Markets

U.S. natural gas prices at Henry Hub have surged nearly 25% to top $3.60 per million British thermal units as a cold spell gripped the nation, pushing up domestic gas demand for power generation along with shale gas production. As a consequence, U.S. LNG exports were slightly lower this week.

VAKT, creator of a commodity post-trade processing system, has just won three new three new strategic investors: Chevron, Total and Reliance Industries. The oil majors will also become early users of VAKT’s blockchain-enabled platform.

Japan’s Hitachi Group today decided to suspend construction works at its Horizon division’s Wylfa nuclear power plant in northern Wales. With the £20 billion Wylfa project shelved, Hinkely Point is now the only nuclear project left in Britain, so flexible gas power and renewables will have to fill the looming capacity gap.

2019 could be a “year of incongruity,” Energy Aspects says, pointing to a rush of supply FID for gas liquefaction and export terminals happening against a backdrop of a market in oversupply. Analysts expect four new LNG Trains to start up or ramp up in Q1-2019, and considering the mild Asian winter, this leaves some 5.7 Bcm y/y of incremental supply available for the European market that quarter.

South Australia’s large-scale Hornsdale battery (100 MW) has helped save nearly $40 million in grid stabilization costs in its first year running, but the success of energy storage undermines the role of gas peaking plants. Flexible combined-cycle plants get dispatched less, also due to higher gas prices, leaving some at risk of mothballing.

As the global sentiment turns against coal, the Institute of Energy Economics Japan (IEE Japan) has modelled a case in which all new coal-fired power plant projects would be banned from 2020. If natural gas was to replace coal in the energy sector, global primary gas consumption would surge by 1.3 trillion cubic metres (Tcm) to reach 7.3 Tcm in 2050.

Britain is strong market for sellers looking to home excess gas supply this winter, National Grid said when announcing a record send-out of its Grain LNG import terminal. A robust NBP price and anticipated lower variable costs for gas processing are likely to keep attracting spot cargoes to the UK.

Demand for LNG in Japan is anticipated to fall for the third year in a row as the renewable energy build-out accelerates and nuclear reactors restart gradually. According to the Institute of Energy Economics Japan (IEE Japan) LNG supplies will ease from 82.3 mt in fiscal 2018, down 0.3% to 82 million ton in fiscal 2019, which starts on April 1.

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.

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News in Brief

Smart grid market to top $70bn by 2027

April 24 – The global Smart Grid Market is expected to reach around $70 billion, growing at an annual rate of 15.56% in the coming years through to 2027.North America is forecast to see the largest revenue growth, according to ResearchNester, while Europe also shows promising growth in smart grids due to high awareness for decentralized power generation, battery storage and conserving energy.

China eases ban on coal power

April 23 – The Chinese National Energy Administration (NEA) has allowed 11 provinces to resume building coal power plants in a move that lies bare the country’s dependency on thermal coal even after several hundred billion dollars were invested cleaner energy sources, notable wind, solar and natural gas. Areas earmarked by NEA for new coal power plants include Qinghai, Chongqing, Guangxi, Guangdong, Yunnan, Guizhou and Henan.

$500m Birdsboro plant gets powered up

April 17 – Birdsboro Power, a subsidiary of EmberClear of Canada, is in the process of commissioning the $500 million Birdsboro open-cycle gas power plant. Built on a site of the former Amourcast steel foundry, and driven by a GE 7H02 turbine, the new power unit will generate about $500,000 in revenue for the Reading Area Water Authority and another $125,000 city of Reading, Pennsylvania. All electricity will be supplied into PJM Interconnection, the power grid operator in the U.S. Northeast.

Gas now dominant fossil fuel in Europe

April 17 – Rising cost of carbon emissions and closures of coal power stations throughout Europe have led to gas-fired generation overtaking the output of other fossil fuels for the first time. According to EnAppSys figures, gas power plants in the EU produced 117 TWh of electricity in the first quarter of 2019, compared with a combined 110.9 TWh from coal, lignite and gas-to-coal plants.

ABB, Porsche co-develop electric vehicle chargers

April 16 – ABB and Porsche have agreed to develop electric vehicle chargers for Porsche Japan’s new electric vehicles, including Tayan – the carmakers’ first fully electric car due to be launched in 2020. Under the deal, Porsche will install ABB chargers at its public facilities across Japan, creating a network of fast-charging stations for its electric vehicles. The first installation is set to go live in mid-2020.

Power gen from biomass flatlines

April 15 – Increases of U.S. electricity generation from biomass have stopped after a decade of growth. Power produced from biomass totaled 70.6 million megawatthours (MWh) in 2018, or about 2% of total U.S. electricity generation, according to EIA figures. Having grown from 2004 through 2014, and the 2018 output was 2% below its peak generation of 71.7 million MWh.

Aeroderivative GT market to top $3.5bn by 2024

April 12 – The global market for aeroderivative gas turbines is seen grow at a 7% rate to surpass $3.5 billion by 2024. A main growth driver, according to Global Markets Insight, will be the rising adoption of small-scale turbine-driven cogeneration plant and the trend towards decentralized energy supply.

Lumenaza creates regional green power grids

April 11 – Utility-in-a-box software, developed by Lumenaza, creates a regional green power grid by connecting producers and consumers of locally produced wind and solar energy. The system monitors renewable power output, balances supply and demand, and can help organize the billing process. Pilot projects have been implemented with two of Germany’s big utilities, E.ON and EnBW as well as with various smaller players.

MHPS licenses H-25 turbine production to Chinese manufacturer

April 10 – Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) has agreed to license production technology for its H-25 series gas turbines to the Chinese manufacturer CSIC Longjiang GH Gas Turbine Co. The agreement will establish a small local supply chain which helps expands MHPS’ share in the Chinese market, the Japan-based company stated. So far, MHPS received five orders for H-25 Series gas turbines, or nine units in total, from Chinese power plant developers.

SIEW 2019 to focus on energy transformation

April 9 – “Accelerating Energy Transformation” will be the theme for the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) 2019. This theme has been chosen by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) of Singapore to address mounting challenges in Asia over meeting climate change commitments against a backdrop of continuously rising energy demand.

ENGIE launches 1st mini-grid in Zambia

April 8 – The French utility ENGIE has inaugurated its first PowerCorner – an off-grid renewable energy solution – in the Zambian village of Chitandika. Located in the East of Zambia, Chitandika counts 1500 inhabitants who previously had no access to electricity.

Global gas engine market to reach $4.4 billion by 2020

April 5 – Over the next five years, the global gas turbine market is forecast to grow 11.1% annually in terms of revenue, reaching a market size of $24,100 million by 2024, up from $14,300 million in 2019. Market-leading companies include: GE, Siemens, Ansaldo Energia, MAN Energy Solutions, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems and Shanghai Electric Group.

EDAC, Siemens seek ‘industrial app’ for 3D-printing

April 4 – Siemens is intensifying its cooperation with the EDAG Group, an independent engineering company for the automotive industry, to promote industrial applications of additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing. The companies’ joint "NextGenerationSpaceframe 2.0" project is on show at the Hannover Messe this week.

ABB electrifies Lodi campus of Milan University

April 3 – The Swiss manufacturer ABB will ensure smarter, safer and more reliable electricity supply for students at the Milan University’s new campus in Lodi. Covering an area of 20,000 square meters, the campus has installed ABB’s UniSec switchgear and main distribution switchboard solution, System pro E power.

Chevron launches $90m Fund VII

April 2 – Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV) has set up Fund VII, a new $90 million fund focused on venture capital investment across the energy industry. Investments target early- to mid-stage companies as well as limited partnership funds with the aim of supporting breakthrough technologies that have the potential to improve Chevron’s oil and gas business performance.

Siemens to implement VW Industrial Cloud

April 1 – The German carmaker Volkswagen has chosen Siemens as integration partner for the VW Industrial Cloud. Based on Siemens’ MindSphere system, the VW Industrial Cloud will link production systems, machinery and equipment of various manufacturers at the 122 Volkswagen manufacturing plants worldwide. The resulting data transparency and analysis is meant to enhance productivity at the sites.

Marubeni, 4R Energy to deploy large refurbished batteries

March 29 – Marubeni Corp and 4R Energy, along with SIGNET EV have achieved a Proof of Concept (PoC) using 4RE’slarge refurbished batteries for the development of the world’s first mass-productional EV charger in Namie-machi, Fukushima-Prefecture. The installation, with an output of more than 50kW, helps the community reduce electricity demand from the central power grid, which saves costs.