Friday, October 25, 2013

Fukushima - A Global Threat That Requires a Global Response

Fukushima - A Global Threat That Requires a Global Response

The story of Fukushima should be on the front pages of every newspaper. Instead, it is rarely mentioned. The problems at Fukushima are unprecedented in human experience and involve a high risk of radiation events larger than any that the global community has ever experienced. It is going to take the best engineering minds in the world to solve these problems and to diminish their global impact.

When we researched the realities of Fukushima in preparation for this article, words like apocalyptic, cataclysmic and Earth-threatening came to mind. But, when we say such things, people react as if we were the little red hen screaming "the sky is falling" and the reports are ignored. So, we’re going to present what is known in this article and you can decide whether we are facing a potentially cataclysmic event.

There are three major problems at Fukushima: (1) Three reactor cores are missing; (2) Radiated water has been leaking from the plant in mass quantities for 2.5 years; and (3) Eleven thousand spent nuclear fuel rods, perhaps the most dangerous things ever created by humans, are stored at the plant and need to be removed, 1,533 of those are in a very precarious and dangerous position. Each of these three could result in dramatic radiation events, unlike any radiation exposure humans have ever experienced.
This article was first published on Truthout 


  1. Massive Spending Ahead As Industry Develops US Shale

    Now that the land grab of U.S. shale oil and natural gas acreage has ended, the oil and gas industry faces a new question – how it will fund the commercialization of unconventional resources.

    Cash flow issues have already been seen among oil and gas companies seeking to develop shale, raising questions about financing and how companies will handle spending, according to a panel of industry experts at the Bloomberg Oil & Gas Conference Thursday in Houston.

    With most major shale plays discovered and acreage leased, the time has come for the industry to digest and drill what they might have, said Ron Hulme, CEO of Parallel Resource Partners, during a panel discussion on the amount of investment needed to commercialize shale.

    To date, 60,000 unconventional oil and gas wells have been drilled in the United States, but 500,000 drilling locations remain, meaning the industry has drilled a little more than 20 percent of this inventory, given current spacing and conditions.

    The development of shale resources might prove the exception to the ability of companies to raise funds in capital markets, said Gray. Estimates of the amount of capital needed range from $2 trillion to $5 trillion, but the market capital of shale participants is less than $1 trillion.

    Companies currently are needing to go to capital markets for $40 to $50 billion a year of capital now and have been spending beyond cash flow, but some suggestions indicate that spending may double or triple.

    Fundamentally, the industry could face a $2 trillion gap in funding. A company may lease land in a perspective play at $2,000 an acre, but if it fully develops that land with 40-acre spacing and $8 million wells, that company will need $200,000 an acre, a ratio of 100 to 1, said Hulme.

    “Companies are spending one-third of their capital budgets on land, but need 100 times that amount to develop shale resources,” Hulme noted.

    Hulme hopes to see companies use more private equity to fund shale activity. While the capital markets are always cheaper, companies have been reluctant to issue equity, thinking their stock price is undervalued.

    Instead, companies have leveraged up with debt to fund activity, but companies cannot sustain this usage and are getting beyond their collateral and cash flow to service acts. Over the past four years, $80 billion has been raised in private equity, a small amount of in the grand scheme, but that funding will help.

    As a way of coping with higher capital investment requirements, companies are grappling with operational challenges and seeking to reduce costs and boost operating efficiency. Oil and gas companies can’t take all the credit for reduced costs, however, as the decline in prices for oilfield services across the supply chain has aided oil and gas companies in managing costs, said Chris Robart, principal with PacWest Consulting Partners.

    Companies relied heavily on investment through joint ventures with foreign companies during the land grab and initial drilling phase, a trend that will continue due to Japan and Korea’s lack of natural resources and China’s need for help in commercializing its shale resources, said Robert F. Gray, Jr., a partner with law firm Mayer Brown.

    Japanese trading and electric companies have continued to look for investment in long-term opportunities following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled Japan’s nuclear power infrastructure.

    1. So much for the hoo haa over Canning Basin shale - the above figures tell the story.

      "To date, 60,000 unconventional oil and gas wells have been drilled in the United States, but 500,000 drilling locations remain, meaning the industry has drilled a little more than 20 percent of this inventory, given current spacing and conditions."


      "Estimates of the amount of capital needed range from $2 trillion to $5 trillion, but the market capital of shale participants is less than $1 trillion."


      "Fundamentally, the industry could face a $2 trillion gap in funding. A company may lease land in a perspective play at $2,000 an acre, but if it fully develops that land with 40-acre spacing and

      ***** $8 MILLION WELLS *****, that company will need $200,000 an acre, a ratio of 100 to 1, said Hulme.

      “Companies are spending one-third of their capital budgets on land, but need 100 times that amount to develop shale resources,”


      The cost of fracking Canning Basin wells is said to be close to $25 MILLION -

      OR about 3 times the cost of US fracked wells.


      SO lots of high tech ariel surveys looking for the illusive "sweet spots" to develop conventional sources because the market capitalisation of the Canning Basin companies is no where close to the companies operating in the US shales.


      Beware the "snake oil salesmen".


    2. Not sure if there is even one rig in the Canning Basin right now...............but here is

      Historical data for Australia Gas Rotary Rigs

      Sept. 30, 2013 9.00
      Aug. 31, 2013 10.00
      July 31, 2013 10.00
      June 30, 2013 11.00
      May 31, 2013 11.00
      April 30, 2013 10.00
      March 31, 2013 8.00
      Feb. 28, 2013 14.00
      Jan. 31, 2013 9.00

      US rig count..........

      Rigs targeting oil and natural gas in the U.S. declined by one this week to 1,738, according to Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI)

      Oil rigs dropped four to 1,357, data posted on the company’s website show. The gas count rose four to 376, the Houston-based field services company said. Miscellaneous rigs fell by one to five.

  2. Most powerful Japanese minister shares vision of Canadian LNG flow to East Asia

    Thursday, 24 October 2013

    The Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Toshimitsu Motegi, has told a Canadian minister he was impatient "to tackle issues one by one to make sure that shale gas from Canada will cross the Rocky Mountains, travel across the Pacific and land in Japan as LNG."


    Magnolia LNG expects to be fifth US project on stream after New York fund signs deal

    Thursday, 24 October 2013

    The Australian-led US Magnolia LNG export project has signed a definitive agreement with a major investor, the US equity fund Stonepeak Partners, giving the venture in Louisiana US$660 million in cash and $1.54 billion in debt as development financing.


    Gazprom holds gathering in Vladivostok for LNG project customers and investors

    Wednesday, 23 October 2013

    Gazprom has held a major presentation about the Vladivostok LNG on the Russian Far East island for prospective purchasers of LNG cargoes and its partners in the venture from Japan.


    1. Alaska Lt. Governor to Speak at North American LNG Exports Conference

      Alaskan Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell is slated to deliver the luncheon address, Dec. 12, 2013, to the North American LNG Exports conference at the Houston Four Seasons Hotel. Organized annually by Zeus Development Corporation, the meeting brings together project developers, suppliers, regulators, and elected officials to discuss and sometimes debate America’s future role in LNG.

      “The push from the State of Alaska to develop a new export terminal is essential to getting the project off the ground,” noted Tom Campbell, Zeus’ head of analysis. “Alaskans benefit greatly from their natural resources. The state government is working to facilitate a project that could benefit Alaskans for 50 years.”

      On October 7, project partners ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips and TransCanada reported their planned site for the export terminal in the Nikiski area of the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage. Natural gas will be sourced from the North Slope via an 800-mile pipeline. The liquefaction and export plant will be one of the world’s largest, exporting of up to 3.5 billion cubic feet per day (25 million tonnes per year). In July, the U.S. set a record by producing and marketing 73 billion cubic feet of natural gas. First shipments from the Alaska project are expected in the 2021 to 2022 time frame. Estimates put the project cost between US$45 billion and US$65 billion with much of the budget going toward pipeline construction.

      Lt. Governor Treadwell will be joined by project developers of other major North American export projects, including Michael S Smith, chairman and CEO, Freeport LNG; Martin Houston, executive director and COO, BG Group; and Jamie Welch, group CFO, Energy Transfer, among others.

      The conference will feature a dinner cruise past North America’s most advanced LNG export plant: Cheniere Energy’s 18-million-tonne-per-year, four-train Sabine Pass Liquefaction bidirectional terminal. On Dec. 11, Jason French, director of government and public affairs at Cheniere, will narrate to allow guests to comprehend the magnitude of one of the world’s largest capital projects as well as view locations for future Trains 5 and 6.

  3. The way this is going Barnett may well wish he had never started the FLNG enquiry in the first place.


    James Price Point demand sent us offshore: Chevron


    From: The Australian October 25, 2013

    CHEVRON has blamed the federal and state governments' instruction that the Woodside Petroleum-led Browse joint venture build a gas plant at James Price Point for the partnership's decision to walk away from an onshore development in Western Australia and instead use controversial floating LNG technology.

    In his first public comments on the issue, Chevron Australia managing director Roy Krzywosinski said yesterday that Chevron -- which sold out of the Browse project last year before James Price Point was formally abandoned -- had wanted the gas to be processed at the North West Shelf project in the Pilbara rather than at the Kimberley site.

    He said he knew the cost of building any greenfields LNG project in Australia was soaring because of his experience in overseeing construction of Chevron's Gorgon and Wheatstone projects, which have a combined capital cost of almost $80 billion.

    Mr Krzywosinski's comments suggest Chevron believed piping the Browse gas to existing infrastructure in the Pilbara would have significantly lowered the costs of the project and possibly averted the need for the partners to ultimately choose FLNG, which offers a higher rate of return. He agreed that the government instruction to build at James Price Point had excluded other options from being considered.

    "Our preference was to bring the Browse gas down to the Burrup (Peninsula) to backfill the North West Shelf," he told a West Australian parliamentary committee yesterday. "But because of the retention lease issues, we could only look at James Price Point. "Our message to government is let the industry take a look at the wide range of alternatives to figure out the best options.

    "Although most of the Browse gas leases are in federal waters, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett was the most vocal advocate of the Browse partners using James Price Point and has continued to vigorously oppose the partners' decision to choose FLNG as its preferred development option.

    Mr Barnett has been criticised for insisting on James Price Point, but has pointed to the creation of local jobs and a major benefits package for Kimberley indigenous groups as reasons he backed the site.

    Chevron sold its 16.7 per cent stake in the Browse venture to Royal Dutch Shell for $US450 million in 2010. Shell was able to use its greater influence in the joint venture to advocate for FLNG, a technology it is pioneering with the construction of its Prelude project.The federal government has since backed the Browse partners' move to FLNG.

    Mr Krzywosinski told the committee he had some doubts over the safety of FLNG in extreme weather events, but he did not rule out Chevron using it one day to develop some of its smaller, more remote gas fields in the Exmouth Basin.

    He was at pains to point out the benefits to the economy of onshore LNG plants, noting that Gorgon had reached $20bn in commitments to local content -- a figure expected to grow to $30bn by the time construction is completed in 2015. About 800 people would be employed during its 40-plus year operations phase.

    Mr Krzywosinski said the Wheatstone project had also committed more than $11bn to Australian companies.

    He said another benefit of onshore developments was the ability to maximise economies of scale by processing third-party gas, which Chevron would do at Wheatstone.

    "We don't advertise it a lot, but we view that as a hub where we invite third-party gas. We've got a sign out at Wheatstone that we're open for business," he said.

    Mr Krzywosinski said it was unsurprising that companies were attracted to FLNG because Australia was becoming globally uncompetitive, citing its cumbersome approvals process, challenging industrial relations, high labour costs, low productivity and ad hoc tax changes.

  4. And just like a cyclone he left a trail a mile wide - one way too big to hide!


    The Premier fires a warning shot at Browse LNG partners

    Posted Sat 5 May 2012, 12:15pm AEST

    Colin Barnett says the Kimberley Gas Hub is an integral part of the state agreement binding the Browse Basin joint venturers to develop the controversial site, and the alternative of piping gas to Karratha will not be acceptable to the state


    Premier Barnett wants control

    Telling anyone who will listen, Premier Barnett says ”The decision as to where the gas goes lies with the West Australian Government because of the Agreements Acts that cover both James Price Point and the North West Shelf project.”

    “It’s not a private decision, it’s a government decision.” says Barnett.

    Click here ( above link ) to see the Premier on Stateline WA being asked some pointy questions and looking a little hot under the collar.


    Barnett warning on gas hub site

    Gareth Parker, The West Australian May 4, 2012,

    Mr Barnett, who is due to visit Broome shortly, was strident yesterday when asked about the speculation that Browse gas would go to the North West Shelf instead of James Price Point.

    "No, the decision as to where the gas goes lies with the WA Government, because of the Agreement Acts that will cover James Price Point and the North West Shelf project," Mr Barnett said.

    "It's not a private decision, it's a Government decision."

    Asked to respond to the Premier, a Woodside spokeswoman said: "Woodside is committed to meeting the technical and commercial obligations under the retention lease conditions, which includes locating the development's processing facilities at the State Government's proposed LNG Precinct near James Price Point."

    On Wednesday, Woodside boss Peter Coleman told the company's annual meeting: "We have a commitment to take James Price Point through to a certain decision point.


    1. Floating LNG technology to head off competition

      by: PAUL GARVEY From: The Australian October 26

      US GAS exports and a massive rollout of renewable energy capacity in China and Japan are threatening Australia's position in the liquefied natural gas pecking order, with controversial floating LNG technology "critical" to restoring the competitiveness of Australia's sector. Citi's global head of energy research, Seth Kleinman, who is in Sydney next week for the bank's annual investment conference, told The Weekend Australian that the rise of both shale gas and renewables were looming as big threats to an otherwise promising short-term outlook for LNG.

      An estimated $188 billion in LNG projects are under construction around the nation, with their output projected to see Australia challenge Qatar for the title of the world's largest LNG producer.

      But Mr Kleinman warned that Australia's LNG industry was at "the wrong end of the cost curve", which could see it squeezed by what he described as the two big trends facing the oil and gas world. While the outlook for LNG looked robust for the next 18 months to two years, the ongoing growth of the North American shale industry would put increasing pressure on both oil and gas prices.

      "You look at the US. In 2011 it grew an Ecuador in terms of oil supplies. In 2012, it added a Venezuela," Mr Kleinman said.

      "It's pretty dramatic, and if you look at what will happen in 2016 onwards and the rapid growth you're going to be seeing in US LNG exports, I think the bearish pressure out of North America is mounting on the entire hydrocarbon complex

      ."On top of that, Australia's LNG exports will face increased competition from renewable energy sources that are becoming more and more affordable.

      "One of the problems for Australia is that the biggest (LNG) markets, Japan and China, have massive renewable build-outs now. They're both going to overtake Germany by 2016," Mr Kleinman said.

      "The problem for Australia is that it's up there at the high end (of the cost curve) because of the rise in labour pressures.

      "Floating LNG technology, which allows the proponents to direct a larger portion of the LNG construction process to cheaper-priced labour markets overseas, should be embraced by Australia as a means of keeping its LNG industry competitive, he said.

      The issue of floating LNG has been seen as particularly contentious in Western Australia, where the government has called an inquiry due to concerns about the potential loss of jobs and investment from the technology.

      Mr Kleinman said such concerns were unwarranted."They have to view it as an unconditional boon for their economy," he said.

      "By virtue of where Australia is, the cost of getting the gas and the nature of the projects, it's at the wrong end of the cost curve. It's got to move down the cost curve and floating is the quickest way down that cost curve.

  5. Japan issues tsunami warning after earthquake at sea

    No reports of damage but Fukushima, site of wrecked nuclear power plant, is in wave's path

    Saturday 26 October 2013

    A small tsunami was due to reach the Japanese coast at Fukushima, site of a wrecked nuclear power plant, on Saturday morning local time, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

    There were no immediate reports of damage on land from an earthquake, classified as magnitude 6.8 by Japanese authorities, which struck 230 miles off Japan's eastern coast. The tremor was felt in Tokyo, about 300 miles (480km) away.

    The agency issued a yellow warning, which indicates the tsunami is not expected to exceed a height of 1 metre (3ft), far smaller than the wave that hit the plant in 2011.

  6. No comment!

    APPEA: Sensible Move to Assess Offshore Oil and Gas Regulations

    Moves announced today by the Federal Government to undertake a strategic assessment of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority’s (NOPSEMA) current environmental management processes have the real potential of leading to sensible reform that will remove excessive and duplicative regulation for the offshore oil and gas industry, the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association said today.

    The aim of the strategic assessment is to determine whether the authority fulfills the objectives of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, therefore leading to a potential reduction in the duplication of regulation on the offshore industry. This is a welcome and timely move and comes just a week after the Federal Government announced plans to establish a framework for a “one stop shop” to streamline environmental approval processes.

    APPEA Acting Chief Executive Noel Mullen said: “This is exactly the sort of policy assessment needed if the petroleum industry is to be in a position to secure further investment amid growing competition from North America and East Africa.

    “Industry has long argued that duplicative requirements both within and between jurisdictions can be streamlined while maintaining the highest of environmental standards.

    “Industry supports strong environmental standards and a world-class safety regime.

    “The assessment and the recently announced ‘one-stop shop’ have tremendous potential to lighten the weight of unnecessary regulation and allow for a greater focus on improving performance and competitiveness.”


    Be carefull what you wish for.

    1. Research team embarks on 5yr Kimberley Marine Science Project

      The most detailed study of the Kimberley coast ever undertaken is underway, with the first research vessel setting sail from Broome.

      The $30 million Kimberley Marine Science Project will run over five years and involve more than 100 scientists.

      The study will examine the best ways to manage marine parks and industrial development in the region.

      The research vessel Solander left Broome on Monday for a field trip, with a team led by oceanographer Richard Brinkman.

      Dr Brinkman says there is a huge amount of work ahead.

      "This project is very ambitious," he said.

      "The Kimberleys are very remote and therefore very challenging to work in, so therefore we need a vessel like the Solander to be able to take us hundreds of miles, support us there for weeks, so it's very ambitious.

      "The goals are also very ambitious, to understand the threats facing the region.

      "It can be challenging but the group on this cruise, we've worked together for about 15 years, so we're quite a tight bunch and it makes it quite enjoyable.

      "It's very full-on, we often work for 24-hours-a-day in 12-16 hour shifts but it's a good team environment."

  7. Indonesian campaigner pursues Australian government to study impact of the Montara oil spill.

    An Indonesian campaigner said he will continue to push the Australian government for an independent study of the impact of the Montara oil spill.

    The 2009 Montara disaster spilled millions of litres of oil into the sea and it took more than two months to stop the leak.

    Ferdi Tanoni from the West Timor Care Foundation claims the spill damaged fish stocks.

    The Australian Lawyers Alliance gave Mr Tanoni the National Civil Justice Award in Canberra yesterday, in recognition of his efforts promoting justice and individual rights.

    Mr Tanoni said Australia should support independent research in West Timor and nearby waters.

    "I'm calling on the Australian government to at least look into this or the Australian government can at least ask the oil company together with the Indonesian government to look into this," he said.

    "If they found nothing in this water then they pay nothing but if they found something please, we we we settle this case."

    The Federal Environment Department said monitoring is ongoing.

    The company, PTTEP, has accepted responsibility for the incident.

  8. AFTER this............I'm not sure how the victims of the bushfire would be feeling?

    WHERE is the support for them?

    Snouts in the trough...cont.....


    Winmalee residents criticise disaster relief eligibility rules, as Blue Mountains fires burn

    Fire-affected residents in the Blue Mountains have criticised the Federal Government for tightening the eligibility rules for disaster relief payments, as fires continue to burn uncontrolled.

    The largest blaze in New South Wales today, the State Mine Fire, is still burning around the Bells Line of Road.

    The Rural Fire Service says the fire is not threatening properties, but a "watch and act" alert is in place.

    Late this morning, the RFS upgraded a fire at Springwood in the Blue Mountains to "watch and act".

    Another fire at Mount Victoria has been downgraded to the "advice" alert level.

    Emergency services and Government officials briefed hundreds of fire-affected residents about the recovery effort at a community meeting in Winmalee last night.


    ( Video: Winmalee residents angered by change to disaster relief policy (ABC News)


    Upset locals used the meeting to vent their frustration at the Federal Government for tightening eligibility rules for disaster assistance, with payments of $1,000 per adult and $400 per child available.

    However, the payment is only available for people who are severely injured or if their homes have been destroyed or badly damaged.

    Unlike victims of the Tasmanian bushfires or Tropical Cyclone Oswald, the Government is not offering assistance to those who have been cut off from their homes or who are without electricity or water.

    Locals say not everyone affected can get the help they need.


    More support for Randall over expense claims

    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister says WA MP Don Randall has given an adequate explanation about his use of taxpayer money for travel.

    The Liberal MP has confirmed he claimed more than $5000 to fly to Melbourne with his wife for an AFL game, before parliamentary sittings.

    Mr Randall has also repaid more than $5000 he spent travelling to Cairns where he had an investment property. He maintains the travel was legitimate and says he has not done anything wrong.

    Parliamentary Secretary Josh Frydenberg says there are grey areas in the entitlements system and he does not think Mr Randall needs to provide more information.

    "No I don't and Don Randall has spoken publicly about it," he said.

    "Some things are confidential and at the end of the day you've just got to trust those MPs, dare I say it, to use their good judgement and by and large MPs adhere to the rules of entitlement very well."



  9. North Dakota recorded 300 oil spills in two years without notifying the public

    AP obtained records of 750 'oil field incidents' after officials kept the massive September wheat field spill quiet until discovered

    North Dakota, the nation's No2 oil producer behind Texas, recorded nearly 300 oil pipeline spills in less than two years, state documents show. None was reported to the public, officials said.

    According to records obtained by the Associated Press, the pipeline spills, many of them small, are among some 750 "oil field incidents" that have occurred since January 2012 without public notification.

    "That's news to us," said Don Morrison, director of the Dakota Resource Council, an environmental-minded landowner group with more than 700 members in North Dakota.

    Dennis Fewless, director of water quality for the state Health Department, said regulators are reviewing the state's policies for when to publicly report such incidents after a massive spill was discovered last month in northwestern north Dakota by a wheat farmer. State and company officials kept it quiet for 11 days — and only said something after the AP asked about it.

    North Dakota regulators, like in many other oil-producing states, are not obliged to tell the public about oil spills under state law. But in a state that's producing a million barrels a day and saw nearly 2,500 miles of new pipelines last year, many believe the risk of spills will increase, posing a bigger threat to farmland and water.


    "We really have to dig through our data base to get specifics," said Fewless, adding that a more user-friendly tracking system for regulators may be developed.

    Such a system would be valuable for the public, too, said Louis Kuster, who raises wheat near Stanley in northwest North Dakota. Farmers and ranchers rely on land for their livelihood, so information on spills that could threaten land or water supplies "absolutely is important for us to know," he said.

    Between coffee-shop talk and chatting with neighbors, nothing much happens around the fourth-generation farmer's land without him knowing about it — except when it comes to oil spills.

    "What you don't know, nobody is going to tell you," Kuster said.

    Earlier this month, Kuster and his neighbors noticed truckloads of oil-tainted dirt being hauled away from an adjacent farm. It was allegedly from a broken pipeline, but no one really knows for sure, he said.

    "We have no idea how big the spill is and why it happened," he said. "I'd try to get more information from the state but I'm too busy getting my harvest in."

    North Dakota officials have urged pipeline industry to officials to quickly — and safely — expand the network to keep pace with record production in the oil patch. The state has about 17,500 miles of pipelines, including the addition last year of 2,470 miles, roughly the distance from New York City to Los Angeles.

    For weeks, no one knew about a Tesoro Corporation pipeline that broke 29 September in a remote area near Tioga. Officials say no water was contaminated or wildlife hurt, but the spill was one of the largest in North Dakota's history, estimated at 20,600 barrels. Oil oozed over an area the size of seven football fields.

    Records obtained by the AP show that so far this year, North Dakota has recorded 139 pipeline leaks that spilled a total of 735 barrels of oil. In 2012, there were 153 pipeline leaks that spilled 495 barrels of oil, data show. A little more than half of the spills companies reported to North Dakota occurred "on-site," where a well is connected to a pipeline, and most were fewer than 10 barrels. The remainder of the spills occurred along the state's labyrinth of pipelines.

  10. One of the most ironic and strange photos I've ever seen!

    Almost like the unintelligent report being turned on it's head!

    The floating part of these windmills looks exactly like the floating base of a big offshore drilling rig.

    To Expand Offshore Power, Japan Builds Floating Windmills

    OFF THE COAST OF FUKUSHIMA, Japan — Twelve miles out to sea from the severely damaged and leaking nuclear reactors at Fukushima, a giant floating wind turbine signals the start of Japan’s most ambitious bet yet on clean energy.

    When this 350-foot-tall windmill is switched on next month, it will generate enough electricity to power 1,700 homes. Unremarkable, perhaps, but consider the goal of this offshore project: to generate over 1 gigawatt of electricity from 140 wind turbines by 2020. That is equivalent to the power generated by a nuclear reactor.

    The project’s backers say that offshore windmills could be a breakthrough for this energy-poor nation. They would enable Japan to use a resource it possesses in abundance: its coastline, which is longer than that of the United States. With an exclusive economic zone — an area up to 200 miles from its shores where Japan has first dibs on any resources — that ranks it among the world’s top 10 largest maritime countries, Japan has millions of square miles to position windmills.

    The project is also a bid to seize the initiative in an industry expected to double over the next five years to a global capacity of 536 gigawatts, according to the industry trade group Global Wind Energy Council. The Japanese have lagged at wind turbine manufacturing, which is dominated by European and Chinese makers.

    The Japanese government is paying the 22 billion yen, or $226 million, cost of building the first three wind turbines off Fukushima, part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to make renewable energy a pillar of his economic growth program. After that, a consortium of 11 companies, including Hitachi, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Shimizu and Marubeni, plan to commercialize the project.

    “It’s Japan’s biggest hope,” said Hideo Imamura, a spokesman for Shimizu, during a recent trip to the turbine ahead of its test run. “It’s an all-Japan effort, almost 100 percent Japan-made.”

    What sets the project apart from other offshore wind farms around the world, consortium officials say, is that its turbines, and even the substation and electrical transformer equipment, float on giant platforms anchored to the seabed. That technology greatly expands potential locations for offshore wind farms, which have been fixed into the seabed, limiting their location to shallow waters.

    For this reason, there have been few great sites for offshore wind farming in Japan, which lies on a continental shelf that quickly gives way to depths that make it unfeasible to build structures into the seabed. But floating wind farms could change the picture in a big way.

    Harnessing wind in deeper waters off Japan could generate as much as 1,570 gigawatts of electricity, roughly eight times the current capacity of all of Japan’s power companies combined, according to computer simulations based on historical weather data by researchers at Tokyo University, one of the project’s main participants.

    If you get the scientists dreaming big, they say the world’s wind power potential — the maximum power that can be extracted by a given number of wind turbines over increasingly larger areas — could yield up to 7.5 terawatts of electricity. According to a study by researchers at the University of Delaware and Stanford University concluded last year, that is more than enough to fuel half the world’s power demand in 2030. A gigawatt is equal to 1 billion watts, and a terawatt is 1 trillion watts.


    Maybe there is reason to hope after all !