Thursday, 27 January 2011

Update on UK gas supplies

About a month ago I posted about the UK's gas supplies, and whether we'd run low this winter. Well, the good news is that January has been much milder than December was, allowing the withdrawals from UK gas storage to slow, and even for some gas to be injected for a short while, as can be seen from the graphs below for long, medium and short range storage:

long range gas

med range gas

short range gas

As you can see, medium range stocks are now around the level they were a year ago, but long and short range stocks are still lower.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, there have often been incidents during past winters that have affected the gas supply, and this year is no exception. A gas processing plant that only returned to almost full capacity on 6th Jan 2011 after technical problems again ran into trouble on on 20th Jan. And the latest development is that Norwegian company Statoil has reduced output from the large Troll gas field while "planned short-term repair work" is carried out, which apparently should take less than a week. However, this has already significantly reduced gas supply to the UK through the Langeled pipeline, from the usual 70 mcm/day to under 40 at the time of writing. This comes during a slightly colder week in the UK, so is likely to result in gas storage being depleted further still.

Now we've had a mild-ish January, the situation is not as dire as it looked at the end of December 2010, but we're not out of the woods yet. Hopefully the companies responsible for managing our gas supply and storage, namely National Grid and Centrica, will act to ensure that a safe level of gas stocks is maintained through until the end of March, when hopefully it will be much warmer.


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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Video: Tainter on "The Collapse of Complex Societies"

A while ago I read Joseph Tainter's "The Collapse of Complex Societies (New Studies in Archaeology)", which is an excellent book. It's quite academic, but easy to read at the same time. Now, for those who don't have the time, inclination or money to read the book, there's a great video of him giving a presentation on the same subject on YouTube.

It's in five parts, and well worth watching. He explains why societies become complex, and what this costs them in terms of resources and money, then goes on to discuss examples of why complexity contributed to the collapse of past societies. He concludes by relating this to our present society, which has only managed to survive an increase in complexity through the use of a subsidy - fossil fuels. Of course, the problem is that this subsidy is pretty much at its peak now, and will start to decline, therefore requiring a decline in our society's complexity...

Here's the videos (p.s. if they don't all display, just reload this page):


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Monday, 10 January 2011

The UK media wakes up to our low gas stocks

Finally, the mainstream UK media has realised that there may be a problem with gas supplies, even though I wrote about it a few weeks ago. The Guardian says:

The amount of gas kept in storage in the UK is at its lowest level in five years for so early in the winter, according to National Grid.

Last month, was the coldest December since 1890, and the UK's gas storage facilities, which are among the smallest in Europe, are already more than half empty as they cope with record demand. Domestic supplies of gas have also been exported to the continent via the Interconnector under-sea pipeline, because prices are higher there than in the UK.

Full story
Thanks to PowerSwitch for the tip on the story.

On a related note, the weather's been less cold in January so far, but on most days we have still been withdrawing gas from the long range storage at Rough, while reducing imports from their peak levels. A more cautious approach would be to keep imports up and stop withdrawing from storage, or better yet, inject gas back into storage. But that isn't the most profitable way of operating, so our gas security suffers instead.

Still, the milder weather has bought us a bit of time, but the risk to supplies still depends on what happens with the weather over the coming weeks.


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Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A new peak in global monthly oil production?

A couple of interesting posts appeared on The Oil Drum this week, discussing the latest oil production figures. It looks like November 2010 oil production may have exceeded the previous peak of July 2008. A couple of points to consider though:

  • The graphs on TOD still show that we're well and truly on the "bumpy plateau", with no steady ramping up of oil production in the way that there used to be pre-2005.
  • These figures are for the oil produced, but as EROEI falls, the actual oil available to consumers outside the oil industry falls, because the industry itself is consuming more oil to produce what it does.
 (graph from The Oil Drum)

Here's the articles from TOD:
New High of Liquid Fuel Production
Will 2011 be a rerun of 2008? (Longer version)


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