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PREPARING FOR ACCIDENTS, SPILLS AND DISASTER IN THE UK: PART I

Incidents which cause environmental harm or injury and illness to workers or neighbours can have significant consequences for the companies responsible.  Preventing those incidents must, therefore, be a priority, but if they happen they must be managed so as to minimise physical and environmental damage, liabilities and the risk of an adverse regulatory and media response. This new series of articles summarises key issues for companies operating in the UK, with the first part focusing on prevention and the immediate incident response.

Prevention:

To prevent incidents, management needs to understand the legal obligations affecting their operations including requirements for environmental permits and licences, prohibitions and restrictions on pollution, duties to avoid unduly disturbing neighbours, and duties to protect employees and others.  At the operational level that involves familiarity with permit and licence conditions, as well as procedures which implement both those conditions and general environmental and health and safety (EHS) laws.  That task can seem daunting, and in response, many companies produce bulky EHS manuals with detailed instructions on how to deal with every eventuality.  The problem is that few people have the time to read them.

Brief, clear written instructions on how to avoid EHS incidents are more likely to be effective.  However, clear written instructions alone are rarely sufficient: busy workers may overlook them.  “Tool box” talks are an invaluable way of ensuring that employees know how to: protect the environment, promote health and safety and minimise the company’s risk of liability.  Examples of points to cover in a toolbox talk include which liquid substances should or should not be poured into particular drains and sewers; and what to do and who to report to if equipment or plant is found to be defective, corroded, dangerous or likely to result in unlawful emissions.  A toolbox talk also could cover simple operational procedures to ensure compliance with permit conditions and other legal requirements, and good housekeeping “rules”.  Bold and simple notices may also serve as useful reminders.

Incident response:

If an incident has adverse EHS consequences, the first priority is to minimise its consequences. Also, a decision must be made whether to notify the relevant regulatory authority, and how to deal with regulatory officers if they carry out an investigation. Those issues are likely to affect the regulatory outcome.  Many EHS incidents are strict liability criminal offences (no negligence or intent has to be proved), but the extent of culpability as well as the company’s behaviour after the incident has a profound effect on the authority’s approach (particularly the decision on whether to prosecute) and on the amount of any fine imposed by the courts.  Recent guidance from the courts in the UK, as well as official sentencing guidelines, have markedly increased the normal range of fines with the intention that the punishment should be real.

There is no uniform answer as to whether and when to contact the regulatory authority.  Each case depends on the circumstances including legal and permit requirements.  Generally, except in the most minor incidents, it is safer to report the matter to the local officer of the regulator by e-mail (to ensure that there is a record) and by telephone as soon as possible after the incident.  The initial report should be brief and factual, explaining what has happened and the steps being taken to deal with it.  The incident manager should send it.  Above all, the notification should not accept blame on the part of the company.

Part II will cover dealing with the regulators and investigating officers’ powers to take statements from witnesses.

By Andrew Waite

This article was first published in Natural Resources & Environment  (the American Bar Association’s Environment Magazine) Spring Issue 2017.

Andrew Waite is a solicitor and specialist in environmental law, advising on regulatory and liability issues for a broad range of industries.  He defends prosecutions for breaches of environmental legislation, deals with regulatory appeals and civil litigation and advises on environmental issues relating to projects and transactions.  He deals with all the main areas of environmental law including waste, energy, nuclear, contaminated land, pollution controls, environmental permitting, water rights, flooding, climate change and nature conservation.

Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory provide a unique combination of legal and technical advisory services for clients involved in energy, infrastructure and natural resource projects in the UK and internationally.

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WHOLESALE ENERGY PRICES: JANUARY – FEBRUARY 2017: PART I: CRUDE OIL & NATURAL GAS

In this series of articles, Dominic Whittome covers recent changes to wholesale energy prices.

Crude Oil

Oil prices finished 2% down as the market remained pensive about the upcoming OPEC summit in April.

Although ‘OPEC Alliance’ countries (producers co-operating with latest output cuts) will not be attending the Vienna talks in a formal capacity, behind-the-scenes dialogue has been ongoing all the while.

With Iranian and Russian ministries having met up in January to discuss Russia extending its production cuts into next year and Saudi Arabia sending their foreign minister to Iraq (which was included in its latest production agreement) with a view to including Iraq in possible future production ceilings yet to be agreed.

Traders have been pointing out that there is no evidence to show that last November’s accord between OPEC and OPEC Alliance countries made any impact. Although it is true enough that crude prices have flat-lined since November (having jumped in the weeks running up to the accord), conversely there is also no sign the accord has not worked. The agreed cuts were modest, the first in over nine years and also the first of their kind in that they included several non-OPEC producers.

OPEC ministers are possibly playing a long game, with modest but universally-orchestrated limits in output, to be increased methodically rather than in any way likely to destabilise the market, and we would need to wait and see if and what OPEC ministers decide on in April before one can second-guess the success or otherwise of last November’s accord. The pace of oil price recovery has, however, been muted. This may or may not be connected to the delays to the public listing of Saudi Aramco, ostensibly due to ‘complexities in the structure’ of the company flotation plan.

The mooted delay (up to 18 months) may reinforce scepticism about the expected speed of any oil price recovery, if this reflects the kingdom’s pessimism of the accord holding together. The value of the share offering is estimated at over £2 trillion and clearly very sensitive to prevailing oil prices. If market estimates are correct, the new company is valued at 20 times the capitalisation of the next largest oil major, ExxonMobil. It is conceivable that there have been worries that the oil market might not recover in time and these may have played a factor in the delay, although that itself is pure speculation. The Vienna meeting April could though be a turning point, in either direction.

With this week being CERA Week in Houston, perhaps we can expect the annual splash of shale stories over the next few days.  While shale drilling should place a price ceiling on any sustained oil price recovery, as pointed out in past issues of Energy Highlights, shale plays are generally short-term and expensive. Oil prices could comfortably ratchet up to $75/bbl or beyond before shale and higher-cost conventional oil output starts to kicks-in. Either way, the oil market will never loose its capacity to take people by surprise.

Natural Gas

The forward-year gas contract finished the first two months of the year off 10%, closing below 45p per therm. This reflects the view held by most traders of a fundamentally well-supplied market with a spate of further LNG export projects set to come online this year and next, many landing at European terminals.

Notable supplies include projects in Australia and South East Asia, although shale gas from the Americas will have a role will to play too. The UK market recently saw shale gas imports from the Peruvian jungle due for landing at Milford Haven shortly before going to press, and this healthy looking forward supply-picture has been helped along by Japan.

The country has gradually been releasing more and more gas on to the world spot market: the LNG contracts it had bought up in the immediate aftermath of Fukushima. This may have contributed to (or certainly given the impression of) an ‘LNG glut’.

The demand-side also paints a weak picture, with limited demand-call from generators and industry. However, there are some bullish signs on the horizon too. Geo-politics have recently turned adverse, with under-the-radar conflict areas in Russian-Ukraine and even the South China Sea among the potential supply-area worries.

However, any sustained uplift in gas prices is perhaps most likely to occur as a result of an indexation and long-term contracts issue. Indexation to crude prices still has the propensity to push prices up, with much of the piped and LNG sold across Europe still covered by these clauses. Within these contracts, even where oil and petroleum product indices may have seen their price-impact reduced or possibly removed altogether over the last 20 years, these price escalators indices have in most cases simply been substituted for producer price indices, which have recently been rising faster than oil prices themselves.

In fact, over the last five months alone, UK producer prices have been rising at annualised rates well over 10% according to estimates provided by industry trade associations. These will ultimately soon be reflected in official government statistics and will later directly influence gas contract prices, where the indexation effects can be lagged for six to nine months or, in unusual cases, even longer.

Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory provide legal and business consultancy services for clients involved in the infrastructure, energy and financial sectors.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

Prices quoted are indicative and may be based on approximate or readjusted prices, indices or mean levels discussed in the market. No warranty is given to the accuracy of any view, statement or price information made here which readers must verify.

Dominic Whittome is an economist with 25 years of commercial experience in oil & gas exploration, power generation, business development and supply & trading. Dominic has served as an analyst, contract negotiator and Head of Trading with four energy majors (Statoil, Mobil, ENI and EDF). As a consultant, Dominic has also advised government clients (including the UK Treasury, Met Office and Consumer Focus) and various private entities on a range of energy origination, strategy and trading issues.

For more information please contact us on 020 3427 5955 or by email on: info@prospectadvisory.co.uk.

For a PDF of this blog click here

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WHOLESALE ENERGY PRICES: SEPTEMBER – NOVEMBER 2016: PART I: BRENT CRUDE & NATURAL GAS

In this series of articles, Dominic Whittome covers recent changes to wholesale energy prices.

Brent Crude

September started strongly for the crude market amid hopes of an early OPEC production cut, linked to a production sharing accord with non-OPEC producers. However, dated Brent subsequently fell back below $50/bl as a deal proved elusive and traders grew weary of another false dawn.

Production limiting accords between the cartel and non-OPEC countries (including Russia, even Norway on one occasion) are not unprecedented and have been sustainable for quite long periods in the distant past, so this topic shall remain on the market’s radar. Oil prices could be supported further if European refiners restock and delayed winter weather increases demand for middle distillates on the Rotterdam spot market, which has already had a strong few months.

Crude ended the month period 7% higher although prices have drifted downwards again quite recently.  The market is unlikely to  rise far above its current support level, discussed at around $45/bl, unless we see some concrete signs of progress in Vienna in the coming weeks.

Natural Gas

The low, sub-$35/bbl crude oil prices witnessed earlier in the year have mostly dropped out of pricing formulae in Norwegian, Dutch and Russian long-term contracts.

Gas traders are also believed to be cautious about the delicate supply and demand balance and a late start to winter. The consensus of longer-range meteo offices seems to embody a higher degree of uncertainly versus last year and generally they point to a colder than normal winter.   This, together with the blight in LNG imports into the UK, has supported the gas market. Short term prices meanwhile ticked up as Centrica confirmed delays to bringing its Rough platforms back on stream, the UK’s principal gas storage facility.

Gas withdrawals are  now  planned to resume during December although any further delays may coincide with extreme demand periods and cause prices to spike.  Additionally, the rampant price volatility on the electricity balancing and prompt markets has driven gas prices upwards. Consequently the forward market has bounced with the April 2017 contract ending the period over a fifth higher. The market will be vulnerable to further increases should we see any unscheduled interruptions to North Sea or trans-Continental supplies, although the supply side has been holding up fairly well over the past few weeks.

Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory provide legal and business consultancy services for clients involved in the infrastructure, energy and financial sectors.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

Prices quoted are indicative and may be based on approximate or readjusted prices, indices or mean levels discussed in the market. No warranty is given to the accuracy of any view, statement or price information made here which readers must verify.

Dominic Whittome is an economist with 25 years of commercial experience in oil & gas exploration, power generation, business development and supply & trading. Dominic has served as an analyst, contract negotiator and Head of Trading with four energy majors (Statoil, Mobil, ENI and EDF). As a consultant, Dominic has also advised government clients (including the UK Treasury, Met Office and Consumer Focus) and various private entities on a range of energy origination, strategy and trading issues.

For more information please contact us on 020 3427 5955 or by email on: info@prospectadvisory.co.uk.

PFor a PDF of this blog click here

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LARGE SCALE BATTERIES FOR ENERGY PROJECTS: FLOW TECHNOLOGY

This series of articles highlights the commercial case for two different types of large scale battery. Large scale batteries widely differ in terms of their flexibility, life-time resilience, day-to-day reliability, initial purchase price (or CAPEX) and the ongoing cost of their maintenance & upgrades (OPEX). It is, obviously, crucial to identify the right battery design and manufacturer.

Flow technology (1974) is older than Lithium (1986), but is not portable and generally less well understood. As recent technology breakthroughs makes Flow an alternative to Lithium and Sodium Sulphur, a quick background explanation may be useful.

Flow Batteries: 

Electricity is stored in electrolyte liquid in two storage tanks. The tanks feed (via pumps) into their own half-cell, each separated by an ion-exchange membrane or ‘exchanger’ (a delicate graphite film manufactured by Du Pont).

The same substance, vanadium is dissolved in sulphuric acid (solving the contamination problem which dogged other designs) is stored in both tanks but at different states of charge.

Vanadium ions are exchanged across the membrane as pumps are activated. Chemically-stored energy is 100% transferred into electrical energy (and 100% back from electrical energy to chemical energy when the battery is recharging).

Pros:

  • High round-trip efficiency, but slightly below ‘high-end’ Lithium and Sulphur designs. Yet significantly more flexible, reliable and versatile out in the field. Flexibility to charge / discharge up or down to any level with no wear or tear issue.
  • Capacity to reverse-flow i.e. charge-discharge-charge inside a 100th of a second’s notice.
  • This Flexibility makes them suitable for both Frequency Response and for Primary Control. Reserve/Storage i.e. one can use the same unit battery to fulfil both tasks and avoid overspend.
  • This cycling/frequency-response flexibility makes Flow suited to successive peak-shifting and arbitrage. This can earn a second revenue for the owner and help to pay down CAPEX. A commission Agency Trader (e.g. big six generator on commission can optimise the battery and extract trading economies of scale for the battery investor).
  • The storage capacity of a Flow battery is simply determined by size of the storage tanks.
  • Flow batteries have a higher CAPEX than Lithium or Sodium-Sulphur. However Flow batteries are more reliable and they require less maintenance. Also OPEX is low – circa 2.5% of CAPEX (less than Lithium or Sodium-Sulphur). For this reason, Flow batteries are generally the cheapest option when the full life-cycle of the system, including maintenance, repairs or part replacement are included in the calculation.

Cons:

  • Flow batteries are a less well known, less common and less understood technology. For this reason alone, they can be harder to win support from internal finance directors and external financers.
  • Flow batteries are less portable than many solid-state batteries due to their low energy density.
  • There are fewer Flow battery manufacturers and still many different variants of flow battery.
  • They use corrosive acid as the electrolyte which requires a robust and expensive membrane (the exchanger) for use in every cell. This cost can mount up and it partially explains the high price of Flow batteries. Continuous RND costs is another significant overhead which the consumer ultimately pays for in terms of CAPEX.
  • A Flow battery has a lower energy density than any Lithium Ion or Sodium Sulphur battery and so the actual space required to house this storage is significantly greater.

Lithium Ion v Flow Battery: Conclusion

A Flow design involves significantly less maintenance than a Lithium Ion or Sodium Sulphur.

The Vanadium variant battery (same electrolyte solution used in each tank (i.e. on both sides of the exchanger) has solved the ‘cross contamination problem’ with Flow technology.

OPEX is more quantifiable at the project outset than in a Lithium-ion battery. OPEX will be lower: ca. 2% of CAPEX vs. a significantly higher OPEX figure for Lithium Ion. e.g. replacement cells, annual maintenance and inspection of fire-prevention systems.

Consequently, the Flow battery is claimed to be the cheapest ‘Lifetime Option’ as well as the most robust and flexible alternative.

Recent trends in global Lithium Carbonate prices may conceivably lead to unaccounted for (all prices quoted are subject to change) increases in CAPEX cost or (perhaps more likely) increases in future OPEX costs.

Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory provide legal and business consultancy services for clients involved in the infrastructure, energy and financial sectors.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

Dominic Whittome is an economist with 25 years of commercial experience in oil & gas exploration, power generation, business development and supply & trading. Dominic has served as an analyst, contract negotiator and Head of Trading with four energy majors (Statoil, Mobil, ENI and EDF). As a consultant, Dominic has also advised government clients (including the UK Treasury, Met Office and Consumer Focus) and various private entities on a range of energy origination, strategy and trading issues.

For more information please contact us on 020 3427 5955 or by email on: info@prospectadvisory.co.uk.

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WHOLESALE ENERGY PRICES: MAY 2016 – JULY 2016: PART II: ELECTRICITY

In this series of articles, Dominic Whittome covers wholesale energy prices between May and July.

Firming prices for coal, the buoyant gas market and some concern over the timing of infrastructure projects after Brexit helped base-load power prices surge a further 15% over the period. The notional spark spread (undiscounted for carbon prices) increased 21% to £13.50/MWh.

Any future rises in base-load power prices may underplay the final PPA contract price rises for industrial users as the gap between base and peak load prices widens. Elexon’s maximum System Reserve Price is slated to increase to an unprecedented £5,000 MWh (£5/kWh) within two years. The main jump (to £3/kWh) was instigated last year. Although Cash Out prices will seldom reach such levels, forthwith Ofgem will allow such prices to happen. This shows how the balancing market will value peak-plant and storage-flex capacity in future. Further, the decision (made before the Brexit result) by National Grid to stick to half-hourly trading windows after all and not adopt a European-style 15 minute regime will, if anything, maintain the pressure on peak prices, with Elexon left to keep the system balanced over the existing, longer balancing period.

Brexit could conceivably affect the outcome of the proposed 3,200 MW reactor at Hinckley Point, whatever that may be, as this may depend on the new administration in Whitehall, given the political capital invested and still required by this project. Most of the focus has been on the £20bn + construction cost, underwritten by the taxpayer under a Treasury loan guarantee. There has been less focus on the Contract for Difference subsidy – a totally separate form of project support. This potential cost is underwritten by end users, reflected in their electricity bills.

Assuming a Forward Year Baseload price of £45/MWh and the CFD ‘s Strike price (£92.50 MWh at the time of signing +  accumulated price indexation to the present day) of £100/MWh i.e. both in today’s money, then the value of this subsidy can be calculated 3,200 MW x £55/MWh x 24 x 365 x 35 = £ 54 bn. This estimate is a speculative one. It will only fall if power prices increase rise relative to the inflation-indexation of the Strike Price.  This £54 billion figure represents the cost of the subsidy only. The electricity volume itself still has to be purchased by consumers in the normal way.

The estimate calculated should be close to the mark, provided our CFD contract assumptions are correct and Baseload power prices not rise substantial in real terms. It is worth noting that it is Peakload rather than Baseload generation which is generally recognised as the commodity that the system has in short supply. If new-build nuclear projects planned for Wylfa, Sellafield and Bradwell command similar subsidy terms, then combined support cost for all four new nuclear power plants could surpass £200 bn.  One effect of Brexit therefore could be to bring these financial considerations into the spotlight. Possibly rekindle the debate over the future of coal and gas generation, if the imminent Westminster government uses the Leave vote as a moment to revisit energy policy.                                         

Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory provide legal and business consultancy services for clients involved in the infrastructure, energy and financial sectors.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

Prices quoted are indicative and may be based on approximate or readjusted prices, indices or mean levels discussed in the market. No warranty is given to the accuracy of any view, statement or price information made here which readers must verify.

Dominic Whittome is an economist with 25 years of commercial experience in oil & gas exploration, power generation, business development and supply & trading. Dominic has served as an analyst, contract negotiator and Head of Trading with four energy majors (Statoil, Mobil, ENI and EDF). As a consultant, Dominic has also advised government clients (including the UK Treasury, Met Office and Consumer Focus) and various private entities on a range of energy origination, strategy and trading issues.

For more information please contact us on 020 3427 5955 or by email on: info@prospectadvisory.co.uk

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WHOLESALE ENERGY PRICES: MAY – JULY 2016: PART I: OIL AND NATURAL GAS

In this new series of articles, Dominic Whittome covers wholesale energy prices between May and July.

Oil

Crude prices continued rising in spite of little progress towards an OPEC production ceiling. The market shrugged off the continuing discord between producers and a recent International Energy Agency report highlighting a potential 3  – 3½ million barrel a day glut set to overhang the market next year. The physical 15-Day Brent contract closed the two month period up another 5%. Prices remain comfortably above the new $25 – $35/bbl range talked about in London oil trading circles as recently as March/April.

Concerns over the future cost of mobilising non-OPEC supplies in order to make up any OPEC shortfall may continue to support the market for the meanwhile. Looking further ahead, it may be the case that that only after oil prices reach £75/bbl and look like staying above this level may we see any real dampening effect on the market through new shale exports from North America.

Natural Gas

Despite seasonally weak European demand, significant contractual oil price de-coupling in Russian and, reportedly, Norwegian contracts too, the Annual October ’16 gas contract at the NBP continued to advance amid supply issues in the North Sea and the prospect of costlier imports from Europe in the aftermath of Brexit and a sustained weaker value in Sterling. If such concerns are founded, this would push the winter UK market higher with €/MWh price at the Dutch TTF hub increasingly influencing marginal prices through the UK-Zeebrugge Interconnector.

Looking somewhat further ahead, the abrupt seeming thaw in diplomatic relations between Russia and Turkey might signal the Blue Stream 2 export project back on the cards. This would mobilise further gas supplies to the Continent and help Turkey to establish itself as a major gas hub, a regional thoroughfare for both Russian and future Iranian gas export into Europe.

Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory provide legal and business consultancy services for clients involved in the infrastructure, energy and financial sectors.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Advisory.

Prices quoted are indicative and may be based on approximate or readjusted prices, indices or mean levels discussed in the market. No warranty is given to the accuracy of any view, statement or price information made here which readers must verify.

Dominic Whittome is an economist with 25 years of commercial experience in oil & gas exploration, power generation, business development and supply & trading. Dominic has served as an analyst, contract negotiator and Head of Trading with four energy majors (Statoil, Mobil, ENI and EDF). As a consultant, Dominic has also advised government clients (including the UK Treasury, Met Office and Consumer Focus) and various private entities on a range of energy origination, strategy and trading issues.

For more information please contact us on 020 3427 5955 or by email on: info@prospectadvisory.co.uk.

For a PDF of this blog click here

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WHOLESALE ENERGY PRICES: MARCH 2016 – MAY 2016: PART III: GAS

In this new series of articles, Dominic Whittome covers wholesale energy prices between March and May 2016, discussing issues such as fluctuations in the price of Brent crude, falling shale production and decreasing prices across Europe’s gas and electricity exchanges, as well as the possibility of these rising again in the future.

Despite remaining pretty much flat over April, gas prices jumped 8 p/th in the second half of last month, closing the two month review period more than 16% higher.

The spot market had been buoyed by a series of supply concerns in the Norwegian and Danish sectors of the North Sea and a rising oil price. However, the announcements of various gas exporting projects in the Indian Ocean, North Atlantic and Middle East, all within a fortnight of one another, helped to limit the final gains in the market.

On the demand side, perhaps the outlook for prices is more bullish. The market share of gas in the UK’s power generation mix has continued rising of late, the daily quotient regularly passing 45% this year. Although renewable capacity now amounts to 27% (peak), the sporadic nature of solar and wind will require ever greater volumes of flexible CCGT capacity.

So in the longer term, UK gas demand could be driven higher by CCGT demand. There is a holding pattern of projects waiting to come online, whose flexibility is required to help the grid to balance and offset losses in coal-fired generation. For coal, the picture on the Continent also looks bleak (Germany aside) with Belgium becoming the latest European country to stop burning this fuel altogether last month.

One factor which could support forward gas prices is a sustained recovery in the crude market. Given the six to nine month indexation lag in all the major long-term sales agreements for gas into Europe, last year’s low oil prices have already had as most of the effect they are likely to have.

Prospect Law and Prospect Energy provide a unique combination of legal and technical advisory services for clients involved in energy, infrastructure and natural resource projects in the UK and internationally.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law and Prospect Energy and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Energy.

Prices quoted are indicative and may be based on approximate or readjusted prices, indices or mean levels discussed in the market. No warranty is given to the accuracy of any view, statement or price information made here which readers must verify.

Dominic Whittome is an economist with 25 years of commercial experience in oil & gas exploration, power generation, business development and supply & trading. Dominic has served as an analyst, contract negotiator and Head of Trading with four energy majors (Statoil, Mobil, ENI and EDF). As a consultant, Dominic has also advised government clients (including the UK Treasury, Met Office and Consumer Focus) and various private entities on a range of energy origination, strategy and trading issues.

For more information please contact us on 01332 818 785 or by email on: info@prospectlaw.co.uk

For a PDF of this blog click here

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WHOLESALE ENERGY PRICES: MARCH – MAY 2016 PART I: OIL

In this new series of articles, Dominic Whittome covers wholesale energy prices between March and May 2016, discussing issues such as fluctuations in the price of Brent crude, falling shale production and decreasing prices across Europe’s gas and electricity exchange, as well as the possibility of these rising again in the future.

The cost of Brent Crude went on a rollercoaster ride in March and April. Prices began rising amid hopes of a possible agreement at OPEC’s production ceiling talks in Doha, only to fall back once those expectations were dashed. Prices then soared to $50/bl by the end of April, far above the “new $20/bl -$30/bl range” discussed in some trading circles as recently as February. In the event, the market shook off the stand-off in OPEC and the 15-Dated Brent contract ended the period up over 23%.

Meanwhile, North American shale production has proved much more price-sensitive than some pundits anticipated. Shale projects generally have a very short plateau period so ongoing development is key. Production may well have been set to decline anyway as indirect government subsidies were to be curtailed, although the prolonged slump in oil prices may have bought this to a head. The IEA itself predicted a possible fall in shale investment at the end of last year, observing a sharply increasing price sensitivity once oil prices fall below $60/bl.

Last month the IEA announced that non-OPEC oil production was falling at a faster rate than at any time in the past 25 years. Looking forward, one key price driver will be how soon the current impasse between Iranian and Saudi oil ministers can be broken. Longer term, there is also the issue of how quickly wider Middle Eastern and Venezuelan crude production can be ramped up and brought to market as global oil demand gradually recovers, especially if non-OPEC production continues to disappoint.

Prospect Law and Prospect Energy provide a unique combination of legal and technical advisory services for clients involved in energy, infrastructure and natural resource projects in the UK and internationally.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law and Prospect Energy and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Energy.

Prices quoted are indicative and may be based on approximate or readjusted prices, indices or mean levels discussed in the market. No warranty is given to the accuracy of any view, statement or price information made here which readers must verify.

Dominic Whittome is an economist with 25 years of commercial experience in oil & gas exploration, power generation, business development and supply & trading. Dominic has served as an analyst, contract negotiator and Head of Trading with four energy majors (Statoil, Mobil, ENI and EDF). As a consultant, Dominic has also advised government clients (including the UK Treasury, Met Office and Consumer Focus) and various private entities on a range of energy origination, strategy and trading issues.

For more information please contact us on 01332 818 785 or by email on: info@prospectlaw.co.uk.

For a PDF of this blog click here

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SOLAR POWER IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA: WHAT FUTURE DOES IT HAVE? PART II

A recent article by Stratfor, A Bright Future for Solar Power in the Middle East, assessed the future of solar power in the Middle East and North Africa, and offered guidance to those seeking to invest in the market. We have been following the development of the PV sector in the region and agree with much of Stratfor’s comment. With permission, we have published some of their main points below, adding our own views.

To read Part I, which assessed the future of Solar Power in Jordan, Egypt and Morocco, click here.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia relies on oil for electricity production, and it faces rising domestic demand for electricity at a time when low oil prices have put significant financial strain on the government. Its domestic fuel consumption is following an unsustainable trend and the need to wean itself off oil is ever growing.

Under current goals, renewables would account for 8 percent of electricity production by 2020 and 15 percent by 2030, with solar power accounting for the majority of that increase. In the past, however, Saudi Arabia has lengthened the timelines for such targets. The Kingdom also has ambitious nuclear energy plans, which we have been involved in, and aims to remain an ‘energy exporter’ post oil by developing and then exporting its own solar and nuclear technologies.

Saudi company ACWA Power is involved in multiple projects in the region (Morocco and Jordan) and farther away (South Africa and Turkey). ACWA Power has gained a regional reputation as having sufficient economies of scale to underbid other major solar power firms, mostly Western or East Asian companies. This helped ACWA Power win large bids such as the first phase of Morocco’s Noor plant and the Mohammed bin Rashid solar park in the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the national oil company, has even expressed interest in developing solar export capability. There are also plans to add solar technology production facilities.

The United Arab Emirates

The UAE, meanwhile, has positioned itself as a renewable energy financier and development hub. It is the home of the International Renewable Energy Agency, and hosts important conferences focused on both renewable and non-renewable energy. Furthermore, it has used its ample hydrocarbon largesse to develop unique large and small-scale renewable projects in ways that less resource-rich countries such as Morocco, Jordan and Egypt cannot match. The United Arab Emirates has established itself as a regional leader in solar power in part because of its greater ability to adopt the technology (both domestically and through partnerships with other countries) and to fund projects throughout the world. Masdar, the country’s renewable energy arm, is connected with the Mubadala Development Co., one of the country’s smaller sovereign wealth funds. Masdar is involved in projects throughout the Middle East, Africa, South America and Europe and on islands in the Pacific.

The UAE has shown a similar aptitude for new technologies and flexibility in working with international partners to have the foremost nuclear energy programme in the region, with the first nuclear power station due to commence generation this year, although a delay is looking likely.

Algeria

Algeria is a leading natural gas producer, and has ambitious plans to follow a similar path with solar energy. Renewable power installations totalling 22 gigawatts of capacity — 13 gigawatts of that solar — are proposed to go online by 2030. That is enough power to meet nearly a quarter of domestic needs while still reserving a significant portion for exports. However, the issue of insufficient energy storage, which is a barrier to incorporating large amounts of variable renewable power worldwide, will require substantial research and investment first. Energy storage is a major issue that we have advised on but which is yet to be cracked.

Algeria will require foreign investment and cooperation to meet its grand plans. While Algeria is more stable than some of its neighbours, such as Libya, its government is in a slow leadership transition and the risk of instability caused by protests relating to development and distribution of energy resources is high. Nonetheless, the country has made strides toward attracting the necessary investment to build out its solar capacity. With over 250 megawatts of capacity installed in 2015 and work occurring at additional sites in 2016, Algeria is moving toward its target of 15 percent of electricity being generated by solar by 2020.

Summary

Overall the region will undoubtedly install more renewable energy installations in the coming years. However, there are and will continue to be concerns for those wanting to build, own and operate systems in the region. There are lesser risks for those supplying renewable technologies and those seeking to operate purely as EPC contractors, particularly with the involvement of the World Bank in countries such as Jordan.

Introduction to Prospect Energy and Prospect Law

This article is not intended to constitute legal advice and Prospect Law and Prospect Energy accepts no responsibility for loss or damage incurred as a result of reliance on its content. Specific legal advice should be taken in relation to any issues or concerns of readers which are raised by this article.          

Prospect Law and Prospect Energy provide a unique combination of legal and technical advisory services for clients involved in energy, infrastructure and natural resource projects in the UK and internationally. 

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law and Prospect Energy and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Energy.

For more information please contact Edward de la Billiere on 01332 818 785 or by email on: edlb@prospectlaw.co.uk.

For a PDF of this blog click here

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SOLAR POWER IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA: WHAT FUTURE DOES IT HAVE? PART I

A recent article by Stratfor, A Bright Future for Solar Power in the Middle East, assessed the future of solar power in the Middle East and North Africa, and offered guidance to those seeking to invest in the market. We have been following the development of the PV sector in the region and agree with much of Stratfor’s comment. With permission, we have published some of their main points below, adding our own views.

Summary
The Middle East might seem like a natural hotspot for solar energy. However, despite good sunlight levels, many obstacles continue to prevent widespread deployment, including natural issues (the effect of sand on solar panels), political stability and land rights.

Jordan
Jordan imports 92% of its energy, and energy imports account for around 16% of the nation’s GDP.

In 2011 and 2012, disruptions to natural gas supplies from Egypt caused Jordan to deplete its energy reserves entirely. The problem arose again in 2013, when oil imports from Iraq were interrupted. Uncertain energy supplies have the potential to stoke unrest in Jordan, where energy costs are heavily subsidized by the monarchy. After all, an erratic domestic electricity supply has aggravated social upheaval in nearby Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt.

Jordan aims to produce 20% of its energy from renewables by 2018, and we have advised on plans to develop nuclear power stations. Numerous solar projects, large and small, are underway, ranging from panels on the rooftops of homes to large solar parks with 200-megawatt capacities. Jordan has simplified the bidding process for renewable energy projects, attracting companies from around the world in the process. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is actively involved in supporting Jordan’s renewables programme and Public private partnerships will be required to help achieve the nation’s targets.

Egypt
The threat of social unrest in Egypt is more potent than in many other countries in the region. Its massive population creates an enormous energy demand, which may strain the government’s budget but also open up opportunities to invest in technologies to meet the growing need.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s reforms have attracted renewed investment in the natural gas sector, with projects such as Eni’s Zohr natural gas field being fast-tracked.

Improved natural gas production might help achieve a more consistent supply of electricity, but with demand expected to climb, there is room for additional forms of power generation. Recent agreements with Japan and South Korea to develop solar power and associated projects indicate that Egypt is looking beyond traditional relationships to further the renewables energy sector, though regional players such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are still active investors and there is continued interest from Europe.

Morocco
Morocco imports most of its energy — about 90 percent. The relatively stable nation is also looking to renewables, especially solar power, to create a cheaper, more secure energy supply. Morocco has set a lofty goal: to have renewables account for half its electricity production by 2025 (solar would satisfy about a third of the demand), and the nation even aims to become an electricity exporter.

But Morocco is taking the idea a step further by building the world’s largest power plant using concentrated solar technology. The first phase of the project, the Noor Solar Complex near the city of Ouarzazate, opened earlier this year.

Of course, Morocco’s projects will inevitably require large tenders and international investment, rather than participation from domestic companies.

Introduction to Prospect Energy and Prospect Law

This article is not intended to constitute legal advice and Prospect Law and Prospect Energy accepts no responsibility for loss or damage incurred as a result of reliance on its content. Specific legal advice should be taken in relation to any issues or concerns of readers which are raised by this article.

Prospect Law and Prospect Energy provide a unique combination of legal and technical advisory services for clients involved in energy, infrastructure and natural resource projects in the UK and internationally.

This article remains the copyright property of Prospect Law and Prospect Energy and neither the article nor any part of it may be published or copied without the prior written permission of the directors of Prospect Law and Prospect Energy.

For more information please contact Edward de la Billiere on 01332 818 785 or by email on: edlb@prospectlaw.co.uk.

Part II will assess the future of solar power in Algeria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

For a PDF of this blog click here