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07 September 2013

Press review 07-09-2013

The conflict in Syria seems bound to a hike in violence and complexity with the US, France and Russia committing to direct involvement. The first two through air strikes on Shia assets, the latter with unclarified support to the Shia in case these attacks take place. There is also speculation of increased material support to the Sunni from NATO. If Assad falls Syria will likely come into the hands of Al Qaeda and its allies; how then that plays with neighbouring Iraq and Lebanon is anyone's guess, but I'm not expecting peace to return to the region. But a strike by NATO members on Syria can have far more reaching consequences.

Jeff Rubbin's Smaller World
Will Syria Bring an Oil Shock?

Is the Middle East about to deliver another oil shock to the global economy? The U.S. military has targets picked out in Syria and President Obama is trying to convince Congress that America needs to intervene. If the U.S. does go ahead with tactical strikes against the Assad regime, oil markets will be caught in the middle. The size of the repercussions, though, is an open question.

History, both recent and more distant, offers a sense of what to expect when the world’s most important oil producing region destabilizes. Syria’s oil production, in terms of physical supply, is inconsequential. What’s more of a concern is how Syria’s neighbours react to any military intervention by the U.S. The Middle East is home to roughly a third of global oil production. The world depends on a steady stream of cheap crude flowing from the region in order to keep the global economy running smoothly.
Another country where Al Qaeda recently took power with the help of NATO is Libya. Or better, was Lybia, since it doesn't seem to be a proper country any more, both in geographical terms as in essential functional institutions. Last week various media outlets reported confusing and conflicting news on Tripoli's airport, some reported flights not allowed to land, others, aircraft retained in the ground. Earlier this week a limited number of outlets detailed that the airport had been attacked or seized by militia, a news apparently originating in a local correspondent to the Spanish press.
Gunmen Attack Libya's Tripoli International Airport

Gunmen stormed Libyan Tripoli's international airport, blocking the tarmac and stopping a plane, belonging to the al-Barak airline from Benghazi from taking off, security sources disclosed here Monday.

The sources did not elaborate but Libya's airports services director, Mohamed Abdallah Beit al-mal, said his department was the only authorised entity that can close the country's airports.

"If the government and the local organisations deem it necessary to close an airport in the country, we have all the means to do it," he said.
In Iran, a country not in NATO's favour, the recent change of cabinet at government seems set to impact on the country's relationship with the West. Speculation is out on he government seeking a returned to negotiations on its Nuclear programme. There also changes in the Oil ministry worth noting by the western press, with a gentle admission that the country has passed its prime production.
Platts Energy Week
New Man at Iran's Oil Helm

U.S. and European sanctions continue to severely limit Iran’s oil exports. But that’s not stopping Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, from trying to rebuild his nation’s oil sector. Leading the effort is Bijan Zangeneh, Tehran’s new oil minister, who previously held the job from 1997 to 2005. Sara Vakhshouri, a Washington consultant and former adviser to the Iranian National Oil Company, will discuss the implications for both Iran and world oil markets.

Iran's petroleum fields may be maturing, but they still produce oil at a cost well below marginal producers. It is just not easy to hand this cheap stuff back in a world thirsty for oil and financially constrained.
The Wall Street Journal
India Considers Holding Iran Oil Imports Steady
Saurabh Chaturvedi and Biman Mukherji, 02-09-2013

NEW DELHI—India's oil minister is considering a plan to reduce the country's ballooning current-account deficit that includes holding its oil imports from Iran steady, according to a letter he sent to the prime minister.

Veerappa Moily said in the letter to Manmohan Singh, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, that India could save as much as $8.5 billion by importing a further 11 metric tons of crude from Iran on top of the 2 million tons it has imported so far in the fiscal year that began April 1. This would be on par with the country's 13.11 million tons, or 263,000 barrels a day, of Iranian oil imports, in 2012-13. Failing to reduce the amount would put India in jeopardy of losing an exemption from U.S. sanctions against countries that do business with Iran.

The savings in foreign-exchange outflow would be achieved thanks to a barter arrangement that India has with Iran. It purchases oil from the Islamic Republic by depositing rupees into a bank account, and then Iran imports Indian goods, potentially including food, drugs, consumer products and auto parts, debiting rupee amounts from the same account.
Further news worth noting on solar power. An optimist study is out claiming Germany can continue expanding its renewable park even if it fails to build in time key grid connections between its sunny south and windy north. This would largely depend on a focus shift from offshore to onshore deployment. That might be the case, but the important point to release is that, with or without the links to the north, the price incentive to deploy PV in the south is going to stay around.
Grid Expansion Delays Won't Derail Germany's Energy Transition, Analysis Finds

LONDON -- Expanding Germany's transmission grid in order to accommodate increasing amounts of renewable energy will be a crucial element of the nation's effort to meet its 2020 climate targets. But new analysis suggests that even if grid updates are heavily delayed, the nation could still successfully add large amounts of renewables, albeit with slightly higher costs.

Germany's grid expansion plans are ambitious, involving four new HVDC cables from the north to the south of the country according to the national grid development plan, and some analysts believe they may not happen on schedule. A new report from renewables consultancy Ecofys, commissioned by the Smart Energy for Europe Platform (SEFEP), looked at Germany's options if grid expansion is delayed, concluding that even in this case the nation can stay on its current renewable energy deployment track.

"There are a number of reasons why there are concerns," said Raffaele Piria, SEFEP's programme director. "Some say grid expansion cannot or might not happen at the speed assumed by the official grid development plans, and the risk of delays has been used as a motivation to propose a slowdown in renewable energy deployment in Germany. Our study shows that even if there is a delay, it is no reason to slow down renewable deployment in general."
The realisation that PV is now a competitive electricity source is slowly growing, as recent numbers of systems installed in California show.
Chart: 2/3rds of Global Solar PV Has Been Installed in the Last 2.5 Years
Stephen Lacey, 13-08-2013

First, utilities still dismissing solar as inconsequential or "cute" may soon be in for a rude awakening. According to the Solar Market Insight report from GTM Research and SEIA, the national average for residential system prices fell another 18 percent last year; non-residential prices fell 13.3 percent.

The falling cost and price of installation is starting to open up new markets without incentives. As Shayle Kann, vice president of GTM Research, pointed out recently, roughly 3,000 residential solar systems were installed in California without the use of any state incentives in the first quarter of this year.

"This is emblematic of a sea change in the solar industry, and even more importantly, in the energy industry," wrote Kann.
Optimists claim this is a revolution in the making. Perhaps they are right, but the consequences might not exactly be what they are thinking. If, as many expect, the cost of storage can also go through the same processes that brought down PV costs threefold in a few years, then things are definitely going to change.
Solar and storage means “game over” for traditional utilities

Last Friday’s story about the predictions of Stanford University energy expert Tony Seba that solar would displace fossil fuels by 2030 – and how electric vehicles would do the same to liquid fuels – certainly generated a lot of readership, and a big response.

Some questioned whether we should be taking the opinion of just one academic at his word. So we’ve followed up with some quotes from two of the most senior energy chiefs in the US, the world’s biggest electricity market. And the predictions are just as striking.

Jon Wellinghoff, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which regulates utilities in the US, said in an interview last week that solar will “overtake everything”, and said that once storage is brought in to the equation it is pretty much “game over” for traditional forms of generation.
The storage aspect of renewable electricity is likely to take central stage in the next few years. Some technologies are bound to put a serious test on scalability, and in the end not all may come through.
Will Tesla Alone Double Global Demand For Its Battery Cells?
Thomas Fisher, 03-09-2013

Tesla is on a roll right now, with 14,000 of its all-electric Model S luxury sedan on the road and its stock at record highs.

If it achieves its planned production levels--21,000 cars this year, perhaps 40,000 by 2015--its voracious appetite for lithium-ion battery cells will only increase.

The massive scale of cell purchases by Tesla Motors has already boosted global production levels.

It may soon use as many '18650' lithium-ion cells itself as the entire industry produced before the Model S went into production a year ago.

But ensuring adequate battery supplies in sufficient time to expand car production is absolutely key to continuing Tesla's growth.
And that's enough for this week. Until a next time.

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