Brent Crude oil prices have seen some large fluctuations since the beginning of 2018, breaching $70/bbl in January, to then drop back down to $62/bbl. Geopolitical tension between the US and North Korea, OPEC production caps, and increased US shale production, are all major factors to influence and shape the current price of oil.
The so called ‘Beast from the East’ has hit the UK this week with snow showers and icy winds. Naturally demand is on the incline for heating while temperatures are at their lowest in 25 years across the UK. But what does this mean for the wholesale gas and power markets?
Eggborough, one of the UK’s largest coal power stations, is set to close before the end of the year as it’s become less and less economical to generate power. The power station is capable of generating power from biomass as well as coal, however after failing to obtain a Capacity Market contract in the last round of auctions. Many of the UK’s gas and coal fired power plants rely heavily on winning Capacity Market contracts in order to remain profitable, however Eggborough have missed out this time round, causing its imminent closure.
Oil markets have started the year on a volatile manner, as the first three weeks of the year has seen Brent Crude prices increase from $64/bbl to over $70/bbl. At the time of writing, Brent has eased off from 3 years highs to $68.88/bbl. To put into perspective, Brent Crude is trading 24% higher than in January 2017.
The UK gas, power and oil markets this year (2017) have been full of events, but overall, movement has been minimal, especially in comparison to 2016 energy market movement.
Liquefied Natural Gas is something we relate to Qatar, as the worlds’ largest exporter of the commodity in is coolest, liquid form. However, Russia are gaining some ground in this competitive market, by attempting to transfer LNG from the Arctic Yamal Peninsula to the rest of the world, including Asian markets where LNG is heavily relied upon.
Norway’s largest gas field lies on the Norwegian Continental Shelf in the North Sea. The Troll gas field has the ability to produce enough gas to supply almost 40% of the UK’s annual gas demand. The UK is the largest importer of Norwegian gas, closely followed by Germany and France. While the UK gas market is adapting to the loss of Rough – the UK largest offshore gas storage facility – the Troll gas field is anticipated to make up for some of that loss.
The Crown Price of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman, is currently leading an anti-corruption case on an unprecedented scale. His main targets are seemingly some of Saudi Arabia’s most wealthy and most influential. Arrests have included 11 princes, 4 ministers and dozens of influential business men and ex-ministers.
This winter will be the first winter that promises the delivery of power through the Capacity Market (CM) scheme. The scheme which currently sits under the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) aims to increase UK power generation and capacity during peak hours and periods of system stress. Initially the CM scheme was to be introduced in October 2018, however due to tight supply over last winter (winter 16/17), the Government brought the delivery date forward by 1 year.
The energy firm Third Energy’s plans to extract shale gas at its site Kirby Misperton, between Malton and Pickering, have been approved by the Environment Agency.
According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the first half of 2017 has seen a 17% increase in clean power production in Scotland, compared to the same period in 2016.
The rising tension between the US and North Korea has been disrupting energy markets over the last few months. The US called for a ban on oil exports to the country, as a result of Kim Jong Un’s missile testing and threats to reach the US and other countries.
Oil rose by 3.6% in West Texas in pursuit of Hurricane Harvey hitting the state earlier this month, the biggest intraday gain since 25th of July. The hurricane, which had peak accumulations of 1,318mm, is the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the contiguous United States.
The first gas has been extracted from new gas fields, located just off the coast of the Shetland Islands. The two fields, named Edradour and Glenlivet are estimated to provide around 1.9 million barrels of oil and gas equivalent in 2018. This comes at a time when gas supply in the UK is below normal as the largest offshore storage site Rough is closed, leaving only cushion gas to be withdrawn over the next few years.
The Cygnus gas development has been under construction for some years now, however the first gas has been drawn and delivered to the UK this week, marking a significant achievement for UK gas. The gas has been transported the Norfolk, across the North Sea, arriving at the Bacton gas terminal, ready for UK supply.
The first full scale floating wind farm is being implemented off the coast of Scotland, which is made up of five turbines in total, and measuring 253 meters in height. The small wind farm is anticipated to generate 30MW of electricity, which is enough to supply 20,000 UK homes. The wind farm will be fully operational by October this year, if all goes to plan.
The department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy has delayed the implementation of the Energy Intensive Industries (EII) exemption scheme once again, after the April 2017 expected start date was not met. The changes in Government, and discussion with the European Commission have caused the delay in enforcing the new legislation, however a new start date has been proposed for the 1st January 2018. This means that the BEIS will be required to have the new calculations, etc published and ready by the end of October, which has led many to believe the start date will be pushed back once again.
Construction on Hinkley Point C nuclear power station has only recently begun, however it has already been announced that costs will increase by around £1.5 billion, with a potential for a 15 month delay for completion at site. Hinkley Point C has caused much controversy over the last 10 years, and as such the news is quite unwelcome. Originally, the power station was to be powering the UK by this upcoming Christmas, however after recent announcements, power generation will not be taking place for another 10 years.
Centrica Storage Ltd (CSL) announced in June 2017 that their largest offshore gas storage facility ‘Rough’ would be permanently closed, after experiencing a year of issues while under repair and maintenance. The aging facility has been incapable of performing injection activity since June 2016, and as a result has not managed to store much gas, while withdrawals have been significantly low. CSL confirmed that the facility was no longer economic to run due to the extent and cost of repairs required.
Recent statistics from the department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy have shown a rapid decline in the consumption of coal in the UK. Furthermore, on a global scale, the dependence on coal fired power has dropped over the last two years. This looks set to continue, as the UK announced plans to close all coal power stations by 2025. The new Government could change things, however for now this plan of action still remains.
The UK gas system is currently under some strain as Centrica Storage Ltd announced that their largest gas storage site, Rough, would be offline until April 2018. This was announced at the beginning of 2017, and since then, the facility has been withdrawing gas into the UK system and is now only 5% full. Injections into storage will be unavailable until April 2018, and so very little gas remains at the facility for next winter. Rough generally makes up around 70% of UK winter supply. In the absence of Rough, the UK has been heavily dependent on imported gas from Norway, as well as Liquefied Natural Gas from around the world.
On Friday 26th May 2017, the UK record level of solar generation was beaten as generation crept up to as high as 8.7GW at midday. The previous record high was noted only weeks before on 10th May at 8.48GW. This news shows how the UK has benefitted from its recent transition into the renewable sphere through funding into the Feed in Tariff, Renewable Obligation and Contracts for Difference schemes.
The upcoming UK general election is causing rifts in the energy industry. Political parties have differing agendas covering subjects from energy price plans and caps, to encouraging and discouraging renewable improvements and investments in the UK. There seems to be a lot of confusion about the latter at the minute. While Brexit is a huge concern, there is some uncertainty around whether the UK will maintain EU legislation regarding renewable, and low carbon schemes for the UK, or whether everything will be scrapped.
UK electricity contracts and tariffs are subjected to a lot of extra non-commodity costs. So much so that the build-up of a business electricity bill is ~45% commodity cost, and ~55% non-commodity cost. One of the largest non-commodity costs on power bills is the RO (Renewable Obligation) tax. This has been in place since 2012, and has moved the UK power network to include a mix of renewable, green energy sources. It has been announced that the RO scheme will now be closed, despite its general success.
Centrica Storage Ltd, owner of the UK’s largest gas storage site have announced its long term closure for further maintenance. The facility has been offline since June 2016 for gas injections into storage, and its restart has been delayed multiple times. The facility is able to supply 70% of the UK’s winter demand, however this is no longer the case.
Project Nexus is a huge industry change, and houses a multitude of different amendments to the current UK energy market, etc. From June 2017 there will be a huge change to the UK gas system, whereby Xoserve will be updating the central gas system for the UK. It is the biggest change since it's de-privatisation in the late 1990's. the changes are being driven by Ofgem, which means that this is a mandatory update.
Oil has taken a huge hit this week, with prices dropping as low as $50/bbl. This is despite OPEC’s efforts and plans to get the price of oil back up to $70/bbl by agreeing to cut production from 1st January 2017 for six months. It is now becoming apparent that this is not feasible in the time scales agreed. Plus the fact that US oil rigs are on the rise, crude stockpiles are increasing, and more and more shale oil is being drilled under Trumps Presidency. America’s production activity is totally counteracting everything OPEC have attempted to put into place. And now oils is trading at 4 month lows.
A huge innovation in renewable energy has come about in an attempt to reduce emissions from great ocean tankers. Huge cylinders have been innovated to increased wind power efficiency, no matter which direction it is flowing in, in an attempt to reduce costs and carbon emissions. Furthermore it will lessen the dependence on fossil fuels. Reports suggest that implementing this technology can provide savings on fuel consumption by 7-10%. The technology will be ready to power ships in 2018, and analysis can be conducted from then.
There has been much speculation regarding the future of Liquefied Natural Gas arriving at UK shores as stocks have been depleting dramatically over the last year. Many have anticipated the arrival of American LNG tankers in the UK, especially after Trump became the new President in 2016. President Trump believes America should be energy independent from the rest of the world. He also believes that there are billions of Dollars’ worth of untouched shale gas and oil that can supply America and can be sold off to the rest of the world improving the economy. Many believe that 2017 will be the year that this source of LNG will flood the UK gas market.
The UK’s power supply is made up from a variety of sources, including Coal, Nuclear, Gas and a combination of renewables such as Wind power, Solar, Anaerobic Digestion, Biomass, etc. However, a multitude of issues are coming into play as the Government has planned to phase out Coal power by 2025, and Brexit could potentially mean the UK can scrap renewable targets and agreements set out by the EU. All of this thrown into the mix means that the future of UK power is not quite set in stone, and supply sources could vary in terms of their contribution to the generation stack.
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