Markets

Gassco, the Norwegian natural gas pipeline operator, transported 114.2 billion cubic metres of gas during 2018 from the Norwegian Continental Shelf to mainland Europe and the UK. That is nine times Norway’s annual hydropower output and the second-highest exports ever.

Growth prospects for gas-distribution utilities are at risk in several American states, as decarbonization policies on state level and rising cost-competitiveness of renewables undermine the role of gas. According to McKinsey analysis, this could pose a challenge to gas distributors in some states as early as 2026, and in most of them by 2030.

Texas’ electric power grid operator ERCOT is heading into spring and summer 2019 with lowest ever supply of back-up power. The actual reserve margins fell from 8.1% in December to 7.4% in January – just half of ERCOT's 13.75% reserve margin goal.

For January, another 250 billion cubic feet (bcf) is likely to be lost in gas demand amid unseasonably warm weather, erasing fears about a storage deficit. On the contrary, if the mild weather continues Energy Aspects expects end-March inventories to remain north of 1.55 trillion cubic feet (tcf).

Power producers in Europe, as well as parts of the U.S. and Australia, have been feeling the pinch due to a decline in wholesale energy prices brought about by stagnant demand, low gas prices and higher output of generation with low marginal costs, notably renewables. New-builds are no longer profitable which puts reserve margins at risk, hence the International Energy Agency (IEA) calls for a re-design of competitive power markets.

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) chief executive Kenji Ando has used his New Year address to warn of a difficult business environment in 2019, with “turbid conditions” in the thermal power generation sector. “Our competitors are also seeing sharp declines in business results,” he said, stressing MHPS will forge ahead with business restructuring.

The spread in natural gas spot prices between the Henry Hub in Louisiana and the Appalachian region continued to narrow over the year just past. Prices fell at Henry Hub throughout December, and as of January 2, 2019, they were at around $2.79/mmBtu while Appalachian prices kept trading at a discount due to pipeline constraints.

Following eight years of global economic growth, economists agree a downturn is simply a matter of when and how deep. The worst case scenario, according to Wood Mackenzie, would be a recession occurring in 2020 or 2021 – just after 60-100 mtpa of LNG has taken FID.

The spot energy index in the S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) has ended the year 21% lower than at the beginning of 2018, despite a 25% rise between January and October. The plunge of the index in the fourth quarter was caused by steep declines in crude oil and petroleum product prices.

Dominion Energy is completing the takeover of SCANA Corp. adding customers in Georgia and the Carolinas to its 18-state footprint. The merged assets, worth over $6.8 million, align well with Dominion’s regulated energy businesses. “These are well-run regulated operations that will help improve our risk profile and growth outlook," said CEO Thomas F. Farrell.

Medco Energi, Indonesia's national oil and gas company, is in talks to acquire the UK-listed Ophir Energy in a cash takeover. No amount or other details have yet been disclosed, other than Medco has to make a clear binding offer by January 28, if a deal is to proceed.

Gas-burn in the electric power sector is forecast to peak around 2035 and start declining from 2040, by when wind and solar are set to become the dominant energy sources. Data by the classification society DNV GL shows that gas demand in Europe already peaked in 2010, and will do so in North America by 2020, whereas in South-East Asia and China it will only peak in the mid-2030s.

Demand growth for natural gas in China is outpacing supply. Despite rapidly rising LNG imports, some domestic shale gas production and the scheduled start of an additional 38 Bcm of Russian gas supplies through the ‘Power of Siberia Pipeline’ before the end of 2019, analysts expect a gas deficit in in the China market from 2020 onwards.

Consultations have officially started as to whether Uniper will divest all its French power plant assets to the Central European energy investment group EPH, majority-owned by the billionaire Daniel Kretinsky. Uniper confirmed it received a unilateral binding offer from EPH, but did not disclose the value of a potential deal.

A consortium of Enagás, Snam and Fluxys has completed the acquisition of a 66% stake in DESFY, the Greek gas transmission system operator. The stake was bought from the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) and Hellenic Petroleum for € 535 million.

Page 14 of 152

News in Brief

Blackout after fire at Madison substation

July 22 – Electricity is gradually being restored at Madison, Wisconsin, after 13,000 people experience a blackout following an explosion at a substation near Madison Gas & Electric’s 100 MW gas-fired Blount Generating Station. No injuries were reported.

Fuel switch could abate 1.2bn tons of CO2

July 19 – Some 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 could be abated by switching to gas using existing infrastructure, if prices and regulation are supportive. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), this would be enough to bring global CO2 emissions back down to where they were in 2013.

IEA launches methane tracker

July 18 – A new ‘methane tracker’, launched by the International Energy Agency (IEA), provides up-to-date estimates of current oil and gas methane emissions by drawing on the best available data. Analysts stressed methane emissions could be reduced by nearly half at no net cost.

Canada’s CO2 tax also affects gas power

July 17 – Change in Canada’s carbon tax regulation for new power plants has changed to also affect cleaner-burning, gas combined-cycle power stations starting from 2021. The move could cause SaskPower to reconsider its planned upcoming Moose Jaw gas power station.

MAN, Daewoo, HSD partner on engine digitalization

July 16 – MAN Energy Solutions, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) and HSD Engine (HSD) have signed a strategic agreement to cooperate in the field of marine engine systems digitization. The three companies also work together on auxiliary systems and data analysis, aiming to apply part of their know-how to power generation and related sectors.

Canada launches first utility-scale smart microgid

July 15 – The Ontario-based municipal utility North Bay Hydro Services is cooperating with the smart grid solutions firm S&C Electric to launch Canada’s first utility-scale microgrid system. Among some solar power, the 789KW microgrid system will be powered by two 265kW natural gas generators.

Macquarie funds Mexican power plant

July 12 – Macquarie Capital has chosen Credit Agricole, Natixis and SMBC to co-finance a $380 million combined-cycle gas power plant. The 560 MW plant is designated to be built in San Louis Potosi, a city in central Mexico.

B&V launches distributed energy group

July 11 – Black & Veatch has launched a dedicated distributed energy group to place its conventional power business in the context of the global energy transition. The distribute energy group will look into new fuel sources such as hydrogen and aspires to “re-power the more-than-century-old power industry.”

Funding secured for Kazah CHP project

July 10 – Kazinform Erg has committed to spend $500 million on a gas cogeneration station that will provide heat and electricity to the south of Kazakhstan. Over 87% of Kazakhstan’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels, and in 2018 the country produced 107,060 billion kWh of electricity, a 3.8% increase over the previous year and enough to cover total power use of 103,228 kWh.

Bitcoin mining uses much energy

July 9 – Estimates of bitcoin’s electricity consumption are wide-ranging, on the order of 20‑80 TWh annually. According to George Kamiya, digital energy analyst at the International Energy Agency (IEA), bitcoin mining consumed around 45 TWh in 2018 although this has risen significantly this year. Through the first six months of 2019, bitcoin mining has already consumed an estimated 29 TWh.

Coal exit doesn’t impact Germany's supply security

July 8 – Electricity supply security in Germany is set to stay “very high” even as the country begins to phase out coal-fired power generation, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) said in a monitoring report. “Energy supply is adequately ensured”, the ministry said, in all scenarios examined up to 2030. Thereafter, things are less clear but the German Coal Commission is adamant that its proposal to exit coal power by 2038 is feasible and won’t seriously impact reserve margins.

Hydrogen demo plant starts in Adelaide

July 5 – The Australian Gas Networks (AGN), part of the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG), has received A$4.9 million in government funding for an A$11.4m hydrogen electrolyser demonstration project at the Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide. At the test site, AGN plans to blend 5% renewable hydrogen with natural gas for supply to customers using its existing gas distribution networks. The project is based on a Siemens proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyser, running based on wind and solar power.

Wärtsilä forms biogas solution

July 4 – Wärtsilä Puregas Solutions, specialists in biogas upgrading technology, has merged with Wärtsilä’s biogas liquefaction team to create a one-stop-shop service for biofuel production. Having installed the world’s largest bioLNG facility in Skogn, Norway, Wärtsilä will deliver two more bio-LNG plants to customers in Scandinavia. The company’s Puregas CA process recovers more than 99.9% of the biomethane present in raw biogas.

PNM to close San Juan Generating Station

July 3 — New Mexico's largest energy holding, PNM Resources, has filed an application to the Public Regulation Commission to close the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station. For replacement power, PNM said the preferred option was a mix of gas power plants, solar and wind farms and new battery storage facilities. The utility strives to be ‘emissions-free’ by 2040.

ADB opens office in Singapore

July 2 — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has decided to open an office in Singapore. The lean office with twelve staff will focus on the expansion of its private sector operations, e.g. through Public-Private Partnerships. “We estimate that developing Asia will need $1.7 trillion per year in infrastructure investments until 2030 to maintain the region’s growth momentum,” commented Singapore’s finance minister Heng Swee Keat.

Testing starts at Haliade-X

July 1 – Technology testing has started at GE’s Haliade-X, the world’s biggest offshore wind turbine. The 12 MW nacelle and 107-metre long blade was shipped to the UK as part of an advanced technology testing program, focused on enhancing the platform before it enters into serial production in 2021.

Tata to build UK’s first CCUS plant

June 28 – Tata Chemicals has announced plans to build the UK’s first industrial-scale Carbon Capture, Usage and Demonstration plant at its Northwich industrial site. The CCUD unit will be built at an estimated cost of£16.7 million and is planned to start operation in 2021. It will make use of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel power plants and turn it into sodium bicarbonate, which can then be sold to pharmaceutical industries.