Friday, September 28, 2007

Britain Now a Net Exporter of Oil.

There has been an increase of 2.8% in oil production by Britain during the second quarter of this year in comparison with that same quarter last year. The reason is the start-up of six new fields, which include the massive Buzzard field located in the North Sea. Overall, the UK output of crude oil and "natural gas to liquids", which I take to mean gas-liquefaction, i.e. conversion of methane to syn-gas and Fisher-Tropsch catalytic conversion of this to hydrocarbons, increased to almost 20 million tonnes once six new fields came on-stream at the start of the year.

Consequently, the UK is a net exporter of oil to the excess of 0.8 million tonnes more than it used domestically in terms of imported oil and oil-products. The UK used less energy to the extent of 4% overall, corresponding to a fall in production by 5.4% at an equivalent of 46.5 million tonnes of oil during the second quarter of this year. However, the total production of gas by the UK continues to fall, by almost 10% to an equivalent of 206.6 TWh (terrawatt hours = billion kWh) from the same quarter last year. Simply this is due to the inexorable drop in North Sea gas output, and a matter we should not be mislead into forgetting.

New facilities for importing gas, e.g. from Norway and from Qatar, has made us a net importer of gas, to a net quantity of 25 TWh equivalent, despite the fact that the UK was a net gas-exporter in the second quarter of 2006. These higher net imports permitted a 4.6% rise in total consumption of gas and significantly, UK electricity production used 26.5% more gas in that second quarter than in its equivalent in 2006. Lower gas prices and a shortfall in nuclear power as a result of two reactors being closed won for extended periods.

There was also a decrease in the total amount of electricity by 0.2% (that's 0.2 TWh) in this latter quarter due to a hike in gas prices and that loss of nuclear capacity. Coal production fell by 11% (4.4 million tons), in part from a 20% decline in deep mine output, and a fall by 2.4% in open-cast mining.

Renewable energy production was twice as large in Scotland as England last year but is still small as an overall fraction of the energy we use. I predict that we will see a shift in the use of all kinds of energy, which by 2050 is expected to come from a mix of all, nuclear, coal, gas and renewable sources, although the latter degree of development is a matter of speculation. Despite the recent increase in UK oil production making us a fractional net exporter of oil, our resources in the North Sea certainly, are in a steep decline and I await with interest what might be pumped from undersea fields, for example the stretch from Biscay to Rockall that I wrote about a couple of days ago.

Related reading.
UK Oil Output Up Six Oilfield Start-Ups," By Alex McDonald:

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