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

UK nuclear strategy faces meltdown as faults are found in identical French project

A “very serious” fault has been discovered in a French nuclear power station which is at the heart of David Cameron’s strategy to “keep the lights on” in Britain in the next decade.

The future of two nuclear reactors planned for Hinkley Point in Somerset has been thrown into doubt by the discovery of a potentially catastrophic mistake in the construction of an identical EPR power plant in Normandy.

“It is a serious fault, even a very serious fault, because it involves a crucial part of the nuclear reactor,” said Pierre-Franck Chevet, head of France’s nuclear safety inspectorate.

A second investigation has been ordered into the quality of the steel used to make a 50ft-high safety casing, or “pressure vessel”, which encloses the groundbreaking new reactor at Flamanville, near Cherbourg. If the steel proves to be defective, the completion of the prototype EPR plant – already behind schedule and nearly three times over budget – could be delayed for several years.

Mr Chevet also revealed that the same manufacturing techniques had been used in the steel for the identical safety casings destined for Hinkley Point, which “have already been manufactured”.

The fault could undermine the already fragile finances of the French state-owned nuclear construction company Areva, which is supposed to build two EPR reactors at Hinkley by 2023 and a third at Sizewell in Suffolk. It could also scare off the Chinese state investors who are supposed to cover part of the cost of the £14bn Hinkley project, intended to supply six per cent of Britain’s energy needs for six decades.

A final “investment” decision for Hinkley, several times delayed, is now expected in June. The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called a crisis meeting on 17 April to discuss the threat posed by the fault to France’s nuclear construction industry – the largest in the world.

Mark Hackett, a councillor in Manchester who chairs Nuclear Free Local Authorities, said: “This is a devastating blow to proponents of new-build nuclear power stations in the UK. It is likely to scare off the Chinese backers. If I was a betting man, I would now bet that Hinkley Point will never be built.”

Yannick Rousselet, of Greenpeace France, said the latest problems to beset the prototype power station in Normandy are “clearly the coup de grâce for the EPR idea”. He asked: “What foreign client would want to buy this reactor when France itself is not capable of completing its construction?”

Apart from Britain, the United States and China are in the process of buying versions of the new generation of European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) – supposedly safer and more efficient – from France. Both Areva and Eléctricité de France (EDF), the French energy giant which will own and operate Hinkley Point, have refused to comment in detail.

Read more: The Independent 

Hinkley Point C Project Update

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 carried out extensive work with its contract partners to make the Hinkley Point C project ready for a final investment decision. The company has invested significantly in a series of preparatory activities including site preparations (earthworks, drainage works and culvert construction, concrete production facilities and welfare facilities) and roadworks.

These works are now nearing completion. EDF Energy will complete roadworks currently in progress at Taunton Rd/Broadway in Bridgwater, the Washford Cross roundabout in West Somerset and the Cannington bypass. The next phase of work on site and in the associated developments will require a substantial increase in spending levels, and will begin as soon as the final investment decision has been made.

In the meantime work to ensure the project’s readiness will continue, including project planning, engineering design and commercial supply chain activities.

Source: Nuclear Matters

Sellafield Ltd Invests in National Nuclear College

Sellafield Ltd is to support a new world-class training facility, the National College for Nuclear (NCfN), to make Cumbria the UK’s centre for nuclear excellence.

The company, along with EDF Energy, is set to invest in the Government’s new National College for Nuclear, allowing staff and subject matter experts to combine their enthusiasm and expertise to make learning in the college relevant and realistic.
As part of Sellafield Ltd’s commitment to investing in the skills and development of the next generation of nuclear workers, representatives from the company will deliver specialist vocational training to the West Cumbrian branch of the college to help meet the present and future skills needs of the UK’s nuclear industry.

Funding for two nuclear hubs in West Cumbria and Somerset will come from a grant committed by the Government.
Business Minister Matthew Hancock said: “It’s expected the nuclear industry will need 30,000 new employees over the next decade – and the Nuclear College will equip young people with the skills they need.

“Creating jobs and opportunities for local people is front and centre of our long term economic plan to secure a brighter future for Britain.”

Sellafield Ltd Human Resources Director, Colin Reed, is the NCfN shadow board Chair. He said: “Sellafield Ltd is delighted to be part of the National College for Nuclear. The NDA and Sellafield Ltd are making substantial investments to grow the economy and develop West Cumbria as a global centre of nuclear excellence.

“The college will provide a source of qualification and curriculum development to feed the skills pipelines for the nuclear sector and its supply chain.”
Sellafield Ltd will work with local educational providers such as Lakes College and the University of Cumbria to develop the college’s qualifications and curriculum.

Colin said: “The focus will be on higher level vocational skills development and education in core engineering disciplines that will be most relevant for the nuclear industry and its supply chain.”
One of Sellafield Ltd’s most important investments is in the skills and development of the next generation of nuclear professionals; the company is dedicated to supporting local facilities such as the NCfN which provide education and training opportunities that will help meet the future skills requirement of the nuclear sector.

Dave Swindle, Chairman of Nuclear Management Partners (NMP): “This is fantastic news. Skills and training are major factors in realising West Cumbria’s potential to be the UK’s centre for nuclear excellence.
“The college will be a significant addition to the existing training facilities, brought about by investment from organisations like NMP, Sellafield Ltd and the NDA, to develop the next generation of nuclear experts.”

Source: Nuclear Matters