UK government imposes moratorium on fracking

The UK Government introduced a moratorium on fracking on 1 November 2019, banning hydraulic fracturing activity in England with immediate effect.

Ministers took the decision on the basis of a report published by the UK Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) in October 2019, which warned that it was not possible to predict the probability or magnitude of seismic activity at the Preston New Road site in Lancashire, the UK’s only active fracking site.

British oil and gas exploration company Cuadrilla paused fracking operations at the Preston New Road site following an earth tremor on 21 August 2019, following a resumption of activity on 15 August 2019.

The tremor measured 1.55ML on the Richter scale, higher than the previously recorded 1.5ML tremor at the site and in breach of the UK Government’s 0.5ML threshold on seismic activity.

The restart of activity at Preston New Road had suggested support for fracking from the government, which issued a statement in August 2019 suggesting it was considering a relaxation of fracking regulations.

The ban will continue until “compelling new evidence” is provided concerning seismic activity at the site, and in a statement, the government also confirmed that planning reforms for shale gas developments proposed in 2018 would not be implemented.

Business and energy secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Whilst acknowledging the huge potential of UK shale gas to provide a bridge to a zero-carbon future, I’ve also always been clear that shale gas exploration must be carried out safely.

“In the UK, we have been led by the best available scientific evidence, and closely regulated by the Oil and Gas Authority, one of the best regulators in the world.”

“After reviewing the OGA’s report into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community.”

Speaking on behalf of the oil and gas industry, UK Onshore Oil and Gas CEO Ken Cronin said: “Hydraulic fracturing stimulation is a long-standing technology used around the world and in a number of industries, including the oil and gas, water and geothermal sectors.

“Going forward, we are fully committed to working closely with the Oil and Gas Authority and other relevant regulators to demonstrate that we can operate safely and environmentally responsibly.

“Given the size of the prize at stake – the significantly lower carbon footprint of domestic gas compared to imports and the significant investment the industry and the Government have already made – we believe this is the right approach.

“Since shale gas exploration commenced in England we have confirmed a world-class resource. Flow testing and core sampling across Lancashire and North Nottinghamshire show that our high-quality indigenous gas can reach the surface, leaving the UK with no excuse to continue importing overseas gas that generates double the emissions and provides British workers, businesses and communities with no economic benefit.” /


Aceleron and TATES to provide off-grid Kenyans with reusable batteries

UK reusable battery developer Aceleron and the fuels producer Total Access to Energy Solutions (TATES) unveiled a new partnership aimed at tackling unsustainable battery waste and enhancing clean energy accessibility by repurposing old battery packs in Kenya.

Navigating through the process in more detail, Aceleron CEO Dr Amrit Chandan says: “We have to first dismantle the batteries followed by a visual inspection of the quality of the cells. Each cell is then thoroughly tested using the Aceleron testing methodology before being categorised based on the quality of the battery cell/how much life they have left and what use case they are most suitable for.

“The cells are then built up into battery packs using Aceleron’s Circa technology which ensures a safe, high quality and reliable battery pack,” he adds.

The project will run until 2021 and involves Aceleron converting TATES’ waste lithium-ion battery cells into repairable and affordable and reusable batteries designed to provide clean power to more than 800 people in off-grid communities across Kenya, Benin, Rwanda and Libya.

The initial £51,000 project is delivering second life batteries at $45 per unit – just $6.50 a year over each battery’s seven year lifespan. In comparison, acid batteries in Kenya cost $12 a year and last three years. This makes the new reusable batteries affordable enough to help off-the-grid rural communities.

The programme also offers a training, so a local workforce can service and repair batteries on site instead of disposing of them. The team has already assessed 5,000 waste batteries, of which 4,500 were usable and then produced 150 second life battery packs.

Chandan said: “Our circular-economy approach delivers lithium-ion batteries that work better, last longer and are cheaper. We are making clean power an option for off-grid Kenyans, making a real impact to their lives by giving access to clean electricity while also reducing carbon emissions."

The Aceleron-TATES project plans to export its work to other countries soon with interest secured from partners across Sub-Saharan Africa, including in Nigeria, Liberia, Malawi, Zambia and Benin, Rwanda and Libya.

The partnership follows Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta announcement last December that the country would aim to be entirely fuelled by renewable energy by 2020 and more than 70% of the power is already delivered by renewables. However, with more than 80% of people still off-grid, access to clean power has not yet spread to the majority of Kenyans./


Mayflower Wind selected by Massachusetts for offshore wind project

/ The state of Massachusetts has selected Mayflower Wind, a joint venture between Shell New Energies and EDPR Offshore North America, to supply renewable energy produced from an 804MW offshore windfarm.

The company was able to outbid Vineyard Wind for the project, despite Vineyard Wind winning the first major bid for offshore wind in the US with the 800MW Vineyard Wind 1 windfarm. In total, the two windfarms will provide enough energy to meet 12% of Massachusetts’s yearly energy needs.

Mayflower Wind estimates that the project will be able to provide energy at lower prices than its original price cap of $84.23 per megawatt hour (MWh) in the long-term. The company also states that the project will be able to reduce the electricity rate by $3.7bn over the course of the contract, create 10,000 jobs in the state and reduce CO2 emissions by 1.7 million tonnes a year.

Mayflower Wind president John Hartnett said: “Development of the Mayflower Wind project will contribute to the building of an offshore supply chain on the South Coast and across the Commonwealth, helping to launch a new clean, safe and innovative sector of our economy. We look forward to working with all of our stakeholders to ensure a safe and successful project.”

Currently, offshore wind power in the US solely consists of Block Island windfarm, which has a capacity of 30MW and is located off the coast of Rhode Island.

US states have increased efforts to install offshore windfarm off their coasts in 2019. Alongside Massachusetts, New Jersey authorised the 1,100MW Ocean Wind offshore windfarm in June 2019.

The state of New York followed this in July 2019 by authorising two offshore windfarms with a combined capacity of 1.7GW, the largest offshore wind order in US history.

However, offshore wind power faces strict oversight from US Government departments such as the department of the interior, which delayed the Vineyard Wind offshore windfarm in August 2019 to conduct further studies on the impact it will have on coastal communities.

Not only this, but wind power faces hostility from President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly condemned the energy source. /


Belarus set to secure World Bank loan to improve energy efficiency

The World Bank is set to support Belarus in increasing energy efficiency by financing the new Sustainable Energy Scale-Up Project in the country with a loan of $99.3m.

World Bank Belarus country manager Alex Kremer said: “Many Belarusians would be keen to improve the insulation and heating controls in their apartments, but the cost is an issue in most cases.

“We hope that the grants and long-term credits provided under this project will encourage households to invest in thermal renovation, so they can have more comfortable living conditions, lower heat consumption and an increase in the value of their apartments.”

The project has been designed to improve energy efficiency in the country by transitioning heating plants from gas to woodchips and upgrading heating systems of multi-apartment buildings.

Additionally, it aims to offer technical assistance to the national thermal renovation programme.

It will also involve the replacement of the gas boilers with biomass boilers to minimise natural gas consumption, offering wood-chipping equipment and biomass fuel storage facilities. The upgrade of the existing district heating networks is also covered under this component.

The second component will focus on the thermal overhaul of multi-apartment buildings in the Grodno and Mogilev regions of Belarus.

The total cost of the project will be $202.25m, of which World Bank and the European Investment Bank have agreed to provide $99.3m each, and the Global Environment Facility will offer $3.65m.

In September 2019 Belarus launched a new programme under which residents will carry out thermal renovation of their residential building.

Payments for the upgrade were allowed to be made over a period of 15 years with the government covering up to 50% of costs incurred by the residents for the upgrade under a grant.

The upgrade works that will be carried out during 2020-2025 in Grodno and Mogilev will be funded by EIB and World Bank. /


MED and AB to develop flexible power plants in UK

/ Kibo Energy’s subsidiary Mast Energy Developments (MED) has signed a joint development agreement (JDA) with the AB Group subsidiary AB Impianti (AB) to develop flexible power plants in the UK.

The JDA comprises a comprehensive funding solution that provides an opportunity for Bordersley and MED to potentially have all sites approved for development. The funding will also be used for the construction and commissioning of all sites that AB approves and accepts for development.

Kibo Energy CEO Louis Coetzee said: “Executing a comprehensive JDA with a global player such as AB, is a key deliverable in terms of the overall development plan for MED. More specifically, it is a critical step towards securing the delivery of a fully operational site at Bordesley by end of Q1 2020 and the associated first revenue generation for the company.

“There is a roll-out plan for MED and we remain both supportive and excited on the delivery of further plants, widening our international partnership network and delivery of energy solutions in the UK and Africa.”

Under the agreement, MED will be responsible for operating a portfolio and pipeline of projects in the UK. Comprehensive solutions including co-generation plants supply will be provided by AB under rent or alternative funding option.

Initially, MED will identify and present a list of projects that are suitable for the comprehensive solution offered by AB. The JDA progress will be verified by a joint working/steering committee (SC) which will be established by the two companies.

AB Regional Sales manager Gary Collins said: “I am delighted with this arrangement which will see AB & MED design, manufacture and deliver world-class projects in this critical sector of the UK’s power generation market.” /


ABB secures contract for world’s largest offshore wind farm

/ Swiss technology company ABB has been awarded contracts by Norwegian energy company Equinor and its partner SSE Renewables to connect offshore wind farms in the Dogger Bank region of the North Sea to the UK transmission network.

The Dogger Bank development will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm development, and consists of three projects: Creyke Beck A, Creyke Beck B and Teesside A.

Creyke Beck A and B will produce eight terawatt-hours (TWh) of renewable energy each year, enough to power at least 1.8 million homes.

ABB will supply its high-voltage direct current (HVDC) converter systems to connect Creyke Beck A and Creyke Beck B to the UK power grid, the first-ever use of HVDC technology in the UK’s offshore wind market.

Norwegian company Aibel also providing two HVDC offshore converter platforms with an option for a third platform at Teesside A. ABB and Aibel signed a strategic partnership agreement in October 2016 to develop offshore wind power connections.

Equinor and SSE both own 50% of the three projects, as agreed in August 2017. The development will have a total installed capacity of 3.6 gigawatts (GW), enough energy to power 4.5 million UK homes. The Dogger Bank projects are estimated to trigger a total capital investment of around £9bn between 2020 and 2026.

ABB Power Grids president Claudio Facchin said: “Winning the contracts from SSE Renewables and Equinor for the landmark Dogger Bank project underscores ABB’s innovative offshore wind technology and expertise. It also highlights the success of ABB Power Grids’ customer partnerships, both on design optimization as well as on the business model level.

“ABB is committed to delivering sustainable solutions with pioneering technologies and in the Dogger Bank project we are helping to make offshore wind competitive and thus contributing to a stronger, smarter and greener grid.”

SSE director of capital projects Paul Cooley said: “Dogger Bank is truly a world-leading project, pushing new boundaries in the provision of ground-breaking technology to deliver low-carbon energy generation to help achieve the UK’s net zero ambition by 2050.

“The appointment of Aibel and ABB as project partners will ensure that the latest grid solution technology is deployed to support our successful project delivery.”

ABB share price currently stands at CHF20.96 on the SIX Swiss Exchange, giving the company a market capitalisation of CHF45.40bn. This has continued a recent rise throughout October, as ABB’s share price had been CHF17.92 on 7 October.

Equinor and SSE are expecting a final investment decision for the first project to be made in 2020, with first power generation planned for 2023 and further phases of the Dogger Bank project to be developed after this first generation.

With the addition of Teesside B, the capacity of the projects will increase to 4.8GW. /


Ørsted to begin negotiations for sale of 25% stake in Ocean Wind

/ Danish renewable energy company Ørsted is set to negotiate the divestment of 25% of its Ocean Wind project to Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG).

Ørsted proposed to build Ocean Wind in federal waters with the support of Public Service Enterprise Group’s (PSEG) non-utility affiliates in June 2019.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) selected Ocean Wind as its first offshore wind energy project in the state, and it is expected to have a capacity of 1,100MW.

PSEG’s acquisition is subject to the outcome of negotiations that will lead towards a joint venture (JV) agreement, as well as advanced due diligence and regulatory approvals.

Located 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City, Ocean Wind is expected to generate enough clean energy to power 500,000 homes in the state of New Jersey.

In addition to providing clean energy for the region, the project is expected to bring new investments as well as create more than 3,000 direct employment opportunities annually during the three-year construction cycle.

The project would support New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy’s renewable energy target of supplying offshore wind power to more than 1.5 million New Jersey homes by 2030.

PSEG’s non-utility affiliates have agreed to provide energy management services and land on lease, which will be used by the company for the project development and execution.

Subject to obtaining all the required permits for the project and final investment decision, construction works for Ocean Wind are expected to begin in 2020, with operations expected to start in 2024. /


Greenpeace blockades Total’s La Mède palm oil biorefinery

/ Greenpeace activists have blocked the entrance to French oil and gas multinational Total’s La Mède biorefinery in south-eastern France.

Around 20 activists entered the La Mède site at 6:05am on 29 October 2019, using two containers holding two Greenpeace activists each to block vehicle access to the plant, and deploying a banner reading “Deforestation made in France.”

This protest action follows the arrival of the Ocean Breeze cargo ship, filled with 30,000-45,000 tons of palm oil from Indonesia, at the Lavera port near the La Mède biorefinery on 27 October 2019.

This follows similar protest action on 20 May 2019, when Greenpeace activists blocked the entrances to BP’s London headquarters to protest the oil major’s oil and gas exploration operations.

Greenpeace France forest and climate campaigner Clément Sénéchal said: “The double speech of the French Government and the head of state between ambitions displayed on the fight against climate change and support for climaticide industries makes perfect sense here at La Mède.

“The palm oil used in this plant comes from Indonesia, where it contributes to the destruction of the rainforest. Tens of thousands of tons of palm oil are imported by Total to produce agrofuels: it is high time that the government put an end to this industry that destroys the environment instead of preserving it.”

Total started production at the La Mède biorefinery in July 2019, having invested €300m to convert the site from an oil and gas refinery from 2015. The La Mède complex includes the biorefinery, with a capacity of 500,000 tonnes of biofuel per year, and an 8-megawatt solar farm that can supply power for 13,000 people.

When Total launched the La Mède biorefinery, it pledged that it would process no more than 300,000 tonnes of palm oil per year, less than 50% of the total volume of raw materials needed, and production would be 100% sustainable according to EU standards.

However, Greenpeace has criticised the government for allowing Total to import up to 650,000 tonnes of palm oil to produce biofuels. According to Greenpeace, these imports could increase French imports of palm oil by more than 60%.

Sénéchal said: “Our parliamentarians must show courage and stand up to Total’s pressure. Agrofuels are a false solution to get out of our dependence on oil. Their impact on climate and biodiversity is catastrophic.

“But they represent a juicy financial windfall for companies eager for short-term profits like Total, who care more about their dividends than the climate crisis.”

The French Government is expected to implement a National Strategy against Imported Deforestation (SDNI) in January 2020, after a court upheld the initiative on 11 October 2019, rejecting an appeal from Total against the ban on palm oil and the elimination of associated tax benefits. Greenpeace welcomed this decision, calling for an additional ban on soya beans as biofuel and encouraging the government to implement these bans before January 2020. /