Quote of the Week

“Global automakers are planning an unprecedented level of spending to develop and procure batteries and electric vehicles over the next five to 10 years, with a significant portion of their budgets targeted at China… Automakers’ plans to spend at least $300 billion on EVs are driven largely by environmental concerns and government policy, and supported by rapid technological advances that have improved battery cost, range and charging time.”

Paul Lienert and Christine Chan, Reuters

Graphic of the Week


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

1.  Oil and the Global Economy

Oil prices continued to climb last week and are now some $10 a barrel higher than they were just before Christmas when recent lows were set.  Prices now have retraced about 30 percent of the $35 a barrel drop that took place between late September and late December.  Part of the recent price correction likely is due to technical factors such as closing out long positions in the futures markets.  The news that the Saudis will cut even more production than specified in their recent pledge in hopes of raising world prices to $80 a barrel was an important part of last week’s price jump.  Hopes that the US and China would settle their trade dispute during on-going talks was also an important factor in the recent price jump.

Looming over the talk about OPEC+ production cuts and how fast US shale oil production might grow are the prospects for the global economy.  A major recession could drive the demand for oil so low that even current prices would be difficult to maintain.  While there have always been people convinced that a major economic crash is in the offing, in recent weeks there has been a noticeable increase in the number and stridency of these predictions.

While the US economy has been bumping along nicely in recent months, the same is not true for the other major centers of economic power – China and Europe. The Washington Post headlines that “Economic growth is slowing all around the world,” citing declines in the equity markets; sputtering German factories, and Chinese retail sales growing at their slowest pace in 15 years.  Even Beijing is looking for its GDP to grow by 6-6.5 percent this year which is way off from the heady days of double digits ten years ago.

Eurozone economic forecasts fell last Monday again after a survey of economists found that GDP is expected to grow just below 1.6 percent this year, 0.4 percentage points lower than an already conservative estimate from March.  A new report from the World Bank, citing a variety of data, including softening international trade and investment, ongoing trade tensions, and financial turmoil concludes that “the outlook for the global economy in 2019 has darkened.”

Among the darker forecasts for the future are those that speculate on a global depression on the scale of the 1930s where GDPs fall by 10 to 25 percent.  Others are saying that the global economy may be approaching “The Limits to Growth” as discussed in the famous 1972 book.

Base scenario from The Limits to Growth, using today’s graphics by Charles Hall and John Day in “Revisiting Limits to Growth After Peak Oil.” The 2019 line is drawn based on where the world economy seems to be now, rather than on precisely where the base model would put the year 2019.

In addition to the concerns about whether economic growth can continue, there are the ever-increasing costs of climate change and the recent round of predictions that the situation is soon to get much worse.

The OPEC Production Cut: The major news from last week was the report that the Saudis, who now need $95 oil to balance their state budget, are planning to cut their oil production by up to 800,000 b/d to get prices back up into the $80s.  Concerns continue about the fate of Venezuelan oil production which seems to be dwindling to insignificance taking a million b/d of crude off the global oil market.

US Shale Oil Production: Last week saw numerous stories in the financial press questioning the viability of the US shale oil industry with prices now around $50 a barrel.   Rystad Energy’s analysis of preliminary data suggests that nationwide fracking activity was mostly stable from April 2018 to August 2018 at an average daily level of 48 to 50 fracked wells.  However, the fracking rate has slipped since and remains between 44 and 46 from September through November 2018.  “After reaching a peak in May/June 18, fracking activity in the Permian has gradually decelerated throughout the second half of 2018,” says a senior analyst at Rystad. “There is evidence that seasonal deceleration might have started in all major plays except Eagle Ford. There has been a considerable slowdown in Bakken and Niobrara in November based on our estimation.”

Some major drillers, however, are bucking the general slowdown.  The largest operator, ExxonMobil, experienced a strong uptick in October.  Energen Corporation is also unaffected by the slowdown.  “In general, many of the key operators have exhibited a largely flat trend from June to October 2018, which implies that the market-wide deceleration in fracking activity has a more significant implication for smaller operators in contrast to the major players in the Permian.”

Virendra Chauhan of Energy Aspects told CNBC last week that “$50 oil is not a level at which US producers can generate cash flow and production growth, so we do expect a slowdown.”  In a Bloomberg radio interview John Kilduff, founding partner of Again Capital Management, said “we were getting into the zone where U.S. shale producers stop making money… particularly when you sort of add in all the costs, not just the pure say drilling and extraction.  It’s going to start to get tough for them right now.”

The volume of drilled but unproduced wells continues to increase across the US to record levels, but market sentiment is mixed on whether oil prices need to recover from levels now around $50 a barrel to entice fracking and production from these wells.  Evercore ISI noted in its 2019 Global E&P Spending Outlook released last month that E&P operators drilled more than 15,000 wells in seven major US shale basins during the previous year but completed less than 13,000 as DUC inventory increased by nearly 30%.

Most operators consider DUC production a bargain.  Roughly 30-40 percent of a well’s total cost is drilling, so paying less when it comes time to produce is an attractive prospect, especially when oil prices are lower, and they want to maximize cash flows so that lower oil prices might trigger a round of DUC.

2.  The Middle East & North Africa

Iran: Iran’s crude exports dropped to 1 million b/d in November from 2.5 million b/d in April, taking exports back to where they stood during the 2012-2016 sanctions.  According to three companies that track Iranian exports, Tehran’s crude shipments remained below 1 million b/d in December and are unlikely to exceed that level in January.  Tracking Iranian exports has become harder since the sanctions began as ships switch off tracking systems keeping some of the shipments hidden.  Tanker trackers can partially make up for this problem by using satellite photography and harbor observers to keep track of tanker movements.

Shipments for the first part of January seem to be running about 500,000 b/d but are expected to pick up towards the end of the month.  If natural gas condensates are included, however, Iran is exporting about 1.35 million b/d.  Tehran, however, continues to claim that its exports have not declined as much as estimated by the industry because it was selling oil to new buyers but refused to disclose them because of a fear of new sanctions.

The US will grant no more waivers for Iranian oil sanctions, the US special representative for Iran said on Saturday, underlining Washington’s intentions to choke off Tehran’s sources of income.  Last year, the Trump administration granted waivers to eight countries who were already established buyers to continue buying specified amounts of Iranian oil for 180 days.  Now, however, a senior Iranian energy official in Tehran recently complained that these countries are not making use of the waivers and are instead complying fully with the strict zero-oil sanctions.

According to Iran’s deputy oil minister, “China, India, Japan, South Korea and other countries that were granted waivers from America to import Iranian oil are not willing to buy even one barrel more from Iran.” Despite favorable terms, some countries are finding it too difficult to work out new ways to pay for Iran’s oil when other hassle-free sources are available.

Iraq: Baghdad posted its highest monthly export total to date in December and, combined with Kurdistan, set a nationwide annual record of 4.15 million b/d — more than 100,000 b/d above the previous record, set in December 2016.  The government said on Friday it is committed to the OPEC+ output-cutting deal and would keep its oil production at 4.513 million b/d for the first half of 2019.

Baghdad plans to raise output from its southern Majnoon oilfield to 290,000 b/d by the end of 2019 and to 450,000 b/d by the end of 2021 from a current 240,000 b/d, the director of the Basra Oil Company said on Friday.  Baghdad is still aiming to increase production, especially from its southern fields.

Hyundai Engineering is now the front runner to win a tender to build a vital water injection project in southern Iraq.  Basra Oil Co. began preparing to tender for the project in February of last year if talks with Exxon Mobil, which was to build the system, failed. The oil ministry received bids from three foreign contractors for the project, the oil minister said in November.  A deal was reached with US’s Schlumberger Ltd to drill 40 wells at Majnoon last month.  Basra Oil is also planning to activate a new offshore oil export pipeline with a capacity to transport 700,000 b/d by the end of 2019.

Saudi Arabia: According to OPEC officials, Saudi Arabia is planning to cut crude exports to around 7.1 million b/d by the end of January in hopes of lifting oil prices above $80 a barrel. This news was, in part, responsible for the increase in oil prices last week.  The new plan comes as the kingdom seeks to step up its expenditures by $20 billion or 7 percent in 2019 as the country struggles to fund ambitious plans to diversify beyond petroleum products.  The sharp decrease in oil prices since October and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi operatives has deterred many foreign companies from working in the kingdom and investing in its economic development plans.

In addition to efforts to force up oil prices, the Saudis are entering the bond market once again.  Despite jittery market conditions, banks are lining up bonds for the Kingdom, maturing in both 2029 and 2050.  The deals will be a test of the willingness among international investors to put money to work in Saudi Arabia despite concerns over the fate of Yemen and the violent death of Khashoggi.

The Dallas-based consultants DeGolyer and MacNaughton certified reserves in Saudi Aramco’s concession area, as of the end of 2017, at 263.2 billion barrels of oil, or 2.2 billion barrels higher than a previous estimate, according to a report by Saudi Gazette.  Once the Kingdom’s share of a Partitioned Zone jointly owned by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are added, Saudi Arabia’s total proven oil reserves are supposed to be 266.1 billion barrels of oil and 324.4 trillion standard cubic feet of gas.

For almost 30 years Riyadh has annually reported the same number for reserves at around 261 billion barrels, according to the BP statistical review.  There is much skepticism about this unchanging number despite the involvement of the Dallas firm.

Saudi Arabia is nearing a deal to invest in US liquefied natural gas.  Aramco has narrowed its focus to a shortlist of at least four US LNG projects and intends to announce a deal in the first half of this year.  Companies with projects being considered include Tellurian Inc., a Houston-based LNG developer known for its intention to ship gas from its planned Driftwood terminal in Louisiana.  In addition, Sempra Energy, which is developing five LNG projects in the US and Mexico, has had discussions with Aramco concerning its Port Arthur project in Texas.  Aramco is considering equity stakes in the projects, the people added.  It wasn’t clear what the value of the potential investments was.

Libya: Tripoli plans to pump 2.1 million b/d of crude oil by 2021 if the security situation improves, the chairman of the National Oil Corporation said last week.  The plan would represent a doubling of the current rate of production, which currently stands at 953,000 b/d.  That’s less than what the country produced earlier this year, prior to the latest blockade of the largest field, Sharara, which removed more than 300,000 b/d from the market.  However, it’s more than what Libya pumped in the summer when violent clashes at its oil terminals crushed oil production by almost half from the 1 million b/d earlier in the year.

3.  China

China plans to set a lower economic growth target of 6 to 6.5 percent in 2019 compared with last year’s goal of “around” 6.5 percent.  The proposed target will be unveiled at the annual parliamentary session in March and was endorsed by the top leaders at the annual Central Economic Work Conference in mid-December, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting’s outcome.  Data coming later this month is expected to show the Chinese economy grew around 6.6 percent in 2018 – the weakest since 1990.

As China’s economy loses momentum, its leaders are closely watching employment levels as factories could be forced to shed workers amid a trade war with the US.  A growth rate of about 6.2 percent is needed in the next two years to meet the ruling Communist Party’s longstanding goal of doubling gross domestic product and incomes in the decade to 2020, and to turn China into a “modestly prosperous” nation.

Oil demand, car sales, and consumer confidence are strongly correlated, and as an economic indicator, vehicle sales are also one of the first to show signs of a downturn.  S&P Global Platts expects China’s total car sales to grow by 4.7 percent in 2019 to 31.1 million units, comprising 25.85 million gasoline-fueled cars, 3.28 million diesel-fueled cars and 1.97 million cars running on other fuels.  But it said this growth would not help gasoline demand much, as fuel efficiencies grow and Chinese consumers switch from sport utility vehicles to sedans and electric vehicles.  This means China’s gasoline demand will likely grow by less than 3 percent year on year to 3.5 million b/d in 2019 and by 2.5 percent to 3.6 million b/d in 2020.   Demand growth is likely to be halved to 3.2 percent in 2018, with consumption reaching 3.43 million b/d.

Environmental authorities in China said last week that Beijing and its surrounding industrial province of Hebei cut smog emissions by at least 12 percent in 2018 after a long crackdown on polluters as well as campaigns to reduce household coal use.  Beijing’s local government said that the city’s emissions of small, hazardous particles known as PM2.5 fell 12 percent to 51 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg) over the whole of 2018.  The government said that average emissions are still significantly higher than China’s official air quality standard of 35 micrograms.  It added that 656 polluting enterprises were forced to relocate last year.  Beijing’s method of measuring pollution, however, involves taking the average of the pollution readings over a wide area, thereby hiding the fact that the pollution may be many times higher than safe levels in parts of the region.

China’s population will peak in 2029 at 1.44 billion before beginning a period of “unstoppable” decline, a government report said. The study by China Academy of Social Sciences warned that the country must implement policies to handle a smaller workforce and an older population.

4. Russia

Moscow has already lowered its oil output by around 30,000 b/d compared with October volumes, which is used as the baseline under the latest OPEC/non-OPEC crude production agreement.  Russian energy minister Novak said Friday: “We are gradually lowering output; our plan is that overall production in January will be 50,000 b/d less than in October.”

Russia’s production and exports of coal hit last year their highest levels since 2013, according to S&P Global Platts estimates of data from Russia’s Energy Ministry.  Coal exports increased last year by 3.4 percent compared to 2017, to reach 191 million tons.  Coal production also reached its highest level since 2013—at 431.76 million tons, an increase of 6 percent in 2018 compared to 2017.  Moscow continues to seek domination on the European market and has been putting in a lot of effort to obtain more market shares on the Asian markets such as South Korea and Taiwan.

Norway will step up preparations to claim its share of oil and gas resources if Russia finds petroleum on its side of a border in the Barents Sea.  In 2010, Norway and Russia agreed on a maritime boundary in the Barents Sea, ending a 40-year long dispute, and also agreed to share oil and gas resources spanning that border.  Russia has allowed oil and gas exploration all along the border, including in the Arctic where it has already awarded exploration rights to Rosneft and Italy’s Eni.  Norway currently only allows oil firms to explore in the southern part of the Barents Sea but if Russia makes any discoveries in the northern part of the sea, Norway wants a share.

5. Nigeria

Suspected militants may have renewed hostilities against oil companies operating in the Niger Delta.  A group last week claimed it was behind the attack on an oil pipeline at Koluama community in the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area.  The explosion reportedly damaged the pipeline belonging to Conoil.

A new report by the Secretary-General of the UN says Nigeria lost an estimated $2.8 billion in revenues in 2018, mainly due to oil-related crimes.  The report, which covered from July 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018, said: “Maritime crime and piracy off the coast of West Africa continued to pose a threat to peace, security, and development in the region.  There were 82 reported incidents of maritime crime and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.”  The report said that conflicts between farmers and herders resulted in a loss of lives, destruction of livelihoods and property, population displacements, human rights violations, and abuses.

Another new report that says that Nigeria’s petroleum products pipelines are in a state of disrepair and need to be fixed or replaced.  The study commissioned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to determine the status of the country’s network of petroleum products pipeline was recently obtained by a local newspaper.  The report indicated that the lines are mostly broken-down and would need to be replaced or fixed at the cost of $13.1 billion.

The federal government will spend over $8 million on fuel, emergency generators, and plants across its 602 ministries, departments and agencies this year.  These figures do not include money voted by the agencies for payment of electricity charges during the year.  Only four federal agencies have zero allocation for plants and generators.  This huge figure for generators and fuel is coming at a time the Minister of Power, Works, and Housing is saying that the power supply had improved and that there was more power coming to the grid this year.

6. Venezuela

President Nicolas Maduro was inaugurated for a second term on Thursday, despite presiding over an economic meltdown of historic proportions and his status as an international pariah.  The presidents of Cuba, Bolivia, and Nicaragua were among the few foreign dignitaries to attend.  A coalition of 13 countries, dubbed the Lima Group, announced in early January that they would not recognize Maduro as legitimate.  The Group includes Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and St. Lucia.  These countries issued a joint statement that says the May 2018 reelection of Maduro “lacks legitimacy,” and they condemned “the breakdown of the constitutional order and the rule of law in Venezuela.”

Seismic research vessels hired by Exxon Mobil to explore for oil off Guyana’s coast have not returned to the site of a December incident with Venezuela’s navy, but they may do so in the future, Guyana’s foreign minister said on Thursday.  Guyana, with no history of oil production, has become the focus of interest since Exxon announced the discovery of over 5 billion barrels of oil and gas off its shores.  The discovery has reignited a century-old territorial dispute with neighboring Venezuela.

A new US company set up only last year is supposed help Venezuela turn around its falling oil production.  According to contracts, Erepla Services will provide the drilling rigs and crews necessary to increase crude oil production at the Tia Juana, Rosa Mediano, and Ayacucho 5 fields during the next 25 years.  The US company will buy all the oil produced from these fields and resell it, giving Venezuela’s PDVSA 50.1 percent of the proceeds and keeping 49.9 percent.

Erepla is part-owned by a prominent Florida Republican.  The new arrangement faces significant hurdles, including obtaining an exemption from Trump administration sanctions that block US companies from providing financing to Venezuela.  It is a further sign that Caracas is tapping inexperienced firms to stem massive declines in crude output as more established oil companies steer clear of the troubled country due to concerns about US sanctions and overall dysfunction.

7. Mexico

Mexico’s Army has taken control of 58 key fuel installations in the country, including refineries, upon orders by new President Lopez Obrador, who has vowed to fight corruption and fuel theft from within Pemex.  Criminal groups have been tapping pipelines and stealing tanker trucks laden with diesel and gasoline in the oil-producing country for years, often operating with impunity.

Obrador unveiled his plan in late December to use of the army in fighting fuel theft from Pemex, which the President says cost the firm $3 billion last year.  The government shut some pipelines at the end of December and distributed fuel by truck instead.  That move led to delays in fuel arriving at petrol stations this week, with queues of motorists waiting to fill up their cars and hundreds of gasoline stations across the country had to close.

The President claimed last week, however, that the military-assisted crackdown had dramatically reduced fuel theft and had uncovered a secret pipe that was used to siphon gasoline out of one of the country’s refineries. He says fuel theft has dropped from 787 truckloads per day to 177 since the soldiers were sent to Pemex’s installations last month.

However, declining output at Pemex’s refineries is forcing the firm to rely more heavily on imported motor fuels.  Pemex owns and operates six oil refineries in Mexico with a joint capacity of 1.63 million b/d of crude processing, which last year processed crude at below half capacity.  Overall, Pemex’s refineries currently are producing about 200,000 b/d of gasoline according to official numbers, while another 600,000 b/d are being imported, mostly from US refiners.  Meanwhile, bottlenecks for discharging imported fuel have formed at key Mexican import hubs where more than 7 million barrels of fuel wait to be unloaded according to traders and Refinitiv Eikon data.

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

Global transportation demand for crude oil is expected to peak in the late 2020s due to the rise of electric vehicles (EVs), improved efficiency standards for internal combustion engine cars, and consumer preferences, Wood Mackenzie said. EVs will displace around 5 to 6 million b/d of oil demand by 2040—some 5 percent of total oil demand.  (1/9)

On Europe’s inland waterways, a ban on single-hull barges carrying oil products came into force at the end of 2018 — a year that saw double-hull barges unable to navigate the shallow Upper Rhine for prolonged periods due to a severe drought, causing acute supply shortages of oil products in southwest Germany and Switzerland. (1/9)

The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) has completed its $4.5 billion project financing, paving the way for construction to be completed.  TAP, the final leg of a $40 billion project called the Southern Gas Corridor to transport gas from Central Asia to Western Europe, is a cornerstone of the European Union’s energy security policy to wean the bloc off Russian gas supplies.  Start-up is expected in 2020. (1/11)

In Argentina, the Vaca Muerta has attracted $165 billion in investment commitments as companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil and Total bet on the production growth potential of Argentina’s biggest shale play, but bottlenecks are emerging that could limit a ramp-up in activity.  An expert said companies must work on reducing costs over the next two to three years to show that “real money” can be generated out of the play. (1/10)

Curacao’s 335,000-b/d Isla refinery has resumed work after eight months of paralysis caused by a dispute between its operator, Venezuela’s PDVSA, and US producer ConocoPhillips.  Isla restarted one of its crude distillation units and its thermal cracker.  The plant suffered a fire early last year and fell idle after ConocoPhillips brought legal actions against PDVSA over a $2-billion arbitration award linked to the nationalization of Conoco’s projects in Venezuela. (1/9)

The Panama Canal Authority announced last Monday that the maximum draft for a ship transiting the Neopanamax locks would be restricted to 49 feet, or 14.94 meters, as of February 11, due to rainfall that was 90 percent below the December average. (1/8)

Alberta is looking to another solution to alleviate the crude oil glut—having a new oil refinery built in the province that would absorb part of the crude and unlock some space on congested pipelines shipping oil out of the province. (1/9)

The US oil rig count declined by four oil rigs in the week to Jan. 11, bringing the countdown to 873, Baker Hughes said. The oil rig count is still much higher than a year ago when 752 rigs were active. Drillers added 138 oil rigs in 2018 and 222 in 2017. They cut 11 rigs in 2016. Last week, gas rigs also increased by four to 202. (1/12)

Oil exports: News that the US Army Corps of Engineers has placed a $93-million order with Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company for the deepening and widening of its ship channel at the Port of Corpus Christi broke last week. This is the first step the federal government has made to support efforts to boost crude oil exports. (1/9)

In the Gulf of Mexico, BP has approved a $1.3 billion expansion for the Atlantis Phase 3 development. The development, which includes the construction of a new subsea production system from eight new wells, will boost production at the platform by as much as 38,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. (1/9)

The Trump administration is pursuing its plans of opening up more federal lands in Alaska to oil and gas drilling.  Reuters reports the Alaska Bureau of Land Management had not canceled a scheduled public meeting on the topic on Wednesday despite the shutdown which has affected the Department of Interior. (1/11)

US gasoline prices have now fallen for 12 straight weeks, with the national average as of Monday at $2.24 per gallon, alongside reports indicating the weakest demand since February 2017.  As of January 7, gas prices have dropped 20 cents from a month ago. (1/9)

Haynesville comeback: Gas production in the state of Louisiana in the southern US will soon reach record heights thanks to a resurgence of the Haynesville shale play.  Rystad Energy research shows that the Haynesville Shale alone was able to add 1.85 billion cubic feet per day of gross gas production (Bcfd) between the fourth quarter of 2016 and the fourth quarter of 2017. Another 1.3 Bcfd was added last year. Study authors conclude that new all-time high gas production levels should happen within months. (1/12)

Boosting natgas productivity: A new computational model could potentially boost efficiencies and profits in natural gas production by better predicting previously hidden fracture mechanics while accurately accounting for the known amounts of gas released during the process. (1/12)

Cadillac’s EVs: GM said that Cadillac will be GM’s lead electric vehicle brand and will introduce the first model from the company’s all-new global battery electric vehicle architecture (BEV3), GM’s foundation for an advanced family of profitable EVs. The mission of the new architecture is to support a range of more than 300 miles (482 km) and to be profitable. (1/12)

RE to dominate: In the U.S., new utility-scale generating capacity will be led by wind power, which will account for 46 percent of the additions, followed by natural gas with a 34-percent share of new capacity, and solar photovoltaics, which will make up 18 percent of new electric capacity, the EIA said.

RE in Indiana: Northern Indiana Public Service concluded that phasing out coal sooner was worth it because it would move the company to what is becoming a cheaper source of power, and ultimately reduce costs for its 470,000 customers by as much as $4 billion over 30 years. The transition would require raising average rates by a proposed $11 a month starting later this year, because of higher short-term costs related to closing the plants, but the company expects the shift would reduce its overall generation costs starting in 2023. (1/10)

Saudi Arabia has made a first tangible step to generate electricity from sources other than oil and gas, awarding a contract on Thursday for the Kingdom’s first utility-scale wind farm. A consortium led by France’s EDF and Abu Dhabi’s Masdar won the tender to build a 400-megawatt US$500-million wind farm in northern Saudi Arabia. (1/11)

Damage from dams worldwide: Dam construction involves higher environmental and social costs than previously estimated.  A new study from Michigan State University found that when a large dam is built, the result is a downstream loss of a great many fish species that are important to riverine populations. (1/12)

Melting permafrost: In just one human generation, citizens of the far north could find themselves on shifting soils as the region’s permafrost thaws. Roads will slump. Buildings will buckle. Pipelines will become at risk of fracture. And in 2050, around three-fourths of the people of the permafrost could watch their infrastructure collapse, as what was once hard frozen ground turns into mud.  More than 4 million people live in the pan-Arctic permafrost landscape: at least 3.6 million of them, and 70% of their transportation and industrial infrastructure are at risk. (1/11)

India’s coal boom: India’s 12 major government-owned ports handled around 78.24 million tons of thermal coal between April to December period, up 17% from the same period a year ago. (1/7)

H2 break-thru? Researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have combined two membrane-bound protein complexes to perform a complete conversion of water molecules to hydrogen and oxygen.  Sunlight-driven production of hydrogen from water provides a sustainable approach to achieve a clean, renewable alternative fuel to fossil fuels. (1/11)

H2 trains for the UK: France-based Alstom presented Monday a new hydrogen train design for the U.K. market with the aim to build a fleet that will be up and running by 2022, following its introduction in Germany in September. The new model, named Breeze, is based on a conversion of existing Class 321 trains which are conventionally powered and used for commuter service in the U.K. (1/8)

US carbon dioxide emissions rose an estimated 3.4 percent in 2018 — a jarring increase that comes as scientists say the world needs to be aggressively cutting its emissions to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.  The findings mean that the US now has a diminishing chance of meeting its pledge under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to dramatically reduce its emissions by 2025.    9 President Trump has said he plans to officially withdraw the nation from the Paris climate agreement in 2020 and has rolled back Obama-era regulations aimed at reducing the country’s carbon emissions. (1/8)