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CRS — An Overview of Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas: Resources and Federal Actions (April 7, 2015)

April 21, 2015 Comments off

An Overview of Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas: Resources and Federal Actions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research

The United States has seen resurgence in petroleum production, mainly driven by technology improvements—especially hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling—developed for natural gas production from shale formations. Application of these technologies enabled natural gas to be economically produced from shale and other unconventional formations and contributed to the United States becoming the world’s largest natural gas producer in 2009. Use of these technologies has also contributed to the rise in U.S. oil production over the last few years. In 2009, annual oil production increased over 2008, the first annual rise since 1991, and has continued to increase each year since. Between January 2008 and May 2014, U.S. monthly crude oil production rose by 3.2 million barrels per day, with about 85% of the increase coming from shale and related tight oil formations in Texas and North Dakota. Other tight oil plays are also being developed, helping raise the prospect of energy independence, especially for North America.

CRS — Keystone XL Pipeline: Overview and Recent Developments (April 1, 2015)

April 21, 2015 Comments off

Keystone XL Pipeline: Overview and Recent Developments (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would transport oil sands crude from Canada and shale oil produced in North Dakota and Montana to a market hub in Nebraska for further delivery to Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline would consist of 875 miles of 36-inch pipe with the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels per day. Because it would cross the Canadian-U.S. border, Keystone XL requires a Presidential Permit from the State Department based on a determination that the pipeline would “serve the national interest.” To make its national interest determination (NID), the department considers potential effects on energy security; environmental and cultural resources; the economy; foreign policy, and other factors. Effects on environmental and cultural resources are determined by preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NID process also provides for public comment and requires the State Department to consult with specific federal agencies.

Quadrennial Energy Review

April 21, 2015 Comments off

Quadrennial Energy Review
Source: U.S. Department of Energy

On January 9, 2014, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the administration to conduct a Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). As described in the President’s Climate Action Plan,this first-ever review focuses on energy infrastructure and identifies the threats, risks, and opportunities for U.S. energy and climate security, enabling the federal government to translate policy goals into a set of integrated actions.

The United States has one of the most advanced energy systems in the world, supplying the reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean power and fuels that underpin every facet of the Nation’s economy and way of life. The energy transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure — defined here as the infrastructure that links energy supplies, energy carriers, or energy by-products to intermediate and end users — is large, complex, and interdependent. It includes approximately 2.6 million miles of interstate and intrastate pipelines; 414 natural gas storage facilities; 330 ports handling crude petroleum and refined petroleum products; and more than 140,000 miles of railways that handle crude petroleum, refined petroleum products, LNG and coal. The electrical component of the Nation’s TS&D infrastructure links more than 19,000 individual generators with a capacity of a megawatt or more (sited at over 7,000 operational power plants), with over 642,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and 6.3 million miles of distribution lines

The first installment of the QER examines how to modernize our nation’s energy infrastructure to promote economic competitiveness, energy security and environmental responsibility, and is focused on energy transmission, storage, and distribution (TS&D), the networks of pipelines, wires, storage, waterways, railroads, and other facilities that form the backbone of our energy system. The QER seeks to identify vulnerabilities in the system and proposes major policy recommendations and investments to replace, expand, and modernize infrastructure where appropriate.

Annual Energy Outlook 2015

April 15, 2015 Comments off

Annual Energy Outlook 2015
Source: Energy Information Administration

Projections in the Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (AEO2015) focus on the factors expected to shape U.S. energy markets through 2040. The projections provide a basis for examination and discussion of energy market trends and serve as a starting point for analysis of potential changes in U.S. energy policies, rules, and regulations, as well as the potential role of advanced technologies.

Natural Gas Infrastructure: Implications of Increased Demand from the Electric Power Sector

April 14, 2015 Comments off

Natural Gas Infrastructure: Implications of Increased Demand from the Electric Power Sector (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Energy

The natural gas sector in the United States has been fundamentally transformed by technological advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that have enabled the economic extraction of natural gas from shale formations. This breakthrough has, in turn, unlocked new, geographically diverse natural gas resources that are unprecedented in size.

The availability of abundant, low-cost natural gas has increased demand for natural gas from multiple end-use sectors. In the electric power sector, which is currently the largest consumer of natural gas in the United States, the record-low natural gas prices during the month of April 2012 drove generation from natural gas to virtually match that of coal. While coal has regained some of its market share because of gradually rising natural gas prices, the combination of favorable economics and the lower conventional air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with natural gas relative to other fossil fuels is likely to contribute to expanded use of natural gas in the electric power sector in the future.

However, increased use of natural gas in the electric power sector also presents some potential challenges. Unlike other fossil fuels, natural gas cannot typically be stored on-site and must be delivered as it is consumed. Because adequate natural gas infrastructure is a key component of electric system reliability in many regions, it is important to understand the implications of greater natural gas demand for the infrastructure required to deliver natural gas to end users, including electric generators.

The purpose of this study is to understand the potential infrastructure needs of the U.S. interstate natural gas pipeline transmission system under several future natural gas demand scenarios.

The future of the global power sector: Preparing for emerging opportunities and threats

April 14, 2015 Comments off

The future of the global power sector: Preparing for emerging opportunities and threats
Source: Deloitte

Power companies need to modify their management models to adapt to shifting realities, including price reductions that are leading to narrower margins, improvements in the quality of supply, demand for new services, a sharper focus on environmental protection, new technologies that modify traditional business scope by focusing on the technical management of assets, and many more.

Taking a fresh look at the future of nuclear power

April 13, 2015 Comments off

Taking a fresh look at the future of nuclear power
Source: International Energy Agency

Nuclear power is a critical element in limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and a new Technology Roadmap co-authored by the IEA and the Nuclear Energy Agency outlines the next steps for growth in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan and the economic crisis and its effect on financing.

The new publication finds that the prospects for nuclear energy remain positive in the medium to long term despite a negative impact in some countries in the aftermath of the accident. While nuclear power’s share of global electricity generation was 10% lower in 2013 than in 2010, principally because of Japan’s 48 operable reactors remaining idle, it is still the second-largest source worldwide of low-carbon electricity. And the 72 reactors under construction at the start of last year were the most in 25 years.

Yet global capacity must more than double, with nuclear supplying 17% of global electricity generation in 2050, to meet the IEA 2 Degree Scenario (2DS) for the most effective and efficient means of limiting global temperature rise to the internationally agreed maximum.

Technology Roadmap: Nuclear Energy 2015 Update offers a vision of the best ways to accomplish that growth, looking at current and new technologies; the need to meet increased safety requirements and improve constructability through optimised design, standardisation and more efficient supply chains; financing options and implementation of waste-management solutions. The Roadmap also addresses the challenge of decommissioning hundreds of reactors that will reach the end of their operating life by the middle of the century as well as building the necessary infrastructure and capacity building in newcomer countries. And it stresses the importance of restoring public confidence in nuclear power.
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