Quote of the Week

[In Mexico] “Production peaked in 2004/2005 at just over 3.5 million b/d, so the overall decline is approaching 50%…Only three years since 1999 have had reserve replacement ratios greater than 100%.  Many years’ numbers have actually been negative, some of them significantly so, and the estimated ultimate recovery has been revised slightly downwards overall.”

George Kaplan, oil industry analyst

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.   The Briefs

1.   Oil and the Global Economy

The oil price surge which began two weeks ago continued last week with prices rising by $4-5 a barrel to settle on Friday at $68.72 in New York and $75.82 in London.  The markets are still conflicted as to whether a reduction in demand occasioned by the trade war or a drop in supply stemming from the Iranian sanctions, the Venezuelan collapse, and the slowing growth of US shale oil production will dominate the immediate future.  Last week we learned that China may continue buying US crude, but will swap or sell the oil to third countries so that crude imports to China would not come directly from the US.  Third party crude would not be subject to any tariffs imposed on US crude or give the appearance that Beijing is backing down in the trade confrontation with Washington.  Any crude that comes from the US would reduce China’s dependence on the volatile Middle East.

Last week’s price rise was helped by a weaker US dollar, a 13-rig decline in the number of active oil and gas rigs in the US, and an unexpected 5.8 million barrel drop in US commercial crude inventories.   Refinery utilization rates remained unchanged at 98.1 percent of total capacity, the highest since 1999.  Gasoline stocks rose 1.2 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 488,000-barrel drop.  Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, rose by 1.8 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.5 million barrels increase, the EIA data showed.

The EIA estimated that US crude production rose by 100,000 b/d to 11 million b/d the week before last.  These weekly estimates are becoming controversial as actual production which takes several weeks to compile has been showing a much lower production figure.  Coupled with the increasing costs of producing and shipping shale oil, these weekly EIA estimates should be taken with a grain of salt until real data is released.

OPEC: The EIA estimates that members of OPEC earned about $567 billion in net oil export revenues in 2017.  This increase of about 29 percent from the $441 billion made in 2016 came mainly as a result of the increase in average prices during the year and the rise in OPEC net oil exports.  Saudi Arabia accounted for the largest share of total OPEC earnings with $167 billion in 2017, representing nearly one-third of total OPEC oil revenues.  EIA expects that OPEC net oil export revenues will rise to about $736 billion in 2018 due to much higher prices and increased exports.

OPEC and the other participating oil exporting producers are expected to agree on a mechanism to monitor their crude production before the end of the year.   A committee that will meet in Algeria on Sept.23, known as the JMCC, is chaired by Saudi Arabia and includes OPEC members Algeria, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, as well as non-OPEC members Oman and Russia.   Iran asked to attend the meeting to defend its market share which could be impacted by US sanctions due to take effect in November.  Tehran is asking that other OPEC members do not steal its share of the global market while its exports are sanctioned.

US Shale Oil Production: Drillers cut nine oil drilling rigs this week, the largest reduction since May 2016, following a recent decline in crude prices.  The oil rig count, which fell to 860 last week, is still much higher than last year when only 759 rigs were active.

Drilling activity in the Bakken has seen a gradual expansion this summer on higher oil prices, but it now faces growing problems as the region struggles to process a rising volume of associated gas and an increasing water cut.  It’s not an issue if water production increases along with oil.  However, it’s a severe problem if by-product wastewater rises a great deal more than oil production, and that seems to be what has taken place in the Bakken over the past two years.  According to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, the Bakken produced 201 million barrels of oil in the first six months of 2018.   However, it also created 268 million barrels of wastewater.

The trend of an increasing water cut is not good.  It costs drillers some $4-5 a barrel to get rid of the wastewater down disposal wells.  In Oklahoma, these disposal wells have been blamed for causing minor earthquakes, and their use is now regulated.   This situation will have to be followed closely for some are saying that it suggests that peak production from the Bakken is coming soon.  Others are saying that the increasing water cut is an artifact of the new drilling technology which has raised the amount of water used to frack a well from 60,000 barrels per completion to 200,000.  Simple arithmetic suggests that it is difficult to believe that an extra 140,000 barrels forced down each new well during the fracking process will account for the massive increase in the water cut in recent years.

A new Duke University study of the water used for fracking and the wastewater cut coming from shale oil wells finds that the amount of wastewater increased by 1,440 percent between 2011 and 2016.   Over the same period, the total amount of water used for fracking rose roughly half as much, 770 percent.   Drillers have been making an effort to increase the quantity of fossil fuels they can extract from each well by drilling longer horizontal laterals and using more sand, water, and chemicals when fracking.  But the water use and wastewater production per well have been growing even faster than the per-well fossil fuel production, the researchers found, labeling the water demand and wastewater growth “much higher” than the oil or gas increases.   This increased demand for water is bad news for arid areas like the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico, where underground water supplies are already taxed by residential and agricultural demand.

Some observers are starting to say that water for fracking, and the disposal of wastewater from shale oil and gas wells, are about to become the primary factors that will limit production from fracked wells in coming years.

A survey of 33 shale companies by Rystad Energy found that while the group increased spending by about 8 percent, they only increased their expected amount for this year by 1.4 percent. “This disconnect might suggest that the shale industry requires more capital than before to achieve healthy production growth.” There are some signs that the Permian, for instance, is running into some productivity problems, raising the possibility that the highly touted “efficiency gains” over the past few years are reaching their limit.

2.   The Middle East & North Africa

Iran: The efficacy of the US sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports remain the top issue.  The evidence is mounting that secondary sanctions that Washington says it will place on any nation or company doing business with Iran is starting to have an effect.  There have been reports that Tehran’s exports are already down by 700,000 b/d suggesting that the current US goal of cutting crude shipments by 1 million b/d may be feasible.

The war of words between Washington and Tehran continues.  Last Wednesday Iran warned it would hit US  and Israeli targets if it were attacked by the US after President Trump’s security adviser said Washington would exert “maximum pressure” on Tehran going beyond economic sanctions.

China’s shipowners are avoiding carrying Iran’s oil, forcing Tehran to use its own tankers to supply top customers.  All 17 ships used to transport oil from Iran to China in July and August are owned by the state-run National Iranian Tanker Co., according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.   Almost half the vessels used in the prior three months were owned by Chinese.  The shift in carriers shows how trade is being affected even before US sanctions come into effect in early November.

Two of Iran’s biggest OPEC rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, are taking over its European oil market share by increasing production of their lookalike crude grades.  Iran’s crude has been normally purchased by refiners in China, India, Japan and South Korea, and some customers in Turkey and the European Union.  Buyers seeking an alternative cannot just opt for any crude on the market but must import crude grades compatible with, and optimized for their refineries.

Tehran is already complaining about the shift to OPEC saying that no member country should be allowed to take over another member’s share of oil exports.   As Washington reimposes sanctions aimed at cutting off Iran economically from the world, the Iranian people are feeling isolated.   A recent spike in the cost of airfare is making travel to the world expensive, and major air carriers are now suspending service to Iran.  On Thursday, British Airways and Air France announced they would end direct flights to Tehran, following a similar decision by KLM last month.

Iran’s oil minister announced last week that France’s Total has officially left Iran after the United States threatened to impose sanctions on companies that do business in the country.   Total is holding talks to transfer its 50.1 percent stake to state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. but is having trouble reaching an agreement on price.  Total’s pullout from the South Pars project is the most substantial blow Iran has suffered as yet from the threat of renewed US sanctions.

Iraq: Southern Iraqi exports in the first 19 days of August averaged 3.7 million b/d, up 160,000 b/d from July’s 3.54 million – the existing monthly record.  The increase follows the June OPEC+ meeting that allowed oil producers to increase production after they had been curbed during the previous 18 months.  Before the June OPEC meeting, however, Iraq had been boosting exports from southern terminals to offset a halt in shipments from the northern Kirkuk region last October after Iraqi forces seized control of oilfields there from Kurdish fighters.

Northern exports also increased in August, averaging about 350,000 b/d so far, up from about 300,000 b/d in July.  That is still far below levels of more than 500,000 b/d in some months of 2017.

Iraq’s state-run Basra Oil Company and the US’s Chevron agreed to begin implementing a memorandum of understanding to develop fields in the south of the country.   The agreement outlines a program to develop two oil fields in southern Iraq, including studies to survey the reservoirs and extraction operations.  In the last few years, most American participation in the development of southern Iraqi oil fields has declined due to the unfavorable terms that Baghdad has required foreign oil companies to accept.

Saudi Arabia: Most of the news from the Kingdom last week concerned the fate of the Aramco IPO which was the be the centerpiece of Crown Prince bin Salman’s efforts to finance reforms to strengthen his economy.  Early last week, there were reports that Saudi Arabia had called off the domestic and international stock listing of Aramco, which had been touted as the most significant such deal in history.  The Saudi government continues to insist that it remains committed to an initial public offering of Aramco, but says the listing would go ahead “at a time of its own choosing when conditions are optimum.”

The King instructed Saudi Aramco to acquire the Public Investment Fund’s 70 percent stake in Saudi petrochemicals maker Sabic, raising some $70 billion for the fund by moving money from one state coffer to another.   To pay for the stake in Sabic, Saudi Aramco is planning to raise tens of billions of dollars from international banks, which some advisers say is an alternative to an Aramco IPO that achieves much of the same objectives.

Some are saying that the decision to shelve what was billed as the most significant share sale ever is a major blow to the credibility of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  The decision raises doubts about the management of the process as well as the broader reform agenda, sapping the momentum generated by Prince Mohammed’s dramatic 2030 Vision announcement in 2016 that helped propel him to power as the de facto head of the Saudi government.

3.   China

On Thursday China implemented tariffs on the second round of US goods, targeting oil products and coal for the first time.  This move is in retaliation for US tariffs effective the same day and paving the way for crude oil and LNG to be hit next.   These tariffs come in the midst of trade talks between the US and China on Wednesday-Thursday in Washington.  The two days of talks aimed at easing trade tensions ended without an apparent breakthrough, ensuring that the dispute will continue indefinitely.  At the end of the negotiations on Thursday evening, Lindsay Walters, the White House deputy press secretary, said the two sides had “exchanged views on how to achieve fairness, balance, and reciprocity in the economic relationship” but gave no indication that any progress had been made.

The world’s two largest economies have now slapped tit-for-tat tariffs on a combined $100 billion of products since early July, with more in the pipeline, adding to the risks for global economic growth.  US businesses are not happy with the Trump administration.  The new tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports will force Americans to pay more for many items they use throughout their daily lives.

China’s banking regulator has ordered banks to boost lending to infrastructure projects and exporters as the government seeks to bolster economic confidence.  Since the tariffs were announced on July 6, China’s currency and stock markets have fallen, reflecting investor nervousness about slowing economic growth and the longer-term impact of the trade war.   The benchmark CSI 300 index has fallen more than 15 percent, and pressure has been building on the renminbi, which fell almost 7 percent against the dollar to a low of 6.93 on August 15.

While China’s imports of crude and LNG from the US have fallen considerably since the trade war began in July, Beijing backed off on the idea of sanctioning US oil earlier in August when the government pulled oil from a proposed tariff list.  Last week Reuters reported that China’s Unipec, the trading arm of Asia’s biggest refiner Sinopec, will resume purchasing “some” US crude in October after a two-month halt.   Before the trade dispute broke out, China overtook Canada as the largest importer of US  crude in the first five months this year, importing an average of nearly 350,000 b/d.

As China’s domestic oil production shrinks and its need for LNG to replace the coal smoke which is befouling its largest cities increases, the need to keep open diversified sources of oil and natural gas is becoming more critical every day.  Given the political instability in the Middle East with frequent threats to close the Straits of Hormuz, Beijing can no longer afford to shut itself off from a significant source of crude and LNG merely to score points in a trade war.   Should oil exports from the Middle East ever be restricted, Beijing’s economy would be seriously harmed.

4.  Russia

At US Senate hearings last week, a Treasury official said that Washington’s sanctions have curtailed investment in Russian oil and gas exploration projects necessary to grow Russia’s production.  Total foreign direct investment into Russia has declined more than 5 percent since 2013, while US  investment has fallen by 80 percent since then.   There are bills in Senate committees which seek to increase economic pain throughout Russia’s banking and energy sectors and sovereign debt markets.

According to Russia-based analysts, the ‘bill from hell’ of hard-hitting sanctions against Russia that US  senators introduced earlier this month is unlikely to have a wide-ranging impact on Russia’s oil industry, because Russian firms now rely almost entirely on domestic and Chinese banks for funding, and have lessened their dependence on Western drilling technology.

However, it was Russia’s natural resources ministry that said last week that the sanctions had hampered natural gas project developments in the country.  In a report on oil and gas resources and their development for the period 2016-2017, the ministry said that sanctions limit the flow of foreign investment, new technologies, and equipment for the sector and complicate the development of new projects especially in offshore areas and in hard-to-extract resources such as shale oil.  In the period 2016-2017, not a single significant gas project was launched, while gas firms focused instead on working on already operational projects.

5.  Nigeria

Shell shut-in the Trans Ramos pipeline which feeds into Nigeria’s Forcados oil export terminal, to clean up crude oil spilled from a rupture in the pipeline last week.   The pipeline, which has remained shut-in since the incidents, supplies 100,000 b/d of crude to the 200,000-250,000 b/d Forcados Oil Export Terminal in the western Niger Delta.  As usual,  Shell is forbidden by the government from revealing the cause of the “spill,” however, attacks on the Forcados pipelines as well as on the export terminal halted exports for most of the period between February 2016 and May 2017.

A report titled  Stabilizing Nigeria’s Volatile Economy, says that between 1970 and 2014, Nigeria benefitted from five oil booms but never used the $1 trillion it earned during this period to expand the country’s economic base.  The Obasanjo Administration’s economic reforms of 2003 to 2007 was the first attempt to break the pattern through innovation of a savings mechanism known as the “Excess Crude Account” into which extra oil revenue from oil was kept.  The account was so successful that at the end of that administration in 2007, it had accumulated $17 billion in excess revenue; however, this effort was not sustained by governments.

6.  Venezuela

A growing number of migrants are fleeing the economic meltdown and political turmoil in Venezuela, threatening to overwhelm neighboring countries.  Officials from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru will meet in Bogota next week to seek a way to deal with the crisis.  Ecuador and Peru have tightened entry rules for Venezuelans, requiring them to carry passports instead of just national ID cards.  In Brazil, rioters drove hundreds of emigrants back over the border.   The UN estimates that 2.3 million people, some 7 percent of the population, have left Venezuela since 2015.  On Friday, The UN’s migration agency said the situation is building toward a “crisis moment” comparable to events involving refugees in the Mediterranean.

Last week the government issued new bank notes, with five fewer zeros on them.  However, the biggest denomination bill, the 500-bolívar note, is worth only $8.3, even at the official exchange rate.  The government also announced a 3,000 percent rise in the minimum wage which is likely to raise prices further.   PDVSA is preparing to increase fuel prices in the domestic market to international levels next month after two decades of frozen rates and untold millions of dollars lost in subsidies and smuggling.   Daily gasoline consumption is estimated at 190,000 b/d in Venezuela, of which 83,000 b/d are imported.

The only good news for the country recently is that PDVSA settled with ConocoPhillips over a long-standing debt issue that was allowing ConocoPhillips to seize PDVSA’s refining assets in the Dutch Caribbean, a devastating blow that compounded fiscal and operational problems.  Without the processing facilities on the islands of Curacao and Aruba, PDVSA’s oil exports plunged deeper in the second quarter.

On the flip side, however, A US  judge has granted a Canadian company the right to go after the US refineries of Citgo which belong to Venezuela.  This judgment is intended to collect on a  $1.4 billion award stemming from the nationalization of a gold mining operation by Caracas ten years ago.  The refineries have already been pledged as collateral for a loan from Russia and a Venezuelan bond issue.

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is still producing somewhere between 1 million and 1.3 million barrels of crude per day.  Should that be reduced substantially due to the domestic turmoil, this development along with the new sanctions on Iran could move oil prices significantly higher in the coming year.

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

Already tough transport conditions for barges operating in low water on the River Rhine look set to worsen in the coming weeks. The drought is fueling concerns over the supply of commodities such as oil products, coal, and petrochemicals that are shipped on the major Northwest European transport artery. (8/23)

Merkel rethinking? Castigated by US President Donald Trump as relying too much on Russian gas supplies, German Chancellor Angela Merkel headed to Azerbaijan last week to discuss the development of a southern pipeline to deliver gas to Europe from the Caspian. The visit underscores Merkel’s openness to finding alternative sources of affordable gas even as she remains committed to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will carry gas directly from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany. (8/23)

Kuwait expects to sign an agreement with Iraq on the two countries’ joint oil fields by the end of this year and to return to producing oil in the region that it shares with Saudi Arabia soon. Production from Kuwait’s joint oil fields has been shut down since the 1990 invasion by Iraq. After years of squabbles over how to divide and operate the fields, it looks like Kuwait and Iraq may have finally had a breakthrough in talks. (8/23)

Sudan and China are close to signing new deals on oil and gas exploration that Chinese companies would carry out in the African country. The first project of Chinese companies overseas was in Sudan, and China has long been a strategic partner in the oil and gas sector of Sudan. (8/25)

South Korean refiners’ ability to process some of the densest crude grades continues to shine with Hyundai Oilbank’s latest plan to expand and further upgrade some of its cracking facilities, painting a rosy picture for Mexico’s Maya crude exports to Asia’s fourth-biggest energy consumer. (8/20)

Papua New Guinea’s LNG: After several months of what can only be only called bad PR and troubling news coming out of the ExxonMobil-led $19 billion Papua New Guinea LNG project, finally some good news has broken. Project partner Oil Search, which holds a 29 percent stake, said the project had agreed to a deal to supply LNG to a unit of British oil giant BP. (8/30)

Egyptian dominance? The natural market gas in the Eastern Mediterranean is in full ebullition – with Egypt determined to be the center of this regional marketplace. The country faces challenges, including maintaining equidistance from the region’s various tensions, reforming its legal framework for regional gas deals and effectively communicating its activities to the Egyptian population. (8/20)

Panama is carrying out studies for potential oil exploration, hoping that recently discovered oil fields in neighboring Colombia close to Panama’s border could extend into Panama. Panama is 100-percent dependent on crude oil and refined oil products imports. A geological survey, the first in 30 years, found signs that there could be oil and gas in Panama’s section of the Caribbean Sea in an area connected with three natural gas wells in Colombia. (8/25)

In Mexico, the incoming administration won’t propose changes to the nation’s constitution, which was amended in 2013 to allow for private investment in oil and gas, but will use its majority in Congress to tweak the hydrocarbons law. (8/23)

Mexico’s oil production is in decline, though not as steep as it was expected to be. For June crude and condensate production was 1.87 million b/d, down 25,000 b/d from May and 170,000 b/d year over year. Production peaked in 2004/2005 at just over 3.500 million b/d, so the overall decline is approaching 50%. (8/21)

Mexico and NAFTA: oil and gas is proving to be a sticking point in the NAFTA renegotiations, with the incoming Mexican president hoping to exclude the chapter on energy from the trade deal. (8/23)

In Canada, the nation’s energy regulator reported the average daily amount of crude oil exported by rail has nearly doubled from the previous year. Canada ships nearly all of its oil exports to the United States. (8/24)

Canada’s gas-rich province of Alberta is looking to recreate the building boom spreading along the US Gulf Coast, where inexpensive natural gas generated billions of dollars in investment by petrochemical companies. Alberta’s prices that are about one-third those at the US Gulf Coast could turn into a competitive advantage to attract petrochemical companies. Such investment would provide a badly needed market for oil and gas within the landlocked province, where energy companies struggle to reach buyers farther away. (8/23)

The US oil rig count decreased by nine last week, the biggest reduction since May 2016. It now sits at 860, according to Baker Hughes energy services firm. (8/25)

Alaska’s North Slope is a “Super Basin” awaiting a “resurgence” in oil production, according to a new report by IHS Markit. Over the next eight years, oil production could rise by 40 percent, even though output has been in decline for decades. Prudhoe Bay can claim to be the most productive oil field in US history, having produced 12.5 billion barrels of oil as of last year. But it also peaked in the 1980s and has been losing output ever since. Yet based on recent discoveries, IHS estimates that the North Slope Basin holds 38 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) in remaining recoverable resources. That figure includes 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 28 billion barrels of oil. (8/24)

TX oil exports: The Texas Gulf Coast oil terminals sent abroad more crude than they received in April for the first time ever. During that month, crude oil exports from the Houston-Galveston port district exceeded imports by 15,000 b/d. Over the next month, the advantage of exports over imports welled further, to an impressive 470,000 b/d. Total US oil exports in May hit a record of 2 million b/d, with Houston-Galveston’s share of the total at a record-breaking 70 percent. The bulk of crude oil exports from the Houston-Galveston area went to China, Canada, Italy, and the UK, with exports to China averaging 300,000 b/d in both June and July. (8/22) [Pop quiz: what is the U.S.’s current rate of net imports of crude oil and petroleum liquids? In the 3 million b/d range…] 

GOM lease: The Trump administration on Wednesday held a new auction for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), yielding some $178 million in winning bids, a slight improvement from its last major lease sale in March which was at the time was called a major setback for the president’s plan to increase oil and gas investment in the region. (8/21)

Utah is a yawn amid the drilling frenzy that has upended the energy picture in recent years. It accounts for just one of every 100 barrels of oil produced nationwide. But a couple of executives who have spent decades hunting for oil across the Middle East, South America and Canada are betting that the next energy patch will be near here, in a remote stretch of craggy desert known as Asphalt Ridge. They are trying something that has repeatedly failed in Utah: mining the state’s enormous deposits of oil sands, an arduous process of extracting oil from hard rock. (8/22)

Cheaper gasoline: With some exceptions, motorists throughout the United States are gradually paying less for regular unleaded gasoline. According to AAA, the national gasoline price average for August 20 is $2.84 per gallon – three cents lower than the price at the beginning of the month. With the exception of several states, most US motorists are enjoying “slow, but steady pump price drops” as summer draws to a close. (8/21)

Trumping efficiency: Conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the US, the Trump administration declares in a major new policy statement that threatens to undermine decades of government campaigns for gas-thrifty cars and other conservation programs. The position was outlined in a memo released last month in support of the administration’s proposal to relax fuel mileage standards. The government released the memo online this month without fanfare. (8/21)

SPR release: The US Dept. of Energy is offering 11 million barrels of oil for sale from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve ahead of sanctions on Iran that are expected to reduce global supplies of crude. The delivery period for the proposed sale of sour crudes will be from Oct. 1 through Nov. 30. The sale appears to be designed to show the Trump administration is taking measures to restrain energy price increases ahead of the sanctions. Trump has proposed the sale of half of the stockpile — which currently totals 660 million barrels — to cut the budget deficit. Congress has so far authorized the sale of around 240 million barrels between 2017 and 2027. (8/21)

Political release? An 11-million-barrel sale from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over two months—or 183,000 b/d—likely won’t do much to offset the impact of sanctions, which the administration estimates will remove 700,000 to 1 million barrels a day of Iranian crude from the global market by early November. (8/22)

The turnover of household vehicles has slowed since 2009, based on US Department of Transportation surveys of household vehicle travel. The 2017 National Household Travel Survey reported that the average vehicle age—including cars, trucks, and vans—has increased from 9.3 years in 2009 to 10.5 years in 2017. The slowing of vehicle turnover has implications for transportation fuel consumption because newer vehicles tend to have better fuel economies. (8/22)

Gas vs. coal in MISO: After several years of increased coal-to-gas switching across the Midcontinent Independent System Operator service area, the region is expected to become even more bullish for gas as additional coal retirements loom while multiple new gas-fired plants are slated to enter service over the next few years. Through August of 2014, coal plants has a 61% share of the total MISO market.  This year, during the same time period, coal share had dropped to just 40%. (8/25)

India’s coal imports appear headed for another strong month in August, raising the question as to why the usually cost-sensitive market hasn’t scaled back purchases given a surge in prices to the highest in nearly seven years. (8/20)

Wind turbines have been getting bigger as industry players vie for ever more powerful designs, climbing from under a megawatt to the brink of the double-digit threshold. (8/25)

Army going solar: The US Army has increased its investments in solar power and is eyeing further opportunities to work with the private sector to develop projects, despite the Trump administration’s skepticism about renewable energy. Michael McGhee, who leads the US Army’s Office of Energy Initiatives, told the Financial Times that installing solar panels at army bases could improve resilience against attacks or natural disasters, and provide cost-effective electricity supplies. (8/25)

Battery progress: Researchers at Jülich Forschungzentrum have introduced a new concept battery that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. Their battery takes less than an hour to recharge. The battery, described in a paper in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, uses a monolithic all-phosphate concept. (8/21)

Battery progress #2: Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a new rechargeable technology for batteries that could have double the power output compared to today’s most widely used batteries, without catching fire or taking up additional space. This new breakthrough—using a ceramic, solid-state electrolyte in lithium metal batteries–could dramatically extend the range of electric vehicles. (8/20)

PM 2.5 pollution shortens human lives by more than a year, according to a new open-access study from a team of environmental engineers and public health researchers published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. Better air quality could lead to a significant extension of lifespans around the world. (8/25)

Clean air mandate: The City of London is considering banning non-electric vehicles from a special “low-emission” street, in a pilot program that underscores the severity of the air pollution crisis plaguing the financial heart of the British capital. The City of London, often known as the Square Mile, is home to several of London’s worst hot spots for nitrogen dioxide pollution, because of its narrow roads, high buildings and congested traffic. (8/21)

Scorcher! The entire continental US ranked hottest in 123 years of records for the 3-month period May-June-July at 70.9 degrees F.  Those records go back to 1895. (8/21)

Aussie denial: Mile after mile of the Great Barrier Reef is dying amid rising ocean temperatures. Hundreds of bushfires are blazing across Australia’s center, in winter, partly because of a record-breaking drought. The global scientific consensus is clear: Australia is especially vulnerable to climate change. And yet on Monday, Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, abandoned a modest effort to reduce energy emissions under pressure from conservatives in his party. And on Tuesday, those same conservatives just missed toppling his government. What on earth is going on? (8/21)

The Arctic Ocean’s thickest and oldest sea ice is located to the north of Greenland and in the Canadian Archipelago. The seawater in this area is frozen, even in the summer. During the current freakish weather year, records have been broken for heat waves, floods, droughts, and wildfires in the world’s temperate zones; it also broke records in the Arctic, the fastest warming region on Earth. In an ominous sign of biosphere collapse, The Guardian reports that these frozen waters have been opened up not once, but twice so far this year due to warm winds (that tear the ice from where it’s fastened at the coastal bedrock) as well as climate change driven heatwaves in the northern hemisphere. This has never happened before and prompted Thomas Lavergne, a scientist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in a retweet to describe the phenomenon as “scary”. (8/22)