EDF awards contract for UK nuclear stations

Heysham 1 nuclear power station. Image: EDF Energy
Image: EDF Energy, Heysham 1 nuclear power station.

EDF Energy has awarded a contract for its nuclear power stations in the UK.

Engineering firm Jacobs will provide project management resources to EDF’s eight nuclear power stations and two technical centres in the UK.

Company officials did not disclose the contract value but noted it is for five years with optional two-year extensions.

The eight power stations have a combined capacity of almost 8.8 million KW.

Jacobs Group Vice President Bob Duff said: “We are delighted to continue supporting EDF Energy on this major programme of nuclear power investment in the UK.

“We look forward to contributing significant expertise, local knowledge and global resource to help deliver safe, robust solutions across these important assets.”

Source: Energy Live News

What does the election result mean for oil and gas?

Election defeat for Energy Secretary Ed Davey means there is to be yet another whirl of the revolving-door at the ministry looking after oil and gas affairs.

The Kingston and Surbiton MP was one of the casualties of a disastrous night for the Liberal Democrats, and his departure from office leaves a vacancy in a key role affecting the UK Government’s relations with the offshore sector.

Industry chiefs have had to get used to sudden and frequent changes at the energy department over the years, with some of the ministers having the briefest of stays before moving on to other jobs.

In some cases they have been criticised for not visiting Aberdeen enough, let alone show much enthusiasm for setting foot on an oil rig.

Mr Davey, previously postal affairs minister and chief of staff to former party leader Sir Menzies Campbell, was appointed to the high-profile role of energy secretary in February 2012.

His predecessor, Chris Huhne, had quit after being charged with perverting the course of justice. Mr Huhne was later jailed for making his ex-wife take his speeding points.

The last government had four different ministers of state for energy, with Matthew Hancock having held the role since a cabinet reshuffle in July 2014.

Mr Hancock, Conservative MP for West Suffolk, became the 15th energy minister in 17 years despite a previous pledge from the Tory leader to end the ministerial merry-go-round at the department.

The oil and gas industry is now wondering who will be next on the merry-go-round of ministers and secretaries of state after Mr Davey.

Former energy minister Brian Wilson said: “This time, they know that both posts will be held by Tories but the question of how long they will be in their jobs will be as uncertain as ever.

Unless, that is, recent events have finally hammered home the point in Whitehall that energy really matters and it is not good enough to have Ministers coming and going before they have had any chance to learn about the sector far less provide it with any political leadership. Being a former Energy Minister is not a very exclusive club – there have been 14 in the past 17 years.

The challenges facing the North Sea require the ongoing attention of an experienced Minister who can punch his or her weight in Whitehall and, in particular, with the Treasury. There are many other aspects of the energy portfolio which require

Ministers who know what it is all about. It is a complex brief and it is not going to get any easier or less vital to the economy as a whole.

it is time for Government – which really means the Prime Minister – to give it the status it deserves and the continuity of attention which has been sadly lacking for so long.

Source: Press and Journal

UK collaboration to promote nuclear careers

Three nuclear skills-related organizations – the Nuclear Institute (NI), National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN) and the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) – have teamed up to promote careers in the UK’s nuclear energy industry.

NI, NSAN and IChemE agreement - April 2015 - 460 (Anna Saverimuttu)
The signing of the agreement by NSAN CEO Jean Llewellyn, IChemE CEO David Brown and NI CEO John Warden (Image: Anna Saverimuttu)

The agreement, signed yesterday, will “facilitate closer alignment” between the three partners in their efforts to encourage people to choose careers in the nuclear industry.

In a joint statement, they said there is a “pressing need to raise awareness of the wide range of career opportunities across the nuclear fuel cycle from apprentices to postgraduate level.”

According to the Nuclear Energy Skills Alliance – a grouping of government and nuclear skills bodies – the UK’s nuclear industry workforce will grow from the current 70,000 to 98,000 by 2021. It forecasts that an extra 7500 people per year are required in the supply chain to meet current plans. Meanwhile, the manufacturing workforce required is expected to almost double, from 4000 in 2014 to 8500.

The collaboration between the NI, NSAN and IChemE has been welcomed by industry. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority CEO John Clarke said, “The highest standards of nuclear professionalism are required to ensure a safe and secure nuclear future – new build, existing operations, research and development, and decommissioning – for the UK.”
NSAN chief executive Jean Llewellyn said, “The UK nuclear industry is going through a period of very significant growth and this will require a step change in the way recruitment and nuclear professionalism, at all levels, is addressed. By working collaboratively with IChemE and the NI we will be able to make a significant impact on this challenge opening up new entry routes into the sector and providing well-recognized and respected routes to professional recognition and development.”
The partners’ first work program will be published later this year.

Source: World Nuclear News

US shale gas to safeguard North East jobs on Teesside

Saudi Arabian petrochemicals company to import cheaper supplies of US shale gas for Teesside plants

Grangemouth operator Ineos already plans to bring in US shale gas

The owner of Britain’s largest petrochemicals plant in Teeside plans to import shale gas from the US for the first time in a move that could help safeguard 700 jobs in the North East.

Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) said that it has reached a preliminary agreement with a shale gas supplier in the US to supply feedstock for its facilities at Wilton and the North Tees for the next 10 years.

Petrochemicals production in the UK has been under pressure for a number of years due to dwindling supplies of gas feedstock and naphtha. Scottish plant operator Ineos has already secured supplies of US shale gas for its facility at Grangemouth, which was nearly shutdown two years ago.

Cheap shale gas supplies have helped revitalise petrochemicals industries in the US and create thousands of jobs especially in previously depressed areas along the Ohio River. It is hoped that the arrival of US shale gas in the UK and the development of local supplies could help safeguard the industry in Britain.

Trillions of cubic feet of shale gas are thought to commercially reachable across the North of England and Scotland, however tapping this recourse has so far proved to be controversial with environmental lobby groups staunchly opposed to fracking.

Sabic, the world’s largest petrochemicals company, is investing up to $70bn (£43bn) through to 2020 on huge industrial petrochemical cities visible from space built on land around Jubail on the Persian Gulf coast and Yanbu near the Red Sea.

The company’s acting chief executive Yousef Abdullah al-Benyan told Reuters that the US shale gas deal for Teeside would also be renewable beyond 2025.

Source: The Telegraph

UK nuclear industry confident of future but facing issues

Finance and political will remain a problem for nuclear power, but there are opportunities in the supply chain

Undated handout artists impression issued by EDF of the how the new Hinkley Point C station will look
Undated handout artists impression issued by EDF of the how the new Hinkley Point C station will look

Despite 400 construction jobs losses at the UK’s first new nuclear build for 20 years its supporters remain confident this is the dawning of a new era for the industry in the UK. Peter McCusker reports.

There still remain a number of hurdles to overcome before the final go-ahead for construction of the UK’s first new nuclear plant since Sizewell B in Suffolk in 1995.

French state-owned business EDF Energy hoped to have signed off on the deal to build two new reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset by late last year.

But progress on the £24bn project has stalled, with EDF still to make a final investment decision – and these delays led to the redundancy of 400 of the site’s 600 construction staff earlier this month.

Difficulties over assembling the financial package and on-going concerns over the robustness of the technology lie at the heart of the delays.

However EDF, the Government and the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) remain confident the UK is at the dawning of a new nuclear era.

A spokesman for EDF told Journal Energy: “EDF Energy and the UK Government have made good progress on the work to finalise the agreements which will enable a final investment decision in the coming months for the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. There has also been continuing positive progress with future investment partners in the project.”

EDF Energy has already spent hundreds of millions of pounds on extensive preparatory work and with this nearing completion 400 of the 600 on-site construction staff are being laid off.

Newcastle-born Keith Parker, chief executive of the NIA, told last month’s NOF Energy annual conference in Gateshead that will be some major opportunities in the nuclear industry for the North East supply chain in the coming years (see panel).

Speaking to Journal Energy this week he said: “A final investment decision is expected by the autumn. We understand discussions between the Government, EDF and its Chinese finance partners are going well.

Read more: The Journal

UK tells Russian billionaire Fridman to sell North Sea assets

Mikhail Fridman

Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman must sell his North Sea gas fields within six months, the UK has ordered.

His LetterOne Group acquired the assets as part of a €5.1bn acquisition of the oil and gas arm of Germany’s RWE.

UK energy secretary Ed Davey fears production from the gas fields could shut if further sanctions are imposed on Russia over Ukraine.

Mr Fridman has previously threatened legal action to stop an enforced sale.

In a statement on Monday, the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change said it would revoke the North Sea licences unless there was a “change of control” within three months.

However, Mr Davey added that this could be extended to six months.

“This decision was taken after a thorough review of all relevant information as well as obtaining cross-Government views,” the statement said.

The gas fields bought by Mr Fridman account for about 3%-5% of UK supplies, sizeable enough for the UK to consider them of strategic importance.

The billionaire, ranked by Forbes as the world’s 68th richest person, is one of the energy sector’s most influential dealmakers.

His oil and gas interests stretch from Algeria to Poland, Libya to Norway.

But with oil and gas prices depressed, and concern that the North Sea sector needs considerable investment, it is unlikely that there will be a long queue of potential buyers for the assets.

The billionaire had previously considered putting the North Sea fields into a separate legal entity that would shield them from the impact of further sanctions.

A spokesman for Mr Fridman’s LetterOne declined to comment.

Source: BBC News

Nuclear Power: UK ‘must learn’ from French reactor concerns

The nuclear reactor building under construction at Flamanville in Normandy

Lessons should be learned from problems with a French reactor that is very similar to one planned in the UK, says Britain’s nuclear safety regulator.

French regulators have been informed of “manufacturing anomalies” in components “particularly important for safety” at Flamanville 3 power plant, in Normandy.

The reactor is similar to one planned for Hinkley Point, in Somerset.

EDF Energy – involved in both projects – said a new series of tests was under way and it was working with regulators.

An investigation revealed potential weaknesses in the steel used to make a safety casing around the reactor at Flamanville, near Cherbourg.

Areva, which is building Flamanville 3 for EDF, says it is the first plant in the “new French reactor fleet”, and it includes Areva’s new EPR reactor.

The UK Office for Nuclear Regulation said it was aware of the French Nuclear Safety Authority’s concerns about the reactor and would continue to liaise with French authorities.

“The UK currently have no EPR reactors but expects that learning from Flamanville 3 will be taken into account in the manufacture of components intended for the planned new reactor at Hinkley Point C,” it said.

These safety issues in France could lead to even further delays in the construction and completion of the proposed £24.5bn Hinkley Point nuclear power plant.

It has already been delayed by months as the government negotiated a contract for EDF to supply electricity at a guaranteed price for 35 years.

The final decision on the project is expected in the coming months but is also delayed by Britain not having a fully functioning government – something which could be exacerbated if talks on forming a government drag on after the election.

These safety concerns in France are not expected to set the Hinkley Point project back too much but they may spook the Chinese companies set to invest in the project.

In a joint statement, Areva and EDF said new tests were under way on the “reactor vessel head and bottom”.

It said this followed initial tests which had shown “greater than average carbon content” – something French regulators said caused “lower than expected mechanical toughness” in the steel.

EDF and Areva added: “Teams are working to perform the additional tests as soon as possible, following approval by the French Nuclear Safety Authority on the test conditions, and to provide the safety authority with all the necessary information to demonstrate the safety and quality of the corresponding equipment.”

The components in question have not yet been fitted at Hinkley, but it would cost money and could delay the project if they had to be entirely re-made.

Source: BBC News