Big battery promises grid payoff; Nuclear grows, uranium languishes; Canada will transform oil supply
A battery with 6 megawatts of storage capacity, using lithium manganese technology, looks like revolutionising Britain’s electricity grid. The battery is being completed at Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, and trials at that sub-station are expected to begin soon.
It is the largest battery ever built in Europe and is designed to store large quantities of electricity during periods of lower demand and then be able to release that power when demand increases. As The Guardian newspaper reports, this is an attempt to evolve a new method of storing electricity, capturing it and then releasing it over long periods “evening out the bumps and troughs of supply and demand that plague the electricity grid”.
And not just Britain’s electricity grid. In most countries, certainly the industrialised ones, an enormous cost factor is the building of peak capacity power stations, ones that may operate only a few hours a day. Reducing the need for extra peak capacity would be an enormous saving for most utilities. It would also help make some base load stations more efficient; while modern thermal stations can be shut down and later reactivated, you cannot do the same with hydro power with anything like the same flexibility. Thus if you can allow the water to continue to power the turbines, but then store that electricity, hydro moves to a new efficiency level.
In this case, according to the newspaper, the primary aim is to store more power from solar and wind generation, two high-cost technologies. So far, it has been difficult to up-scale from small batteries used on small renewable installations to a scale that suits the need of a national grid.
URANIUM and NUCLEAR POWER: It was interesting to learn during the week from the U.S. Energy Information Administration that renewable energy and nuclear power are the world’s fastest-growing energy sources, each increasing by 2.5% per year. And, even with the problems in Japan and with Germany and Switzerland turning their backs on nuclear, the IEA forecasts substantial increases in nuclear generating capacity are projected, including 149 gigawatts in China, 47 gigawatts in India, 31 gigawatts in Russia, and 27 gigawatts in South Korea.
Yet the spot uranium price continues to languish — down another $1.35/lb this week to $36.50/lb. And now Australia’s Energy Resources of Australia, which operates the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory, reports in its half-year results that even contract prices declined, from $57.57/lb in the first half of 2012 to $53.63/lb this time. And over the first six months of this year the average long-term price indicator was $56.75/lb and, for spot, $41.45/lb; in the first half of 2012, those figures were $60.67/lb and $51.53 respectively.
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OIL and GAS: Canada’s proposed East Energy Pipeline project has compelling economics, according to Toronto-based Scotiabank. A pipeline to the east of the country opens up valuable market opportunities — both export and domestic, the bank argues. One of the six existing lines on the TransCanada mainline natural gas system will be converted to oil and, together with new construction, would allow between 500,000 barrels a day and 850,000b/d to be pumped from a new terminal at Hardisty, Alberta, to Montréal and Québec City refineries by 2017; from 2018 the line would be completed to Saint John, New Brunswick, the location of Canada’s largest refinery.
TransCanada’s pipeline change would allow crude oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to be sent east, both for the domestic market and for loading on tankers at Québec City and Saint John for foreign buyers.
Scotiabank argues it would mean less expensive and more secure oil supplies for the Montréal and Québec City refineries. These refineries have in the past been supplied mostly by expensive light oil imports. Cheaper oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan would also encourage further construction of refineries in the east of Canada. And it would open up export markets in Europe and India. Scotiabank says that if the pipeline had been available in the first half of 2013 then eastern refineries could have saved $14.85/barrel.
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