Quote of the Week

“A ballot measure requiring greater setbacks could have a dramatic effect on drilling in Colorado. In Weld County, Colorado, where much of the drilling in Colorado’s DJ Basin takes place, the greater setback distances would put roughly 78 percent of the surface land off limits to drilling. ‘That is effectively a ban on the industry,” Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, told Bloomberg in a July interview. “You’d basically have no new wells drilled in Colorado.’”

Nick Cunningham, Oilprice.com

Graphic of the Week
Costs of new generation capacity tilting towards renewables


1.  Oil and the Global Economy
2.  The Middle East & North Africa
3.  China
4.  Russia
5.  Nigeria
6.  Venezuela
7.  The Briefs

1.  Oil and the Global Economy

Oil prices slid about 3 percent last Wednesday as the trade dispute between the US and China escalated and after Chinese import data showed a slowdown in energy demand. However, prices recovered a bit on Friday as US sanctions against Iran looked as if they would tighten oil supplies ending up the week with New York futures at $67.63 and London at $72.81.

Goldman Sachs believes that the case for higher oil prices ahead remains strong despite concerns about the Sino-American trade war.  The demand for oil remains robust, with the global economy growing at 4.3 percent, and could go higher.  Low stockpiles of crude mean supply shortages could develop in the face of today’s strong demand.  The Saudis are not flooding the markets with as much oil as anticipated and Beijing has not yet added oil to the list of US exports subject to heavy tariffs.

China has announced plans to apply a 25 percent tax to US LNG; however, natural gas is still selling below $3 per million BTU’s in Louisiana compared with $10 in Asia. This differential could allow US exporters to compress the gas, transport it, and swallow the 25 percent tariff while still making a profit.  Demand for LNG is strong across Asia so that China needs the US’s LNG worse than the US needs the Chinese LNG market.

With the ever-growing demand for oil; the likelihood that US shale oil production will not be growing as fast as was anticipated; and the uncertainty surrounding the sanctions on Iran, the case for higher prices this winter looks stronger than the one for lower prices.

IEA’s Oil Market Report:  The Agency see the global increase in the demand for oil falling slightly to 1.4 million b/d this year, but rebounding to 1.5 million next year.  These forecasts are caveated with warnings about the uncertainties in the various trade disputes and sanctions that are ongoing.  The global oil supply in July rose about 300,000 b/d and is now at 99.4 million or about 1.1 million above July of last year.  OECD commercial oil stocks are now approximately 32 million barrels below the five-year average, although the previous three years were a time of unusually high commercial stocks.

The IEA points out that ample oil supplies have contributed to the Brent price falling from just over $79 a barrel at the end of June to below $72 this week.  The agency takes note of the increasing climate turmoil with record high temperatures causing disruptions such as low water levels hampering barge movements; the lack of sufficient cooling water for nuclear power plants; and soaring demand for air-conditioning.

While there currently is relative calm in the oil markets, this could change when the US sanctions on Iran kick in next November.  The agency also sounded its recurrent concern that there is not enough investment in energy taking place around the world.  It noted that global energy investment fell by 2 percent in 2017, the third consecutive year of a decline.  According to the IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, “The overall trend of energy investment remains insufficient for meeting energy security, climate, and air quality goals, and is not spurring an acceleration in technologies needed for the clean energy transition.”

US Shale Oil Production:  While US crude production has climbed dramatically, production may rise more slowly as prices drop, transportation bottlenecks develop and the best places to drill are used up.  US output was expected to increase by 1.31 million b/d to 10.68 million in 2018, lower than last month’s forecast of growth of 1.44 million b/d to 10.79 million, according to the EIA.  The administration slightly increased its expectation for 2019 production growth to 1.02 million b/d from 1.01 previously.  It expects crude production to average 11.7 million b/d in 2019, compared with 11.8 million it forecast in its last report.

The downward revisions in the EIA’s forecasts come after recently released data from the agency shows that output growth during this past spring was not as much as it had been estimating.  Until recently the agency was saying that shale oil output was growing at a blistering rate, with production rising by over 200,000 b/d between the beginning of April and the end of May. But more recent data suggests that production actually dipped a bit over that period.

The recent revisions to the EIA’s data from months ago raise questions about the production figures being released each week. Right now, that weekly data says that the US is producing a little less than 11 million b/d.  But because those weekly figures are repeatedly revised down as time passes, there is a good chance that US production is not that high right now.

There are more issues facing increased US shale oil production than just an overestimation of output.  In addition to pipeline constraints, drillers face other operational problems. “Escalating costs, logistical constraints, decreasing cash flows, and the pace of drilling forcing a downwards move in the quality of new drill sites from Tier 1 to Tier 2 locations.  All these may be just a few of the reasons for initial well productivity in the Permian reaching a plateau over the past few months.”

The only good news recently was the announcement by Plains All American Pipeline that two West Texas projects would begin partial operations slightly ahead of their original schedules.  The Sunrise expansion project is expected to go into partial service in the fourth quarter this year while the Cactus II line will begin partial service in the third quarter of 2019.  The Sunrise extension will add about 500,000 b/d of capacity from Midland to Colorado City and Wichita Falls, Texas, and provide connections to the oil-storage hub at Cushing, Oklahoma.  The 670,000 b/d  Cactus II line from the Permian basin to Corpus Christi is expected to be complete in April 2020.  By late this year, a portion of the line, from Wink to McCamey, Texas, will begin partial service.

2.  The Middle East & North Africa

Iran: How well Tehran will succeed in avoiding the renewed US sanctions remained the top issue last week.  China, Russia, and India say they will continue to buy oil from Iran, despite US sanctions.  However, there are reports that Indian refiners are cutting back on purchases out of fear of losing access to American financial institutions.  Japan’s largest refiner may be forced to stop imports of Iranian crude oil loading in September without clear guidance from the government.  Tehran’s oil exports dropped by 7 percent to 2.32 million b/d in July—their lowest level in four months—as South Korea and Europe cut imports ahead of sanctions.

Washington now expects that it will be able to persuade Iran’s oil customers to cut their Iranian crude imports by as much as 1 million b/d.  A 1-million-b/d reduction would be roughly half of the average Iranian oil exports over the past year, but well below the US administrations target of reducing the Islamic Republic’s oil sales to “zero.”  Analysts say a 1 million b/d drop in the global oil supply in early November would boost oil prices.

Under the new sanctions that took effect last week, Iran is barred from purchasing or acquiring US dollars and limited in what it can do with its currency outside of Iranian territory.  This is making it exceptionally difficult to invest in Iran’s oil fields.  Asian investors in Iranian projects have discovered that they can no longer rely on their usual banking partners in the United Arab Emirates to transfer funds for projects in Iran. This blockage of funds has delayed several deals worth billions, according to the companies involved, and foreign development officials.

With its oil customers already backing away ahead of the next round of sanctions in November, Iran is facing severe economic problems and growing internal dissent. The Iranian rial has lost half of its value against the US dollar on the unofficial market this year, while the price of fruit and vegetables has increased by 50 percent since the start of the year. The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari has acknowledged the gravity of the situation, declaring that “domestic weaknesses and threats are more serious” than the foreign military threat posed by the US or other countries.

Iraq:  The State Oil Marketing Organization said last week that Iraq’s crude oil production rose to its highest level in 13 months in July—to 4.46 million b/d.  Since the fourth quarter of 2017, Baghdad has been consistently reporting to OPEC that its production was 4.36 million b/d each month.  According to OPEC’s secondary sources, however, in July Iraq’s oil production jumped by 71,500 b/d in June over May, to 4.533 million b/d.  This was the second largest increase within the cartel for June, after the Saudi production jump of 405,400 b/d, according to the secondary sources—the ones that OPEC uses for calculating quotas and compliance.  According to the latest S&P Global Platts survey, Iraq’s oil production in July was 4.57 million b/d.  Much of this discrepancy is due to the Iraqi government’s desire to keep within its OPEC commitments while still exporting as much oil as it can.

Iraq’s election commission has completed a manual recount of votes from a parliamentary election held in May.   Parliament ordered the recount in June after a government report concluded there were serious violations in an initial count using an electronic vote-counting system. However, a fire that broke out in the warehouse where the votes were stored made a complete recount impossible.

Three months after the vote, the winning parties are still embroiled in negotiations over forming the next governing coalition.  A group of Iran-backed Shi’ite militia leaders placed second behind cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s bloc, with incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s bloc in third place.  Major policy changes, likely involving the oil industry, are coming soon.

A high-voltage power line in Iraq was attacked by Islamist militants eight times over the past two months according to the Electricity Ministry.  Power outages have been among the reasons for protests in several Iraqi cities over the past month.  While some outages have resulted from terrorist attacks, most of them seem to result from the poor state of the Iraqi electric grid which has suffered years of neglect.

Demonstrations continued in Basra, Missan, and Dhi Qar provinces last week as protesters criticized slow government response to complaints of unemployment and poor services.  The most volatile protests took place outside the gates of West Qurna 1 and West Qurna 2 oil fields, operated by ExxonMobil and Lukoil respectively, where protesters sporadically blocked roads and prevented employees from accessing the facility.

Saudi Arabia: The Saudis told OPEC it cut output in July to 10.29 million b/d, but estimates from the US government and independent agencies say it boosted production—amounting to a difference of as much as half a million barrels a day. Traditionally, the summer months are the season of peak local consumption of crude as air conditioning demand hits a high. However, this year temperatures have been below the five-year average for the period, and exports have not registered any marked increases, either.  If Saudi export and domestic consumption data are correct, Aramco may have started to fill up its oil tanks again. The truth of the claims and counterclaims are difficult to sort out.

Saudi Aramco announced that after a halt due to militant attacks, oil shipments through a Red Sea strait near the coast of Yemen resumed last week.

3.  China

The great US/China trade war continued unabated last week with China’s state media lashing out at the policies of President Trump in an unusually direct attack.  US crude oil exporters appear to have found an alternative buyer for cargoes no longer heading to China, with India on track to import record volumes in August.  US exports of LNG to China in July fell to their lowest level in a year and are expected to decline further as the trade dispute forces utilities to seek alternative supplies.

Last week, Beijing announced the decision to remove crude oil from its latest tariff list in the trade war with the US.  Sources in Beijing say this move was prompted by a strong lobbying effort by the main importer Sinopec Group.  Dropping crude oil from the final tariff list on $16 billion in US goods announced late on Wednesday underscores the growing importance of the US as an alternative supply source for China, which is seeking to diversify its oil purchases as domestic production sinks.

China increased its coal imports in July by 14 percent to their highest in 4-1/2 years as rising temperatures boosted demand for coal-fired power to run air conditioners.  The China Meteorological Administration has been issuing regular heat alerts over the past few weeks. Last Wednesday, it warned that regions in western and southern China could see temperatures reaching as high as 104°F, which would continue to support demand for coal-fired electricity.

During the first seven months of this year, China imported some 8.98 million b/d of crude oil, up 5.6 percent from a year earlier. Total natural gas imports, including both pipeline gas and LNG, rose to 7.38 million tons during the same period, up 28.3 percent from a year ago.  Economic growth as well as Beijing’s mandate that natural gas makes up at least 10 percent of the country’s energy mix by 2020has increased demand. The growing use of these two fossil fuels will pose problems for the country in the years ahead as it becomes increasingly dependent on imported oil and gas, especially from the volatile Middle Eastern OPEC states.  Awareness that hostilities between Middle Eastern OPEC members would devastate its economy is likely behind China’s aggressive moves to establish a foothold in the South China Sea and its reluctance to place tariffs on oil imports from the US.

4. Russia

IEA said last week that Russian crude and condensate production climbed by 150,000 b/d last month, to 11.21 million b/d. That “significantly sharper acceleration than expected” put Russian production 265,000 b/d higher year-on-year and just 14,000 b/d lower than Russia’s October 2016 record high.

New US sanctions, mandated by a 1990 US law, were imposed on Moscow last Wednesday in retaliation for the use of a chemical weapon to poison a former Russian agent and his daughter in the UK.  The second round of sanctions that the law could trigger after three months would block many Russian exports to the US, including crude and oil products.  The Russian stock market fell on Thursday, and the ruble hit a two-year low after the new sanctions were announced.  While the impact of US and EU sanctions imposed after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea may have only cut the Russian gross domestic product by just half a percentage point a year, they add pressure when growth is already stagnating.

Years of failure to diversify Russia’s economy away from reliance on energy and natural resource exports is taking a toll on economic development.  The lack of a real rule of law and protection for property rights is deterring foreign investment.  Oligarchs allied with senior government officials are slowly looting the country of the money needed for investment.  The new sanctions will further deprive Russia of western know-how and financing vital to modernize the economy.  Rosneft said last Tuesday that it had completed the acquisition of ExxonMobil’s stakes in joint projects set up to the develop the offshore Arctic, deepwater Black Sea, and West Siberian tight oil reserves.

Separate legislation introduced last week by Republican and Democratic senators proposes curbs on the operations of several state-owned Russian banks in the United States and restrictions on their use of the dollar. This move caused Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to declare that Russia would consider any US move to curb the operations of Russian banks or their foreign currency dealings a declaration of economic war.  He also said that Moscow would take economic, political or other retaliatory measures against the US.

Denmark, one of the last countries yet to sanction Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline, is reviewing new route plans, the country’s energy agency stated Friday.  Sweden’s government has already issued the permit necessary for Gazprom to build and operate the 315-mile section of the second leg of the Nord Stream gas pipeline in its territorial waters leaving approval by Copenhagen as the key obstacle to building the pipeline.  The pipeline is controversial as it would allow Russia to pipe natural gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine and Poland, and would increase the EU’s reliance on Moscow.

5. Nigeria

In recent weeks, the anticipated completion of the 650,000 b/d Dangote Refinery next year has been touted as the way to help Nigeria save over $7.5 billion a year by halting the importation of the bulk of the country’s oil product consumption.  Along with the overhaul of Nigeria’s current refineries, the completion of Dangote would put the country on the map as a major oil and gas hub in Africa.  Last week sources with direct knowledge of the matter said that the Dangote refinery, being built in Nigeria by Africa’s richest man, cement baron Aliko Dangote, is unlikely to start production until 2022, two years later than the target date.

Last month, Shell signed an agreement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company and two other companies for the development of natural gas projects worth some $3.7 billion, as part of Nigeria’s efforts to deal with a looming domestic shortage of the fuel.  However, it looks like this deal is just the start of a much larger-scale strategy.  In a recent interview, Shell Gas Nigeria’s managing director Ed Ubong said the company eyes a complete transformation of the Nigerian energy system by further development of its massive gas reserves, estimated by BP to be the largest in Africa at 5.2 trillion cubic meters.

6. Venezuela

Venezuela’s prospects suffered another blow last week when a judge in the US gave a Canadian mining company permission to seize the shares of the Venezuelan holding company that owns Citgo.  The case dates back to 2011 when Venezuela nationalized Las Cristinas, a gold reserve owned by Crystallex. The Canadian company took Venezuela to the international arbitration tribunal ICSID and won, but Venezuela refused to pay up.  Crystallex, then, went after Citgo as compensation, arguing that PDV Holding Inc, which is owned by Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA, is essentially a part of the Venezuelan state.  PDVSA’s depends on its US unit, Citgo, for refined products and diluent. These arrangements could be put in jeopardy by a US court order.

Despite a steady decline in its crude oil production, Venezuela increased exports of oil to the US. Between February and June, Venezuelan shipments to the Gulf Coast refineries increased by 43 percent.  The recovery in Venezuelan exports is confined to the Gulf Coast where refineries are equipped to process heavier crudes, and their choice of suppliers is limited.  Mexico’s oil production is stagnating and, while Canada’s heavy crude production is growing, its pipeline capacity is not.

PDVSA has limited the damage from its slump in crude exports by transferring oil between tankers at sea and loading vessels in neighboring Cuba to avoid asset seizures.  PDVSA’s problems increased in in May when ConocoPhillips began seizing PDVSA assets in the Caribbean as payment for a $2 billion arbitration award.  The seizures left PDVSA without access to facilities such as Isla refinery in Curacao and BOPEC terminal in Bonaire that accounted for almost a quarter of the company’s oil exports.  Conoco’s actions also forced PDVSA to stop shipping oil on its own vessels to terminals in the Caribbean, and then onto refineries worldwide, to avoid the risk the cargoes would be seized in international waters or foreign ports.

The company then asked customers to charter tankers to Venezuelan waters and load from the company’s terminals or from anchored PDVSA vessels acting as floating storage units.
PDVSA told some clients in early June it might impose force majeure unless they agreed to such ship-to-ship transfers.

7.  The Briefs (date of the article in Peak Oil News is in parentheses)

The world’s biggest oil companies are systematically over-valuing their assets based on excessively optimistic forecasts of future prices, according to a leading investor.  UK asset manager Sarasin & Partners has asked the oil companies in which it invests, BP, Shell, and Total, to reveal the full risk they face should demand for crude peak as the trend towards decarbonization grows. Sarasin oversees almost £14 billion of investments, including funds from many top charities. (8/6)

LNG gaining steam: A new race to build multi-billion dollar liquefied natural gas plants is gaining momentum after a long hiatus in investments as energy giants sense a widening supply gap within five years. Spending on new, complex facilities dried up following the collapse in energy prices in 2014. Appetite was further dampened by fears that a plethora of LNG plants built since the late 2000s would lead to a large supply glut until early in the next decade. But sentiment has radically changed over the past year, buoyed by rising oil prices and exceptionally strong demand from rapidly growing economies such as China and India. Global demand for LNG surged by 12 percent in 2017, far exceeding forecasts, and is expected to grow by up to 10 percent in 2018.  Liquefaction capacity additions are expected to fall sharply by the end of 2019 as newly commissioned plants reach their maximum capacity (8/7)

In the UK, four senior geologists are calling for a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in Surrey, southeast of London, after 12 earthquakes were registered in the area over the past four months. (8/7)

In Portugal, which doesn’t produce oil domestically. several oil wells will be drilled during the next few months—a controversial point.  The overarching fear of opponents is that it will transform the nation to the worse, tainting the pristine beaches that tourists are increasingly fond of and bring about environmental damage not seen before.  Additionally, Portugal produces 44 percent of its electricity from renewable energy.  For many, developing oil deposits would be tantamount to compromising past successes in emissions-free energy sectors. (8/9)

The United Arab Emirates will build an oil pipeline connecting Eritrea’s port city of Assab with Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. The announcement is the latest sign of the UAE’s increasing involvement in the Horn of Africa. The UAE played a behind-the-scenes role in helping Ethiopia and Eritrea end a two-decade state of war last month. (8/10)

In Pakistan, ExxonMobil is close to discovering huge oil reserves near the border with Iran, and those reserves could even be larger than the oil reserves of Kuwait, the Pakistani Minister for Maritime Affairs and Foreign Affairs, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, said. According to Arab News, if the oil discovery in Pakistan turns out to be as large as expected, the country would rank among the world’s top ten oil-producing countries. (8/7)

With Taiwan, US liquefied natural gas company Cheniere Energy Inc said on Friday it had signed a 25-year deal to supply the nation’s CPC Corp, which CPC valued at roughly $25 billion. Cheniere said it will sell 2 million tons of LNG per year on a delivered basis to the state-owned oil and gas company, starting in 2021. It said the purchase price will be pegged to the Henry Hub monthly average, plus a fee. (8/11)

The Philippines is trying to curb its inflation running at five-year highs by ordering the companies to make available for sale cheaper but dirtier fuel, backtracking on a ban on such dirty fuels introduced two years ago and aimed at improving air quality. (8/11)

In Niger, the government said Wednesday it’s eager to capitalize on the potential launch of new crude oil production as soon as possible.  British energy company Savannah Petroleum, which has a core focus on Africa, signed a memorandum of understanding with Niger’s government to move forward with an early production scheme for discoveries made in the southeast of the country.  Savannah Petroleum said it has made oil discoveries at three wells in its license area in Niger’s Agadem Rift basin. (8/9)

In Cuba, Melbana Energy, one of the few Western companies with an established footprint in the country, said its best estimate of reserves there improved more than 10 percent. The company, which has headquarters in Australia, said an independent assessment found the best estimate for oil in place for the Block 9 prospect on the northern coast of Cuba was 15.7 billion barrels of oil, a 24 percent increase from the previous estimate. (8/8)

In Mexico, when the National Hydrocarbons Commission scheduled its first-ever shale tender for September this year, the July elections were obviously not front and center in the thoughts of its management. Yet now, this tender may be as good as gone after President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said last week, “We will no longer use that method [hydraulic fracturing] to extract petroleum.” (8/9)

Canadian nightmare: Western Canada Select (WCS) recently fell below $40 per barrel, dropping to as low as $38 per barrel last Tuesday. That put it roughly $31 per barrel below WTI, the largest discount since 2013. The sharp decline in WCS prices is a reflection of a shortage of pipeline capacity that’s growing worse. Even as pipeline takeaway capacity hasn’t budged, Canadian oil production continues to rise. Output could jump by around 230,000 b/d in 2018, followed by another 265,000-b/d increase in 2019. (8/10)

The US oil rig count grew by 10 last week, bringing the total count to 869, General Electric Co’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said. Gas rigs increased by 3 to 186.  The combined oil and gas rig count now stands at 1,057—up 108 from this time last year. (8/11)

American refiners are posting their best second-quarter profits in years, thanks to soaring domestic oil production and regional pipeline bottlenecks that are allowing them to buy crude on the cheap. (8/7)

Ethanol #s: The EIA on Tuesday adjusted its forecast for US ethanol blending with gasoline in the remainder of 2018 but left the production forecast unchanged. The outlook showed blending ticked higher in July than originally forecast, which bumped the forecast average for the whole year slightly higher to 945,000 b/d from 941,000 b/d in the July outlook. (8/8)

Diesel will dominate the commercial truck industry for years to come, but when will the switchover to electrified, automated trucks seriously impact the demand for this fuel? It’s a pressing question for the US in particular, where 70 percent of the goods use traditional diesel engine medium- and heavy-duty trucks (and some of the medium- and light-duty work trucks use gasoline engines). (8/6)

SPR release? Even if the US Administration decides to release crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, American drivers are unlikely to see gasoline prices coming down, because US refiners already have enough oil to run at maximum rates, and much of the oil products that would be produced could be exported, analysts briefed by Reuters say. (8/11)

GOM leases: A federal auction of exploration leases in the Gulf of Mexico next week will test energy companies’ appetite for acreage after the Trump administration left royalty rates for deepwater parcels unchanged, bucking an industry call to lower them. Oil companies had lobbied for lower royalty payments for deepwater acreage because of the projects’ high cost and long lead time before production can begin. (8/11)

Drilling restraint looming: In Colorado, an initiative to expand the setback distance required for oil and gas drilling just received a boost, potentially making the November ballot. Initiative 97 would require oil and gas wells to be a minimum of 2,500 feet away from “occupied structures,” which means houses, and “vulnerable areas,” which includes parks, public spaces and fresh water, among other areas. That distance is much greater than the current distance of just 500 feet for “occupied structures,” and 1,000 feet for “high occupancy buildings,” such as hospitals and schools. (8/10)

Tariff issues: US President Donald Trump’s proposal to double tariffs on steel and aluminum from Turkey could push up costs even further for domestic oil and gas pipeline projects, as energy executives said they were already struggling from earlier tariff rises.  There are more than a dozen US energy pipelines on the drawing board, some of which are still seeking financing. The projects would pave the way for greater US oil and gas exports and relieve a bottleneck in West Texas shale fields that is starting to pinch output in the region. (8/11)

Nuke bind: When Exelon’s Oyster Creek nuclear unit disconnects from the grid at the end of September and permanently shuts, it will mark the start of a busy period of US nuclear power plant closures driven by low power prices that are placing dozens more units at risk. As utilities threaten to shut nuclear units, a patchwork of state subsidies has emerged, and DOE and the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are mulling separate actions to prevent reactors from closing. (8/11)

TX wind: Strong wind generation helped the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) system cope with the mid-July heat wave with high prices, but such wind capacity is unlikely to be available if another heat wave strikes in August, board members were told Tuesday. ERCOT set a new all-time power demand record of 73,259 MW on July 19 and a new all-time weekend demand record of 71,444 MW on July 22. (8/8)

RE generation costs: Based on 2016 EIA data for newly constructed utility-scale electric generators (those with a capacity greater than one megawatt) in the US, annual capacity-weighted average construction costs for solar photovoltaic systems and onshore wind turbines declined, while construction costs for natural gas generators increased slightly.  These three technologies accounted for about 93% of total electric generating capacity added in 2016. (8/9)

EV uptake: A new report by ABI research forecasts that a proportionately higher uptake of EVs in car-sharing fleets, and the higher utilization rates of those EVs, will result in global electric mileage share to exceed 20 percent by 2030. While consumer adoption of EVs continues to disappoint with only 2 percent of all vehicles shipping in 2018 expected to be electric, city governments are increasingly becoming aware of their benefits in terms of sustainability, reduced environmental impact, and improved air quality. (8/11)

EU carmaker fines coming? New analysis by IHS Markit suggests that automakers failing to meet 2021 fleet CO 2 emissions compliance for passenger vehicles sold in the European Union (EU) could be fined more than €14 billion (US$16 billion) in 2021. (8/7)

More battery promise? Researchers at the University of Cambridge have identified an entirely new class of materials that could allow lithium-ion batteries to charge faster and deliver higher power performance—and at lower costs—than the nanoparticles used in battery electrodes. This new class of materials—known as niobium tungsten oxides—could allow not only our smartphones to charge in minutes but could also make higher-power batteries that charge faster and more safely than those used in today’s EV and energy storage systems – thus potentially overcoming the battery barrier to mass adoption of EVs and solar power. (8/7)

Japan may eventually import hydrogen from Australia to help boost the use of hydrogen in power supply and hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles. Hydrogen can be produced with excess renewable energy that would otherwise be wasted, and can be transported like natural gas. (8/8)

Tesla is working on a “mini-car that can squeeze in an adult,” a new tweet from chief executive Elon Musk told the world.  The tweet, like another recent one about the addition of new AI to Teslas, came in response to a fan question about “Radio Flyer Model X”.  This is not the first announcement of a new Tesla model by Musk in the past year.  The earlier ones, about the Tesla Semi electric truck and a future SUV, have been met with mixed feelings. (8/7)

Climate extremes: Researchers believe we could soon cross a threshold leading to boiling hot temperatures and towering seas in the centuries to come. Even if countries succeed in meeting their CO2 targets, we could still lurch on to this “irreversible pathway”. Their study shows it could happen if global temperatures rise by 2o C. (8/7)

Heat wave: Eight places in Portugal broke local temperature records as a wave of heat from North Africa swept across the Iberian peninsula — and officials predicted the scorching temperatures could get even worse over the weekend. Temperatures built to around 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees F.) Friday in many inland areas of Portugal. (8/6)