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27 April 2013

Press review 27-04-2013

This week the emphasis has to go to Iraq. If you have been following this blog this shouldn't come as a surprise, protests by the Sunni minority have grown into generalised clashes with the Shia army; a story in all similar to the early days of the civil war in Syria. If NATO decides to supply arms to the Sunni in the region we'll like witness the mother of all wars in the Near East. Meanwhile the western media has been more worried with the bombing of the French embassy in Lybia, another state that NATO recently broke apart.
Al Jazeera
Scores killed in two days of Iraq clashes

More than 100 people have been killed in two days of violence across Iraq after a raid on a camp of mostly Sunni Muslim protesters on Tuesday ignited the fiercest clashes since US troops left.

On Wednesday, fighting broke out for a second day between government troops and protesters in the country's north, after the deaths of at least 56 people at a protest camp in Kirkuk province on Tuesday.

Troops stormed the camp where Sunni Muslims have protested for months against what they see as their marginalisation under the Shia-led government, a raid that prompted Sunni tribal leaders to call for revolt.

Many of the victims were killed in ensuing clashes, which spread beyond the town of Hawija near Kirkuk, 170 km north of Baghdad, to other areas, reviving worries of a return to widespread intercommunal violence.

Al Jazeera's Omar Al Saleh, reporting from Baghdad, said clashes between fighters and the army were ongoing on Wednesday evening.
The shale hype in Europe is going strong, with prospects for exploratory drilling at least in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. But on the other side of the Atlantic the bubble is clearly deflating. The information that as been percolating in Europe points to similar reserve overestimations used in the US to attract improvident investors. There we'll certainly be shale oil and gas produced in Europe, but also the same financial losses as in the US.
Mike Lee & Edward Klump, 16-04-2013

Ohio’s $500 Billion Oil Dream Fades as Utica Turns Gassy

U.S. drillers that set up rigs amid the rolling farmland of eastern Ohio on projections underground shale held $500 billion of oil are packing up.

Four of the biggest stakeholders in untapped deposits known as the Utica Shale have put up all or part of their acreage for sale, as prices fall by a third in some cases. Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK) of Oklahoma City, the biggest U.S. shale lease owner, last week offered up 94,200 acres (38,121 hectares). EnerVest Ltd. and Devon Energy Corp. (DVN) are selling as early results show lower production than their predictions.

“The results were somewhat disappointing,” said Philip Weiss, an analyst with Argus Research in New York. Early data show “it’s not as good as we thought it was going to be.”

The flip-flop underscores the difficulties faced by even experienced drillers around the world in tapping the sedimentary rock. In California, Occidental Petroleum Corp. was stymied by the Monterey Shale’s fault-riddled terrain. In Poland, Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) stopped drilling because shale output was minimal. China’s failures with shale gas drove producers Cnooc Ltd. and China Petrochemical Corp. to seek expertise in North America.

In Ohio’s Utica formation, which runs eastward as far as New York, drillers frequently found the rock too dense and underground pressures insufficient to produce oil.
Another small piece of the changing world currencies puzzle was put in place this week: Australia is investing part of its foreign reserves in China. This is a clear bet on the Chinese government focusing more on inflation in the near future, which should also produce a narrowing of its trade surplus. I'm not yet that certain this will be the case.
RBA Set to Invest Foreign Currency Reserves in China, Lowe Says
Michael Heath, 24-04-2013

Australia’s central bank plans to invest part of its foreign currency holdings in China and maintain about 5 percent of reserves in the world’s second largest economy, Deputy Governor Philip Lowe said.

The decision “represents the first time that the RBA will have invested directly in a sovereign bond market of an Asian country other than Japan,” Lowe said in the text of a speech to be delivered today in Shanghai. “It reflects the broader economic relationship between China and Australia and our increasing financial ties.” China’s central bank has approved an initial investment quota, Lowe said.
There are these little pieces of news that almost go unnoticed but that can be terribly forewarning. The wheat harvest in the UK last Fall was awful, and this winter seems to be still going strong in most of Europe. The weather forecast for today points to a maximum temperature of 5º C where I live; most of the trees in the region are yet to blossom and there are no signs of green in the grain fields. Next Fall it might not be just the UK.
The Guardian
Weetabix supplies hit by dismal harvest
Rupert Neate, 22-04-2013

Last year's disastrous summer has forced Weetabix to halt production of some of its most popular lines, after the company exhausted its supply of high quality British wheat following what it described as the worst harvest in decades.

Weetabix said it had been forced to stop making Weetabix Minis and Oatibix Bites because last year's cold and wet summer had devastated the UK harvest.

The company, which is committed to using only British wheat, said many shops had "completely run out" of some Weetabix varieties. "The shops don't have them," a spokesman said. "There will be a shortage of these products for some time."
But not everything is bad news. Stanford University is publicising a relevant achievement on flow battery design that looks very promising. I hope the transfer from the lab to the industry can make good on these promises. In any case, the recent worldwide growth in wind and solar energy is driving plenty of research on all kinds of storage technologies that in time shall produce its results.
Science Daily
New Battery Design Could Help Solar and Wind Power the Grid

Today's flow batteries pump two different liquids through an interaction chamber where dissolved molecules undergo chemical reactions that store or give up energy. The chamber contains a membrane that only allows ions not involved in reactions to pass between the liquids while keeping the active ions physically separated. This battery design has two major drawbacks: the high cost of liquids containing rare materials such as vanadium -- especially in the huge quantities needed for grid storage -- and the membrane, which is also very expensive and requires frequent maintenance.

The new Stanford/SLAC battery design uses only one stream of molecules and does not need a membrane at all. Its molecules mostly consist of the relatively inexpensive elements lithium and sulfur, which interact with a piece of lithium metal coated with a barrier that permits electrons to pass without degrading the metal. When discharging, the molecules, called lithium polysulfides, absorb lithium ions; when charging, they lose them back into the liquid. The entire molecular stream is dissolved in an organic solvent, which doesn't have the corrosion issues of water-based flow batteries.
And that's it, have a nice weekend, if you can avoid the cold and rain.

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