, this means celebration at the pump. On November 10, the average price of regular unleaded gasoline had fallen for 46 consecutive days, and on November 1 it dropped below $3 per gallon for the first time since 2010, according to the American Automobile Association. If oil prices follow the bank’s forecasts, nominal consumer spending on energy will fall from 3.2 percent in June of this year to 2.5 percent by March 2015, giving consumers an effective tax cut of about $80 billion, according to a report by Credit Suisse analysts James Sweeney and Jay Feldman. That would be the lightest aggregate gasoline bill for U.S. households in more than a decade. It would be especially positive for lower-income Americans: spending on gasoline accounts for 13 percent of pre-tax income in the lowest quintile of U.S. households, compared with 2.5 percent in the highest quintile.
The extra cash may also spur more holiday cheer, fueling greater consumer demand as Thanksgiving approaches. That’s especially the case since more Americans are earning a paycheck: the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent in October, the lowest level since 2008. Credit Suisse says lower energy costs have already helped consumer confidence, which rose 5.5 points in October to 94.5, the highest level in seven years. Chain-store sales also increased 0.6 percent last month, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. And while a prolonged period of low prices may put a damper on new investment in the U.S. oil industry, it’s unlikely to curtail job growth since only 0.6 percent of American jobs are in energy extraction.
And what of broader consumer prices? If oil stays low, headline inflation could slow to 1 percent by the end of the first quarter of next year and to as low as 0.5 percent in the second quarter, according to Credit Suisse. That might even persuade the Federal Reserve to postpone its highly anticipated interest rate hike, currently expected by Credit Suisse in June 2015—which would amount to yet another plus for economic growth.
Photo of U.S. currency courtesy of Shutterstock.com.
Could The World Be 100% Solar? [Infographic] by the team at CashEuroNetUK, LLC