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03 October 2015

Press review 03-10-2015 - Life on Mars

Last Monday the media burst in excitement with the discovery of salty liquid water on Mars. From there to "life on Mars" was a baby step and an proper information evening was lost. Mars lacks a far more important essential element to life as we know it: a magnetosphere. The red planet is a dead place, with a cold core and no geological activity. Later in the week came the muffled retractions: it was not really water, just traces of minerals.

It is hard not to compare the life on Mars meme with the "shale oil" revolution. The media behaves just like a herd of sheep, without any sense of direction or critical appraisal; gullibility is their way of being. But soon enough, "shale oil" will acquire a whole new meaning. In Europe the "fracking" speak went totally mute, while in the US the dampened act of contritions emerge, in the wake of a serious financial disaster.

26 September 2015

Press review 26-09-2016 - The Petrobras jeopardy

The VW scandal with NOx emissions has taken over front pages this week. The climate community seems quite excited with it, as one of the world symbols of fossil fuel combustion falls in disgrace for a most damning cause - lying. It is hard to see at this moment the financial impact the company is to withstand, but it should be something unprecedented.

VW is likely to survive and combustion engines to last. But there are other signs - and far more worrying - pointing to a further declines in fossil fuel extraction in the short term. The present under priced petroleum market is putting a lot of pressure on Petrobras . If up to now it were mostly small companies ailing with 50 $/b, now it is the largest company of the southern hemisphere. Debt rating hawks are out on the prowl and investors scare away.

Petrobras is likely the largest debtor company in the world, with outstanding debt in the order of 200 G$. If it goes down, it will not go down alone.

24 September 2015

Portugal Parliamentary Elections 2015

Portugal is going for regular Parliamentary elections on the 4th of October. The international press wonders now and then why after five years of austerity the political landscape remains apparently unchanged, with the three parties that signed the agreement with the Troika in 2011 still harnessing more than two thirds of the votes in polls.

While it is true that political upheaval seen in Spain, Italy or Greece is yet to materialise in Portugal, the outcome of this election is not as straightforward as might appear on the surface.

This post provides an overview on the election method, the parties with possibilities of electing MPs and the prospects for a resulting government.

19 September 2015

Press review 19-09-2015 - The decline sets in

This Sunday, Greece is going for the third decisive election in less than one year. This time however, it is mostly decisive on a political level. A parliamentary status quo seems likely, without a clear government emerging from the election, but the austerity doctrine seems no longer in question. Portugal is having similar elections in two weeks, and even though harnessing little attention from the international media, a few surprises could be in the pipeline. Watch this space for details in the coming week.

The energy world is well alight in this reentrée. The decline of world petroleum is accelerating and the news meet grinder is in overdrive. The Supply destruction process settles in, with all petroleum exporting nations struggling. There are now hints of a 1 Mb/d decline in the US alone. And more is certainly to come.

12 September 2015

Press review 12-09-2015 - Back in business

A confluence of critical events in my professional life has meant an extended summer break for this review. I will be unemployed in a few days, which on the positive side means I might have more time to write. As always, the list of themes I would like to tackle is rather long.

Not much has changed during these past few weeks in the energy landscape. The economic slowdown in China is still dominating commodities markets with a dive in trade between the economies around the Indian ocean. Petroleum prices sank under the 2009 minimum for a few days in August, and the futures curve flattened considerably. Worldwide extracted volumes have been declining since the beginning of 2015 and look far from any bottom.

Petroleum exporting economies struggle: Venezuela, Angola, Canada, Russia... But the felling remains that the worst is still to come and the industry yet to take in the full impact of this under-priced market.

17 August 2015

The cost of the Tesla Powerwall

The public announcement a couple of months ago by Tesla of a medium sized stationary Lithium-ion battery targeting the household market provoked an inordinate reaction. The web erupted with the Powerwall, from exuberant stockholders to mindless criticism, to Forbes' ridiculous claims, every one had a compulsive need to opine over it. I noted the hype and expressed my scepticism towards a technology that seems far from cutting edge in what stationary applications is concerned.

In spite of all the publicity there was little effort to put numbers up for discussion. What is the cost of the electricity generated by a system backed by a Powerwall?

This post is an exercise attempting to answer this question. It presents calculations towards the levelised cost of electricity for a household self-consumption PV system, with and without the Powerwall.

15 August 2015

Press review 15-08-2015 - The dolldrums

It is the middle of August, it is a holyday in much of Europe, but also weekend and most folk are away on vacation. The media is mostly concerned with the influx of refugees, that now occupy traditional holiday destinations. The Brent index hardly moved, staying flat throughout the week at 49 $/b, just an hair off the January lows.

China budged its currency in response to internal economic difficulties ever harder to hide. In the same day the media reported actions by the Chinese Central Bank to depreciate and appreciate the Renminbi. The worrying thing is that apparently this was actually the case.

This review is just a short roundup on the some of the issues followed in this space the last year. Starting by Ukraine, where the Kiev government slowly derides and finds it increasingly difficult to keep its territory together.