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Audit Report — Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Audit Report — Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General

Background
In response to the increase in infectious diseases and the threat of bioterrorism, the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories perform research with biological agents. To conduct this biological research, the Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) operate multiple laboratory facilities in accordance with various biosafety levels (BSL) established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The BSLs classify the containment level and risk associated with biological agents depending on the threat the agents pose to personnel and the environment. For example, BSL-1 is for low-risk agents; BSL-2 is for medium-risk agents; and BSL-3 is for those agents that cause serious and potentially lethal infections. Department and NNSA sites primarily perform BSL-1 and BSL-2 research; however, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) operates a facility with three BSL-3 laboratories while Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is considering opening a facility with two BSL-3 laboratories. Extensive biological research is performed at LLNL and LANL for other Government agencies through the Department’s Work for Others (WFO) program.

In our report on Coordination of Biological Select Agent Activities at Department of Energy Facilities (DOE/IG-0695, July 2005), we reported that the Department had not developed a plan for construction and operation of its BSL-3 laboratories. Thus, it lacked assurance that capabilities were not being duplicated unnecessarily. As a result of our prior work and Presidential actions to streamline Government and reduce costs, we initiated this audit to determine whether NNSA managed its biosafety laboratories effectively. We limited our review to biosafety laboratories located at LLNL and LANL.

Results of Audit
We found that NNSA was considering a $9.5 million expansion of its BSL-3 and BSL-2 laboratory capabilities at LANL that may not be the most effective use of resources. Specifically, NNSA identified the development of a BSL-3 facility at LANL as its preferred alternative for meeting biosafety laboratory needs even though it had not fully considered the need for and cost effectiveness of additional capacity. Nor, had it developed a sound basis for measuring the utilization of existing facilities – a critical factor in determining the need for additional capacity. Despite the lack of information on the need for additional capacity and current laboratory utilization rates, LANL was also considering building a new BSL-2 facility.

In particular, NNSA proposed development of a facility with two BSL-3 laboratories at LANL. Additionally, LANL is in the early planning stage for constructing a new BSL-2 facility. The estimated cost to open LANL’s new BSL-3 and to construct/open BSL-2 capabilities was about $1.5 million and $8 million, respectively. Given current budget realities, plans to develop additional capabilities without fully demonstrating a need may not be prudent.

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Country Analysis Brief: Egypt

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Egypt
Source: Energy Information Administration

Egypt is the largest oil producer in Africa outside of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the second-largest natural gas producer on the continent, behind Algeria. Egypt plays a vital role in international energy markets through the operation of the Suez Canal and Suez-Mediterranean (SUMED) Pipeline.

The Suez Canal is an important transit route for oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments traveling northbound from the Persian Gulf to Europe and North America and southbound shipments from North Africa and countries along the Mediterranean Sea to Asia. The SUMED Pipeline is the only alternative route nearby to transport crude oil from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea if ships were unable to navigate through the Suez Canal. Fees collected from the operation of these two transit points are significant sources of revenue for the Egyptian government.

DOE — 2013 Distributed Wind Market Report (August 2014)

August 21, 2014 Comments off

2013 Distributed Wind Market Report
Source: U.S. Department of Energy

In 2013, 30.4 megawatts (MW) of new distributed wind capacity was added, representing nearly 2,700 units across 36 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Since 2003, nearly 72,000 wind turbines have been deployed in distributed applications across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the USVI, totaling 842 MW in cumulative capacity. The 83% decline from 2012 to 2013 of distributed wind capacity additions is in line with the 92% decline from 2012 to 2013 in overall U.S. wind capacity deployed.

To compensate for weaker domestic sales, U.S. small wind turbine manufacturers shifted their focus to growing international markets. Exports from U.S.-based small wind turbine manufacturers increased 70% from 8 MW in 2012 to 13.6 MW in 2013. U.S. small wind turbines were exported to more than 50 countries in 2013, with top export markets identified as Italy, UK, Germany, Greece, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, and Nigeria. In 2013, 76% of U.S. manufacturers’ new small wind sales capacity went to non-U.S. markets, a substantial increase from 57% in 2012.

The purpose of this report is to quantify and summarize the 2013 U.S. distributed wind market to help plan and guide future investments and decisions by industry, utilities, state and federal agencies, and other interested parties. Distributed wind is defined in terms of technology application based on a wind project’s location relative to end-use and power-distribution infrastructure, rather than on turbine or project size. While the distributed wind market includes wind turbines and projects of many sizes, this report breaks the market into two segments when appropriate: wind turbines up through 100 kW (in nominal capacity) referred to in this report as “small wind,” and wind turbines greater than 100 kW used in distributed applications.

U.S. Energy Department to make researchers’ papers free

August 18, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Energy Department to make researchers’ papers free
Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today unveiled its answer to a White House mandate to make the research papers it funds free for anyone to read: a Web portal that will link to full-text papers a year after they’re published. Once researchers are up to speed and submitting their manuscripts, that will mean 20,000 to 30,000 new free papers a year on energy research, physics, and other scientific topics.

Although the plan will expand public access to papers, some onlookers aren’t happy. That’s because the papers will not reside in a central DOE database, but mostly on journal publishers’ websites. Open-access advocates say that will limit what people can do with the papers.

“The DOE’s plan contains some steps in the right direction, but has some serious holes. Most critically, it doesn’t adequately address the reuse rights needed for the public to do more than simply read individual articles,” says Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). (The same gripes will likely apply to the National Science Foundation’s public access plan, which has not yet been issued but is expected to be similar to DOE’s.)

Hat tip: ResearchBuzz

EIA mapping tool shows which U.S. energy facilities are at risk from flooding

August 8, 2014 Comments off

EIA mapping tool shows which U.S. energy facilities are at risk from flooding
Source: Energy Information Administration

The public now has a new online tool to help inform them about energy facilities’ exposure to flooding caused by hurricanes, overflowing rivers, flash floods, and other wet-weather events. Developed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Flood Vulnerability Assessment Map, shows which power plants, oil refineries, crude oil rail terminals, and other critical energy infrastructure are vulnerable to coastal and inland flooding.

The mapping tool combines EIA’s existing U.S. Energy Mapping System with flood hazard information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and represents EIA’s latest step in making energy data more accessible, understandable, relevant, and responsive to users’ needs.

Country Analysis Brief: Azerbaijan

August 4, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Azerbaijan
Source: Energy Information Administration

Azerbaijan, one of the oldest oil producing countries in the world, is an important oil and natural gas supplier in the Caspian Sea region, particularly for European markets. Although traditionally it has been a prolific oil producer, Azerbaijan’s importance as a natural gas supplier will grow in the future as field development and export infrastructure expand. The conflicting claims over the maritime and seabed boundaries of the Caspian Sea between Azerbaijan and Iran continue to cause uncertainty, with Iran challenging Azerbaijan’s hydrocarbon exploration in offshore areas claimed by both sides.

Natural gas accounted for about 67% of Azerbaijan’s total domestic energy consumption in 2012. Oil accounted for 30% of total energy use, and hydropower contributed a marginal amount. Overall, Azerbaijan is a net energy exporter. The country swaps small volumes of natural gas with Iran—the Nakhchivan exclave receives all of its natural gas from Iran, because it is not connected to Azerbaijan’s pipeline network.

Oil and gas production and exports are central to Azerbaijan’s economy. The country’s economy is heavily dependent on its energy exports, with more than 90% of total exports accounted for by oil and gas exports, according to data from the International Monetary Fund.

EIA — OPEC Revenues Fact Sheet

July 28, 2014 Comments off

OPEC Revenues Fact Sheet
Source: Energy Information Administration

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that, excluding Iran, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) earned about $826 billion in net oil export revenues in 2013. This was a 7% decrease from 2012 earnings, but still the second-largest earnings totals during the 1975-2013 period for which EIA has tracked OPEC oil revenues. OPEC earnings declined largely for two reasons: a drop in OPEC oil production in 2013 (largely because of the supply disruption in Libya), and a 3% decline in average crude oil prices (as measured by the Brent crude oil price marker).

Saudi Arabia earned the largest share of these earnings, $274 billion in 2013, representing approximately one-third of total OPEC oil revenues. On a per capita basis, OPEC (excluding Iran) net oil export earnings reached about $2,520 in 2013. These net export earnings do not include Iran’s revenues, because of the difficulties associated with estimating Iran’s earnings, including the country’s inability to receive payments and possible price discounts Iran offers its existing customers.

Based on projections from EIA’s July 2014 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA estimates that OPEC (excluding Iran) could earn about $774 billion in net oil export revenues in 2014 and $723 billion in 2015 (unadjusted for inflation). These declines from the 2013 level are the result of projected declines in the call on OPEC crude oil production because of the large increases in non-OPEC production for 2014-15, as well as expected crude oil price declines that are also the result of declines in the call on OPEC crude oil production.

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