Staggering Wind Turbines Produces More Energy

According to the University of Delaware’s Cristina Archer and her Atmosphere and Energy Research Group, staggering and spacing out turbines in an offshore wind farm can improve performance by as much as 33 percent. The findings, which appeared in Geophysical Research Letters, could help engineers plan improved offshore wind farms.

“Staggering every other row was amazingly efficient,” said Archer, associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering and geography in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

Sund_mpazdzioraThe researchers used an existing offshore wind farm near Sweden as the basis for their study, comparing the existing tightly packed, grid-like layout to six alternative configurations. In some, they kept the turbines in neat rows but spaced them farther apart. In others, they shifted the alignment of every other row, similar to how rows of theatre seats are staggered to improve the views of people further back.

In computer-intensive simulations that each took weeks to run, the team took into account the eddies, or swirls of choppy air, that wind turbines create downwind as their blades spin — and how that air movement would impact surrounding turbines.

They found that the most efficient arrangement was a combination of two approaches. By both spacing the turbines farther apart and staggering the rows, the improved layout would decrease losses caused by eddies and improve overall performance by a third.

The optimal configuration had the rows oriented to face the prevailing wind direction, for example from the southwest in the summer along the U.S. East Coast. Most locations, however, have more than one dominant direction from where wind blows throughout the year. The optimal configuration for a season may not be optimal in another season, when the prevailing wind changes direction and intensity.

Considering these various factors could better inform where and how to configure future offshore wind farms, Archer explained. “We want to explore all these trade-offs systematically, one by one,” she said.

The study is part of Archer’s overall research focus on wind and applications for renewable energy production. Trained in both meteorology and engineering, she uses weather data and complex calculations to estimate the potential for wind as a power source.

Biodiesel Feedstock’s Proteins Mapped

CastorBeansResearchers in Europe and South America have mapped the protein of a biodiesel feedstock, castor beans, in hopes of reducing the poisons in the leftover pulp. This article from The Almagest says researchers from the University of Southern Denmark and hope to be able to get more out of the bean.

Countries like Brazil and India grow large quantities of the castor oil beans, which can be refined into bio-diesel. Unfortunately, the beans contain allergens and also the extremely potent poison ricin, and therefore the bean pulp after extraction of the oil cannot be used for animal feed. The animals might become sick or even die from eating castor pulp.

“Therefore we are interested in finding out if it in some way could be possible to eliminate the allergenic proteins and the ricin from the beans, so that the pulp can be used for animal feed”, explains professor Peter Roepstorff, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University of Southern Denmark.

The first step towards this has now been taken. Roepstorff and a team of Danish/Brazilian colleagues have used proteomics to map 1875 castor bean proteins.

“Now we know where the proteins are, and we know when during bean development they are produced. Especially the protein ricin and the allergen 2S Albumin are interesting in this context. Unfortunately our research shows that it does not seem to be easy to get rid of them”, says Peter Roepstorff.

The researchers found that the allergens and the deadly ricin poison are low when the beans are young, but as the beans mature and produce desirable oil levels, the ricin and allergen levels increase. The goal is to figure out how to manipulate the proteins to get the high oil levels without all the poisons.

Offshore Wind Needs EUR123 Billion to Meet Goals

EWEA offshore wind financial reportAccording to new research, the offshore wind energy sector needs up to EUR123 billion in investment between now and 2020 if it is to meet its target of 40 GW of installed capacity. Equity and debt provides are willing to invest; however, they are holding back due to regulatory instability.

What’s blocking the investment is the uncertainty caused by changing regulatory frameworks, not least in the two largest markets, the UK and Germany, the independent survey of the financial community shows.

“By undermining investment stability, governments are putting green growth, jobs and a world-leading European industry at risk,” said CEO of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), Thomas Becker, at the report launch in Frankfurt at EWEA OFFSHORE 2013. “Stable national frameworks and a binding EU renewable energy target for 2030 will be a green light to investors and ensure the industry continues to flourish.”

The report, ‘Where’s the money coming from? Financing offshore wind farms‘ comes from EWEA with research from Ernst and Young.

What Will We Drive in 2023?

According to a new study, “Tomorrow’s Vehicles: What Will We Drive in 2023?” released by the Fuels Institute, the growth of vehicles running on alternative fuels will accelerate over the next decade but diesel-fuel and gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to dominate the market.

Tomorrow's Vehicles What Will We Drive in 2023For light-duty vehicles (passenger vehicles and light trucks), gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to dominate the market, although overall market share could decline from 93 percent in 2012 to as low as 82 percent of vehicle inventories in 2023. Diesel-powered vehicles will potentially comprise nearly 7 percent of the market while flexible-fuel vehicles capable of using E85 could grow to more than 9 percent of the market.

Meanwhile, for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (commercial vehicles like trucks and buses), diesel-powered vehicles will prevail, representing at least 94 percent of the vehicle fleet in 2023.

“On the surface, it may not seem that significant change is occurring, because gasoline and diesel fuel-powered vehicles will continue to dominate the vehicle fleet in 2023, but alternatives are gaining traction,” said John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute. “Consumers appear to be more open to alternatives than ever before and vehicle manufacturers are offering a wider variety.”

Given that there are more than 250 million vehicles on the road today, the report finds it will take years of strong sales of alternative fuel vehicles to reshape the country’s vehicle fleet. In addition, a variety of developments — including cost reductions for alternative-fuel vehicles, conveniently available refueling options, expanded vehicle range and overall consumer familiarity and confidence with new fueling options — will need to occur before alternative-fueled vehicles can capture significant market share.

“We need to ask — and answer — some tough questions so that the vehicles and fueling markets can develop together and convert consumers to new type of vehicles,” said Eichberger.

The report forecast the makeup of the vehicle fleet in 2023 based on two scenarios: a “base case” that incorporates current forecasts and an “aggressive case” that assumes more robust world economic conditions that further spurs demand and prices for petroleum products. In both projections, gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to dominate the LDV market but lose significant market share, dropping from 93.2 percent of LDVs on the road in 2012 to between 82.6 percent to 86.0 percent in 2023. This decline in market share is driven by a shift in the sale of new vehicles, with gasoline-powered vehicles’ share of sales falling from 83.4 percent in 2012 to between 67.6 percent to 78.9 percent in 2023, a potentially dramatic change in consumer purchasing behavior. Continue reading

Pressure Cooking to Improve Electric Car Batteries

David Kisailus and Jianxin ZhuResearchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have redesigned the component materials of the battery found in electric vehicles in an environmentally friendly way. The goal was to solve several problems with the technology including they take a long time to charge; the charge doesn’t hold long enough to drive long distances; they don’t allow drivers to quickly accelerate; and they are big and bulky.

By creating nanoparticles with a controlled shape, the research team believes smaller, more powerful and energy efficient batteries can be built. By modifying the size and shape of battery components, they aim to reduce charge times as well.

“This is a critical, fundamental step in improving the efficiency of these batteries,” said David Kisailus, an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering and lead researcher on the project. In addition to electric cars, the redesigned batteries could be used for municipal energy storage, including energy generated by the sun and wind.

The initial findings are outlined in a recently published paper called “Solvothermal Synthesis, Development and Performance of LiFePO4 Nanostructures” in the journal Crystal Growth & Design. Kisailus, who is also the Winston Chung Endowed Professor in Energy Innovation, and Jianxin Zhu, a Ph.D. student working with Kisailus, were the lead authors of the paper.

The researchers in Kisailus’ Biomimetics and Nanostructured Materials Lab set out to improve the efficiency of Lithium-ion batteries by targeting one of the material components of the battery, the cathode. Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4), one type of cathode, has been used in electric vehicles because of its low cost, low toxicity and thermal and chemical stability. However, its commercial potential is limited because it has poor electronic conductivity and lithium ions are not very mobile within it. Continue reading

World Energy Scenarios Report: More Must Be Done

WEI2013-1-216x291COP-19 is taking place in Warsaw, Poland and today the World Energy Council (WEC) released a new report, “World Energy Scenarios: Composing energy futures in 2050.” The world is set to face several significant challenges in balancing global energy needs in addressing the triple challenge of the energy trilemma. The WEC study assesses two policy scenarios: the more consumer-driven Jazz scenario, and the more voter-driven Symphony scenario, which places greater focus on climate change mitigation and adaption. The report highlights that energy demand is set to double by 2050, driven by non-OECD growth (OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). To meet this growing demand, total primary energy supply is set to increase by between 61 percent and 27 percent.

WEC analysis in the World Energy Scenarios shows that despite significant growth in the relative contribution of renewables from 15 percent today to between 20 percent and 30 percent in 2050, in absolute terms the volume of fossil fuels used to meet global energy demand will be 16,000 MTOE (million tons of oil equivalent( in the Jazz (the more consumer-driven scenario) and 10,000 MTOE in Symphony (the more voter-driven scenario), compared to 10,400 MTOE in 2010. This represents a 55 percent increase in Jazz but only a 5 percent decrease in the absolute amount of fossil fuels used in Symphony by 2050.

“The inconvenient truth is: we are looking in the wrong place to address the issues facing the energy sector,” said Christoph Frei, Secretary of the World Energy Council. The focus of current thinking about the energy system is biased and inadequate. If we are to deliver sustainable energy systems, the focus must shift from the supply mix to demand efficiency. We need more demand-side investments, innovation, incentives, and stronger technical standards to reduce energy intensity.”

The report finds that some renewables will experience exponential growth, to reach 20 percent in Jazz and 30 percent in Symphony by 2050. In particular, the use of solar for electricity generation is set to increase by up to a staggering 225 times over 2010 levels. Currently solar power only accounts for just over 34 TWh/y in the electricity generation World Energy Council logomix, but it could provide somewhere between 2,980 TWh and 7,740 TWh in 2050. This equates to between US $2,950 billion and US $9,660 billion of investment in solar, representing the largest potential investment area of any renewable energy resource. However, fossil fuels will ultimately remain the dominant energy source supplying between 77% and 59% of the global primary energy mix.

“While there will be opportunities in the future for a range of technology solutions, the ultimate issue is that demand continues to grow at an unsustainable rate,” said Karl Rose, Senior Director, Policies and Scenarios at the World Energy Council. “One of the most significant findings in the report is the strong regional variation of priorities and solutions in the energy system. Too often we look at the world as one entity and seek global solutions but the reality is very different and this needs to be recognised.”

Frei added, “The financing challenge is vast but the current lack of climate framework clarity is leading to short-term investment decisions to satisfy current demand trends. We need drastic action from policymakers and industry to make concerted efforts to align and reduce the policy risk of energy investments.”

Project Aims to Convert Natural Gas to Butanol

From microbe to fuel_large

Using enzyme engineering and other capabilities, Sandia National Laboratories will work to engineer pathways from methanotroph organisms into another microbial host that can generate butanol. Butanol has long been considered one of the best biofuel options for transportation energy. (Photo by Dino Vournas)

A new project spearheaded by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are using their expertise in protein expression, enzyme engineering and high-throughput assays to develop biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel or methane to butanol for transportation. The $34 million project by the Advanced Research Project Agency Energy (ARPA-E) is one of a set of 15 Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy or REMOTE, projects. Sandia is a part of a two-year award led by MOgene Green Chemicals, a wholly owned subsidiary of St. Louis-based MOgene, LC.

The broad goal of REMOTE is to have another source of energy in the U.S. that doesn’t have to be imported and could lead to lower carbon monoxide emissions than conventional fossil fuels.

Methanotrophs are microbes that can metabolize methane. Sandia’s Blake Simmons, manager of the labs’ biofuels and biomaterial science and technology group, calls this microbe the “poster child” of organisms that are capable of metabolizing and converting methane. The goal of the project is to engineer pathways from these organisms into another microbial host that can generate butanol. Butanol can be used as a fuel in an internal combustion engine and, along with ethanol, has long been considered one of the best biofuel options for transportation energy.

“The need for hydrocarbons that are nonpetroleum in origin is still growing, including applications such as aviation and diesel engines,” said Simmons. “But in its natural state, you’re not going to readily burn natural gas in those types of engines, and the same goes for some combustion engines.” Natural gas, he explained, requires a special modification to be used effectively as a liquid fuel in vehicles, much like biomass needs to be converted before it can be used as a drop-in fuel.

“With biomass, we are essentially taking something that exists in nature and converting it into a low-cost, low-carbon, domestically-sourced fuel. With this project, we’re using natural gas as the input rather than biomass,” Simmons continued. Natural gas extracted from the ground is not renewable, he pointed out, but it is playing an increasingly important role for the Department of Energy and the nation’s energy supply.

Simmons said MOgene brings a great deal of organism expertise to the table, while Sandia offers enzyme engineering and other capabilities.

Using organisms to convert natural gas into liquid transportation fuels isn’t a new objective for the research community, Simmons said. “There have been plenty of investigations into this in the past, since there are plenty of organisms in nature that thrive and survive and multiply off of natural gas metabolism. The problem, though, is that they exist in unique, tailored environments and are typically very slow at what they do.” Continue reading

Industrial, Commercial, to Dominate EV Market

According to a new report from IDTechEx, over the next decade, the largest global electric vehicle (EV) value sector will be industrial and commercial for land, water and air – accounting for nearly 50 percent of the total hybrid and pure electric vehicle business. “Industrial and Commercial Hybrid & Pure Electric Vehicles 2013-2023: Forecasts, Opportunities, Players,” finds that the EV industry is expected to grow five-fold to over $300 billion in 2024.

The report find that those EVs not bought primarily on up-front price, such as buses and military vehicles and the heavy lifting or pushing vehicles such as forklifts and earthmovers, will continue to dominate. These customers are companies and governments primarily EV Reportconcerned about the total cost of ownership and performance. Less important are private individuals with concerns about up-front price when they buy smaller or lighter duty EV vehicles or electric bikes.

In addition, the EV market will grow with consumers also buying leisure boats, light aircraft with this category to dominate about 35 percent of the EV business to 2024. Military e-vehicles, land, water and airborne will be most of the remaining value market in 2024 and, as with industrial and commercial ones, they are not bought primarily on up-front price.

Dr. Peter Harrop, Chairman of IDTechEx said, “Manufacturers of industrial and commercial electric vehicles and their parts/services tend to be profitable whereas those making personal electric bikes and cars report most losses and bankruptcies. That said there are far too many manufacturers of light industrial and commercial e-vehicles. Their profitability can be improved even further by mergers and a shakeout of those that are neither niche nor volume players, as happened in the heavy lifting, pulling or pushing industrial and commercial sector with electric forklifts, ten years ago.”

The report shows that within the on-road types, buses are particularly important vehicles primarily due to the massive program of the Chinese government followed by electric vans and delivery trucks, conventional electric cars and special designs used as taxis and converted golf cars converted as people movers in airports, theme parks and hotel grounds. Finally, the report finds that indoor forklifts will continue to be the main subsector of industrial and commercial vehicles but with largest growth from relatively new applications such as agriculture, mining, utility and construction vehicles and outdoor forklifts.

Study Aims to Debunk Indirect Land Use Change

A new paper, “Wood Bioenergy and Land Use,” authored by Roger A. Sedjo, Brent L. Sohngen, Anne Riddle on behalf of Resources for the Future attempts to debunk indirect land use change theory (ILUC). The paper looks at how the use of biomass energy will affect the forests.

Wood BioEnergy and Land Use paperBack in 2008, Timothy Searchinger examined the issue related to corn ethanol and posited that substituting corn ethanol for petroleum would increase carbon emissions associated with the land conversion in other areas, such as Brazil. In other words, what would the indirect impact be of planting corn on an acre of land that used to be virgin forest and how would this affect the carbon “savings” of using ethanol, an environmental concern tied to climate change.

The authors point out that the issue is broader than simply corn. If agricultural croplands are drawn into the production of biofuel feedstocks, commodity prices are expected to rise, triggering land conversions overseas, releasing carbon emissions, and offsetting the carbon reductions expected from bioenergy.

Using a general stylized forest sector management model, the study examines the economic potential of traditional industrial forests and supplemental dedicated fuelwood plantations to produce biomass on submarginal lands. It finds that these sources can economically produce large levels of biomass without compromising crop production, thereby mitigating the land conversion and carbon emissions effects posited by the Searchinger hypothesis.

Click here to download the paper.

New Report Highlights the Power of Geothermal

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) and Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) have released a new joint report, “The Values of Geothermal Energy: A Discussion of the Benefits of Geothermal Power Provides to the Future of U.S. Power System“. The report addresses the role geothermal energy can play in states with Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) or Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) who are considering the full value of the power sources they use.

The Value of Geothermal ReportThe report was prepared by Ben Matek, GEA’s Industry Analyst, and Brian Schmidt, Librarian, GRC, and documents the many benefits of geothermal power.

“Geothermal power offers both firm and flexible solutions to the changing U.S. power system by providing a range of services including but not limited to baseload, regulation, load following or energy imbalance, spinning reserve, non-spinning reserve, and replacement or supplemental reserve,” the report begins.

Looking beyond the benefits to the power system, the report also summarizes other key benefits of geothermal power including economic and environmental benefits. “We are often asked about the full range of services and benefits available from geothermal,” Matek said. “So, we decided to join with GRC and put out a white paper that addresses these questions.”

“This is a timely report,” added Karl Gawell, GEA’s Executive Director. “The California PUC recently noted active questions before policy makers in California and elsewhere, specifically: ‘how increasing amounts of intermittent generation are impacting grid reliability, quantifying the impact and benefits of various resources to integrate intermittent generation, and what new policies should be adopted to manage the changing electric grid.’”

As the report indicates, these questions are gaining in importance as the United States expands its renewable power production, which today means “generating approximately 14% of the electricity” nationwide. Much of this is coming from wind and solar photovoltaic technologies that rely heavily on the prevailing weather conditions in order to generate power. However, the report note that “Geothermal energy is a renewable power source that can provide baseload and flexible power, quickly adjusting to fit the needs set by variable renewable energy technologies.

Dutch Researchers ID Fittest of Fattest for Biodiesel

TUdelftalgae1Researchers in The Netherlands are finding the fattest, or best oil-producing, algae in hopes of developing the fittest strain for biodiesel production. This story from TU Delft says the school’s scientists have published their findings in the scientific journal Energy & Environmental Science.

‘The ultimate goal of our research is to make oil-producing algae as fat as possible, then press the oil out of them and finally produce biodiesel suitable for cars from this oil,’ explains PhD student Peter Mooij of TU Delft.

A major threat to the stable cultivation of oil-producing algae is infection by other, thinner algae. One option is to use a sealed cultivation system and keep unwanted algae out of the system by means of sterilisation. Although this is theoretically possible, it would be practically infeasible and extremely expensive to do this on a large scale.

‘Our method is more suitable for large-scale algae production. We try to select for a particular characteristic and not for a particular species of algae. We are unconcerned whether species A or species B is used in our system, as long as they have the characteristic ‘fat’. So all algae are welcome in our system,’ says Mooij.

The article goes on to explain how the researchers are using a technique that provides light and carbon dioxide to the algae during the day that promotes oil production but keeps them from dividing by holding back the nutrients needed for cell division. Those fattest algae are then separated from the others to find the fittest, fattest strain.

USDA Says Spring Canola is Good Biodiesel Crop

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAResearchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture believe spring canola could be a good crop for biodiesel for producers in the drier parts of the Great Plains. This news release from the Agricultural Research Service says ARS agronomist David Nielsen and others are finding ways to stretch scarce water supplies and increase crop returns in that part of the country.

Nielsen, who works at the ARS Central Great Plains Research Station in Akron, Colo., worked with colleagues to combine existing plant growth computer models and generate spring canola production simulations. Then they ran their results from the combined model with 16 years of regional weather data, four different soil water levels at planting time, and other site-specific information to generate spring canola yield estimates for nine locations in Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas.

Results from their crop simulations suggested the highest yields would be produced in the north-central area near Champion, Neb., and the lowest yields would be produced in the south-central area near Walsh, Colo. When 75 percent of the soil water was available for crop use at planting, the model indicated six of the sites had more than a 70 percent probability of producing a canola seed yield of at least 900 pounds per acre.

The researchers found they could net anywhere from $67 to $189 per acre in returns, depending on plant-available soil water levels. They’ve also developed a simple decision support tool for canola production and economic analysis that can be used by farmers for canola planning.

Report: U.S. Military to Rely on Electric Vehicles

According to a new report, “Alternative Drive Vehicles for Military Applications,” the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is expected to increase its purchases of electric vehicles (EVs), hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in the next few years. The move is part of the military’s efforts to operate vehicles that do not run on fossil fuels. According to a recent report from Navigant Research, the DOD will acquire more than 92,400 EVs for non-tactical purposes from 2013 to 2020.

AdvancedTransportationTechnologies_Icon“In remote theaters of operations, the cost of moving fuels to forward military locations can be a multiple of the cost of the fuel itself,” said Scott Shepard, research analyst with Navigant Research. “The military’s approach to reducing fossil fuel consumption from non-tactical operations includes acquiring increasing numbers of vehicles powered by ethanol blend and biodiesel blend fuels; but the majority of the investment will go toward HEVs and PEVs.”

The report highlights one particular area of focus for the military market, and that is the development of microgrids in tandem with vehicle-to-grid (V2G)-enabled PEVs. Microgrids can enable bases in both tactical and non-tactical operations to utilize energy generation sources more efficiently and to operate independently of conditions on the grid. V2G-enabled PEVs used solely in non-tactical applications provide an additional layer of energy support and storage that can assist islanding microgrids and balance distributed energy generation resources by providing power from the vehicles’ battery packs to buildings.

The report examines the market for alternative drive vehicles for both tactical and non-tactical military fleets. Market drivers and barriers are analyzed in detail, and key industry players are profiled. Market forecasts for vehicles and fuel consumption, along with fuel cost savings, extend through 2020.

Renewable Energy in Mining Industry to Reach $4B

EmergingRenewables_IconAccording to a new report, “Renewable Energy in the Mining Industry” the worldwide market for renewable energy systems in the mining industry will grow from $210.5 million in 2013 to $3.9 billion in 2022. Today, less than 0.1 percent of power consumed by the mining industry is generated from renewable energy; yet, mining operations consume enormous amounts of power- as much as 400 terawatt-hours of electricity per year.

“The mining industry has clearly reached a tipping point, with a growing consensus that renewable energy at mine sites, both grid-tied and off-grid, is doable and, in many cases, desirable,” said Kerry-Ann Adamson, research director with Navigant Research, who conducted the study. “This understanding now needs to be coupled with an understanding of how best to deploy these solutions. Renewable energy developers are realizing that mining companies need solutions, not just technology.”

Of the renewable energy technologies in which the mining industry is investing, wind power is the technology nearest to eliciting wide-scale adoption. A number of mines are already utilizing large-scale wind power, but these sites were chosen based on extreme needs and/or ideal wind characteristics. According to the report, over the next 2 to 3 years, mining companies will begin deploying wind power for broader use rather than considering it only on a case by case basis.

“Renewable Energy in the Mining Industry,” analyzes the global market for renewable energy in the mining industry and provides an analysis of developments in the sector from a quantitative and qualitative perspective. Global market forecasts of revenue and capacity, segmented by region, technology, and investment scenario (base and aggressive), extend through 2022. The report also examines market and technology issues related to the adoption of renewable energy in the mining industry and profiles key industry players.

Fossil Fuels Still Dominate Energy Consumption

According to new Vital Signs Online trend report released by Worldwatch Institute, coal, natural gas, and oil accounted for 87 percent of global primary energy consumption in 2012. This occurred as the growth of worldwide energy use continued to slow due to the economic downturn. The analysis shows the relative weight of these energy sources keeps shifting, although only slightly. Natural gas increased its share of energy consumption from 23.8 to 23.9 percent during 2012, coal rose from 29.7 to 29.9 percent, and oil fell from 33.4 to 33.1 percent. The International Energy Agency predicts that by 2017, coal will replace oil as the dominant primary energy source worldwide.

The report notes that the shale revolution in the U.S. is reshaping global oil and gas markets. The United States produced oil at record levels in 2012 and is expected to overtake Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas combined in 2013. Oil drilling in KansasConsequently, the United States is importing decreasing amounts of these two fossil fuels, while using rising levels of domestic natural gas for power generation. This has led to price discrepancies between the U.S. and European natural gas markets that in turn have prompted Europeans to increase their use of coal power. Coal consumption, however, was dominated by China, which in 2012 for the first time accounted for more than half of the world’s coal use.

Global natural gas production grew by 1.9 percent in 2012, dominated by the United States (with 20.4 percent of the total) and Russia (17.6 percent). Other countries accounted for less than 5 percent each of global output.

In 2012, coal remained the fastest-growing fossil fuel globally, although at 2.5 percent the increase in consumption was weak relative to the 4.4 percent average of the last decade. China increased its coal use by 6.1 percent, and India by a significant 9.9 percent in 2012. Coal use by members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) declined by 4.2 percent, as an 11.9 percent decline in U.S. consumption outweighed increases of 3.4 percent in the EU and 5.4 percent in Japan.

Oil remains the most widely consumed fuel worldwide, but at a growth rate of 0.9 percent it is being outpaced by gas and coal for the third consecutive year. The OECD’s share declined to 50.2 percent of global consumption-the smallest share on record and the sixth decrease in seven years. This reflects declines of 2.3 percent in U.S. consumption and 4.6 percent in EU consumption. By contrast, usage in China and Japan rose by 5.0 and 6.3 percent, respectively. Continue reading