A world energy tour with Google Maps

February 6, 2013

Let’s take a lighthearted tour around the world of energy, helped by Google Maps.

1) Cushing, Oklahoma , the delivery point for WTI crude oil.  This tidy town in Oklahoma, USA has accidentally become a centre of world energy.  It’s advantageous for energy companies to store crude oil here – indeed it’s easier to get oil here than take it out again.  Look how big the tanks are compared with the occasional vehicle around.

2) Straits of Melacca, off Singapore.  Most of the oil tankers from the Middle East heading to Asia have to go through this choke point.  And Singapore itself has a number of important refineries.  As a result, there are often dozens of supertankers moored off Singapore.

3) LNG trains, Qatar.  You can get gas from source to market via pipelines, or compressing it into liquefied natural gas.  The compression stage is called a LNG train.  As the largest exporter of LNG in the world, Qatar, a tiny desert nation off Saudi Arabia, very close to Iran, is key in world gas markets, and this is where much of that gas gets turned into LNG for export.

4) Sabine Pass LNG Terminal, Louisiana, USA.    Buy or sell?  This place tells a story.  The US expected to be importing LNG, and built this LNG import terminal.  Now, due to the huge surge in its own gas production, this terminal is expected to be converted to export gas, with exports due to start in 2016.

5) Dragon import LNG terminal, UK.  The UK has gone the other way, from an exporter of gas to a large importer, as its own fields in the North Sea decline.  This google maps picture shows a number of LNG carriers offloading simultaneously.  It takes around 14 hours for an LNG tanker to discharge.  The Dragon facility is half-owned by UK-based BG Group (formed out of the earlier ‘British Gas plc’) and half-owned by the Malaysian national oil exporter Petronas.  Petronas and other gas producers like to own import terminals as it gives them a guaranteed market for their gas.

6) Itaipu Dam, Brazil.  What are the world biggest power stations?  Nuclear?  Coal?  No, hydro – the world’s four largest power stations, by energy produced, are all hydro, with the second biggest being this dam in Brazil (the 3 Gorges Dam in China in the biggest).  It is a large factor in Brazil being able to boast that an amazing 77% of all its electricity is produced from green hydro-electricity.

7) Didcot Power station, UK.  The 6 huge cooling towers from this power station are visible from miles around.  The lower 3 are from a coal power station (Didcot A), and the upper three from a more recently constructed gas power station (Didcot B).  Didcot tells us a valuable environmental story, being repeated throughout Europe.  The coal power station has recently been closed, because it has met its maximum number of hours to burn coal under the EU ‘Large Combustion Plants Directive’, producing more emissions and CO2 than cleaner gas.