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Machine Learning May Be Key to the Future of Nuclear Energy: Texas A&M

July 15, 2024 — As in many areas of modern life, big data has become a big deal in nuclear engineering. A Texas A&M nuclear engineering professor will investigate artificial intelligence’s ability to harness data to improve the next generation of nuclear reactors.

Yang Liu, an assistant professor in the Texas A&M Department of Nuclear Engineering, is one of four researchers chosen for this year’s Distinguished Early Career Award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program. This annual award provides funding for outstanding university faculty early in their careers who will help advance nuclear energy research.

Liu’s research focuses on the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in designing and controlling nuclear reactors. At Texas A&M, he established the Scientific Machine Learning for Advanced Reactor Technologies (SMART) laboratory, where he and his students focus on using ML to enhance simulations, engineering decisions, and the operation of nuclear systems.

During his doctoral studies at North Carolina…

Air Emissions Decline in Texas

By Alex Mills

July 13, 2024 — The debate over climate change and the possible causes and solutions have included many topics including methane emissions from crude oil and natural gas. The discussion has been ongoing for quite some time.

Recently an official from the oil and gas regulatory agency in Texas pointed out that the industry in Texas, along with the oversight of the agency, has been able to significantly decrease emissions.

The official is Wayne Christian, who was first elected to the Texas Railroad Commission in 2016, pointed out the success achieved.

“We all want clean air and water,” Christian began. “We all want to be good stewards of our land and natural resources. And over the last 50…

June State Sales Tax Revenue Flat But Oil Production Taxes Up 8%: Comptroller

July 1, 2024 — The Texas comptroller’s office says oil production tax income during June was up eight percent when compared to a year ago.

The state took in $493 million last month, similar to estimates made by the US Energy Information Administration, which three weeks ago called for an 8% increase in Permian Basin oil production in 2024.

Natural gas production tax income at $171 million was down 7 percent in June 2024 compared to June 2023, according to Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar.

Motor fuel taxes took in $340 million, up…

Judge Blocks Federal Ban On New LNG Export App Approvals

July 1, 2024 — A federal judge on Monday blocked the Biden administration’s ban on approving LNG export applications, a win for a coalition of 16 states, including Texas.

The effects of Monday afternoon’s injunction are likely to be minimal in the short term, with the Department of Energy (DOE) continuing to study whether new export permit applications are in the public interest. The pause has no effect on current imports.

The preliminary injunction issued by US District Judge James D. Cain Jr. in Louisiana was in response to a suit (Louisiana v. Biden, 24-cv-406, US District Court, Western District of Louisiana (Lake Charles)) filed by the states in March claiming the DOE, under direction from the Biden administration, doesn’t have the authority to broadly cancel future permits.

See more at Politico by clicking here


Texas and Virginia: Commercial Electricity Demand Grew Fastest in States with Rapid Computing Facility Growth, EIA Says

U.S. states change in commercial sector electricity consumption (2019-2023)

Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electricity Data Browser

Consumption of electricity in the U.S. commercial sector has recovered from pandemic levels, with annual U.S. sales of electricity to commercial customers in 2023 totaling 14 billion kilowatthours (BkWh), or 1%, more than in 2019.

However, the growth in commercial demand for electricity is concentrated in a handful of states experiencing rapid development of large-scale computing facilities such as data centers.

Electricity demand has grown the most in Virginia, which added 14 BkWh, and Texas, which added 13 BkWh.

Based on expectation that regional electricity demand will grow, forecasts have been revised upward for commercial electricity demand through 2025, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) June Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO).

About this EIA report:

“Commercial electricity demand in the 10 states with the…

Survey Reveals Modest Growth in Oil Industry

By Alex Mills

Crude oil and natural gas prices edged upward during the second quarter of 2024, which added to a modest increase in activity.

Oil prices hovered around $80 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and natural gas was $2.70.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas released its survey of oil and gas executives this week that indicated growth in industry activity.

“The business activity index, the survey’s broadest measure of the conditions energy firms in the Eleventh District face (which includes Texas), increased from 2.0 in the first quarter to 12.5 in the second quarter,” the Dallas Fed said.

The oil production index advanced from -4.1in the first quarter to 1.1 in the second quarter. The near-zero reading suggests production was essentially unchanged. Meanwhile, the…


Texas Energy Report NewsClips Friday July 5, 2024 Asterisk (*) denotes news stories that may be inaccessible because portions are behind a paywall   Top Stories   CNBC – July 5, 2024 Energy …

Researchers Working On AI That Could Help Prevent Power Outages: University of Buffalo

June 27, 2024 — University at Buffalo researchers have developed an artificial intelligence model designed to help electrical grids prevent power outages by automatically rerouting electricity in milliseconds.

The UB researchers, who collaborated with engineers at the University of Texas at Dallas, demonstrated the automated system in a research article published online June 4 in Nature Communications.

The approach is an early example of “self-healing grid” technology, which uses AI to detect and repair problems such as outages autonomously and without human intervention when issues occur, such as storm-damaged power lines.

While further research is needed before the system can be implemented and scaled to real-world power grids, it is nonetheless an exciting development for the nation’s beleaguered power grid, researchers say.

“Power grids across the world are being challenged by the growing number of extreme weather events, the likelihood of cyberattacks, and projected increases in demand,” says…

Deepwater Horizon Spill Resulted in More Biodiversity Loss Than Previously Thought: UTA Study

June 25, 2024 — A new peer-reviewed study from researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington; the University of Nevada, Reno; Mokwon University in Daejeon, Korea; and Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi shows the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill of 2010 affected wildlife and their habitat much more than previously understood.

“Overall, we found the area of deep-sea floor affected by the DWH spill was significantly larger than previously thought,” said Masoud Rostami, an author of the study and assistant professor of instruction in UTA’s Division of Data Science.

UTA said the work was supported by BP, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Deepwater Horizon National Resource Damage Assessment.

In recent decades, deep-water ecosystems in lakes, oceans, and seas around the world have faced pressures from offshore oil and gas production, including frequent contamination from oil and other pollutants. The DWH oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that started on April 20, 2010, was the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history, releasing nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil and hydrocarbon gases over 87 days, with 3.2 million barrels of oil remaining in the water after cleanup efforts.

This spill greatly exceeded the amount of natural discharge of oil that seeps in the Gulf each year, and up to 35% of the pollutants were trapped below…

Worldwide LNG Market to Go Into Oversupply In 2 Years: Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis

June 24, 2024 — Lackluster demand growth and a massive wave of new export capacity are poised to send global liquefied natural gas (LNG) markets into oversupply within two years. These two trends are developing even faster than anticipated.

Declining Russian gas supplies to Europe, driven by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, caused a spike in European LNG imports that sent global prices to record highs. But despite modest new LNG export capacity additions in the last two years, prices have retreated from 2022 levels, largely due to falling demand from developed economies. (All prices in this report are in U.S. dollars [USD] unless otherwise specified.)

In Japan, South Korea and Europe—which account for more than half of the world’s LNG demand—combined imports fell in 2023 and will likely continue falling.

  • In Japan, formerly the world’s largest LNG importer, demand fell 8% in 2023. Since 2018, Japan’s annual LNG imports have fallen 20%. A planned increase in nuclear and renewables  generation—spurred by climate and energy policies, along with years of high LNG prices—will likely send demand even lower.
  • In South Korea, historically the largest buyer of U.S. LNG, imports fell almost 5% last year. Long-term climate and energy plans in South Korea envision LNG imports falling 20% through the mid-2030s, as solar, wind and nuclear plants come online.
  • Europe’s LNG imports stagnated in 2023, defying expectations of rising imports to replace lost Russian gas supplies. Europe’s overall gas consumption fell 20% in the past two years due to high prices, energy security mandates and climate policies. IEEFA expects Europe’s LNG demand to peak by 2025 and decline through 2030.

In emerging Asian markets, structural LNG demand growth faces a complex web of economic, political, fiscal, financial and logistical challenges. The global LNG crisis of the last several years heightened those challenges, spurring some Asian nations to reduce the role of LNG in their development plans and accelerate the development of alternative energy sources.

  • In Southeast Asia, protracted timelines for new LNG infrastructure projects, plus the  favorable economics of alternative energy sources, are likely to constrain LNG demand  growth, particularly in Vietnam and the Philippines.
  • In South Asia, LNG imports fell by 16% in 2022 but rebounded in 2023 as global spot prices fell. But two years of high prices and unreliable supplies triggered fiscal challenges and fuel switching. Pakistan, for example, announced last year that it would stop building new LNG fired power plants. Price declines will likely boost the region’s imports, but fiscal issues and competition from other power sources point to uneven growth in demand.
  • In China, imports will likely increase as prices fall, but domestic gas production, pipeline gas imports, and policies favoring domestic energy industries could constrain structural demand growth and leave Chinese LNG buyers with a surplus of contracted volumes.

Even as the LNG crisis undermined global demand growth, high prices spurred an unprecedented flood of new supply, with LNG developers more than doubling the previously planned buildout of export capacity. IEEFA anticipates that nameplate LNG liquefaction capacity from projects that have already begun construction, or that are approved by financially capable backers, could add 193 million metric tons per year (MTPA) of new supply capacity from 2024 through 2028—a 40% increase in five years. (Note: One million metric tons of LNG is the equivalent of 1.36 billion cubic meters of gas.)

By the end of 2028, the world’s total nameplate liquefaction capacity could reach 666.5 MTPA. For perspective, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects total LNG trade in 2050 to reach 482 MTPA under its stated…

Texas A&M Working With AI and Large Language Models to Help Electrical and Power Engineers

June 20, 2024 — What if Large Language Models (LLMs) could be used to help electrical and power engineers reduce the impact of wildfires or recognize potential job hazards?

A group of researchers led by Dr. Le Xie, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University and associate director of energy digitization at the Texas A&M Energy Institute, are exploring the boundaries of LLMs like ChatGPT and how they can help power engineers perform daily tasks and overcome challenges in control centers and the field.

Power engineers are responsible for the reliable operation and maintenance of power generation, distribution, and transmission systems. They also ensure electricity is safely and efficiently distributed to industries, homes and businesses.

The team’s research is detailed in a paper titled “Exploring the Capabilities and Limitations of Large Language Models in the Electric Energy Sector,” which was published in Joule.

With the goal of improving the productivity of power engineers, Xie and fellow researchers set out to use ChatGPT to perform seven domain-specific power engineering tasks within the electric energy sector: correlation analysis, wildfire risk recognition, equipment damage detection, on-site hazard recognition, document analysis, load and price forecasting, and power flow-related tasks, including ways in which LLMs can be abused for triggering blackouts in power systems.

“There is a wide range of potential applications that LLMs could improve the productivity of the electric power industry,” said Xie. “However, we also found many challenges and limitations, which will keep the research going. Through this collaborative academia-industry research, we hope to help the electricity industry in accelerating the adoption of advanced AI tools such as LLMs.”

When researchers first asked ChatGPT to perform the seven tasks, it didn’t generate the output they were looking for, often answering questions incorrectly. The team tried to understand where the LLM-generated responses were falling short and provided counterexamples and prompts based on…

Is Offshore Wind Dead In the Water?

June 20, 2024 — In the early 2000s, a long-time Louisiana engineer and entrepreneur thought it would be natural for the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico to expand into offshore wind. The industry could use the same workforce, the same shipyards and possibly even the same platforms to generate renewable power.

With designs, data and offshore leases from Texas, Herman Schellstede and his team planned to build a 62-turbine wind farm off Galveston’s coast— one of the first such proposals in the United States and the first in the Gulf of Mexico.

The team approached banks and even Koch Industries seeking financing for the $300 million wind farm, he said. But financing nascent offshore wind was apparently too risky a proposition in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. The wind farm was eventually scuttled.

“We were still too early,” said Schellstede, the Louisiana oil and gas entrepreneur who is still designing offshore wind turbines for projects in the gulf.

Now, 33 years after the first offshore wind farm was built in waters off Denmark, it’s still unclear if the time is right — or will ever be right — for the United States. In those years, only four wind farms generating 242 megawatts of power have been built off the U.S. coast; the largest just went into service in 2024.

Last year, inflation, supply chain problems and other macroeconomic issues led to the cancellation or renegotiation of about half of all proposed offshore wind projects. And while the Biden Administration is moving as quickly as possible to approve new lease sales and projects — expanding the amount of power generated by 10-fold — former President Donald Trump has promised to end offshore wind if elected.

The industry and advocates, however, do not seem daunted. Studies show offshore wind could meet 5% of the nation’s energy needs by 2035, and up to 25% by 2050.

“We’re all in this room today, not because we just see offshore wind as a massive opportunity — which it is to build you clean energy — but also we see the necessity of offshore wind,” said Amanda Lefton, vice president of offshore development for the renewable energy company RWE.

Lefton, speaking at an April conference of the offshore wind industry in New Orleans, said the technology is needed to meet national and state decarbonization goals. RWE is developing projects off the East Coast and California and working to create a supply chain for offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico with…

Opinions Differ on Future Oil Supplies and Demand

By Alex Mills

June 13, 2024 — Crude oil is an important commodity that is traded worldwide. Its price varies from country to country and from state to state daily.

Today, June 13, crude oil opened on the international exchange for Brent at $82 per barrel. Crude oil opened at $78 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange for 30-day delivery. Oil also is bought at thousands of leases around the U.S. somewhat less than the NYMEX price depending on quality and availability.

The future availability, or supply, of oil is important. That’s why governments have agencies that study economic conditions in an effort to predict the amount of oil that will be produced and consumed next month, next year, or maybe 10 years in the future.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) was created by the U.S. Congress some 50 years ago to track energy production and consumption, and it had developed a reputation of providing accurate data regarding historical production and consumption. However, predicting the future is somewhat more difficult, but it is required to do so.

This week EIA forecast U.S. crude oil production grows by 2% from 2023 to an annual average of 13.2 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2024 and by another 4% in 2025 to 13.7 million b/d. “Increasing production is led by the Permian region, which…

OPEC+ Sets Production Quotas

By Alex Mills

This week had a variety of energy news including OPEC+ decides to maintain current oil production level, Saudi Aramco sells $12 billion in stock, and ConocoPhillips and Marathon (two long-standing U.S. oil companies) agreed to a merger.

Saudi Arabia, the largest producer, worked to reach an agreement that delays roughly 2 million barrels per day of cuts, which were set to expire at the end of June. The curbs will continue in full in the third quarter then be gradually phased out over the following 12 months.

United Arab Emirates has pushed to increase in its production quotas for several years, and it was granted a 300,000 barrel per day increase at the meeting.

Iraq, Kazakhstan and Russia also wanted to increase production, but finally agreed to maintain current levels.

*  * *

Saudi Aramco’s $12 billion share sale sold out shortly after the deal opened on June 1.

The government had demand for all shares on offer in a few hours after books opened. Books were covered within the price range of 26.70 riyals to 29 riyals.

The extent of foreign participation will be closely watched as an indicator of interest in Saudi assets. During Aramco’s 2019 initial public offering, overseas investors had largely balked at valuation expectations and left the government reliant on local buyers. The $29.4 billion listing drew orders worth $106 billion, and about 23% of shares were allocated to foreign buyers.

A top selling point of the latest offer is the chance to reap one of the world’s biggest dividends. Investors would cash in on a $124 billion annual payout that Bloomberg Intelligence estimates will give the company a dividend yield of…

Despite Rancor, OPEC+ Keeps Cuts

June 2, 2024 — Despite some rancor among members, OPEC+ is extending production cuts through the US presidential election and beyond.

Insiders spoke of disagreements among representatives resulting in scheduled virtual meetings turning to in-person gatherings in Riyadh.

OPEC+ has agreed to keep the curbs through 2025, continuing “longstanding official reductions of 3.66 million barrels a day.”

“Eight top producers in the group also agreed to continue voluntary cuts separately into 2025,” with voluntary cuts (about 2.2 million BPD) easing next…

Texas A&M University System To Bring Nuclear Reactors To Texas A&M-RELLIS

May 30, 2024 — Leaders at The Texas A&M University System announced plans Wednesday to bring the latest nuclear reactors to Texas A&M-RELLIS.

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said the System seeks to provide a platform for companies to test the latest reactors and technologies. It also will address the pressing need for increased power supply.

“As Texas continues to grow, it is critical that we add more reliable, dispatchable power for all Texans,” said Gov. Greg Abbott.

“Texas A&M’s announcement to bring advanced nuclear technologies to its RELLIS campus is essential for Texas to expand our nuclear power capabilities that will help bolster our electric grid.

“Nuclear energy will continue to play an integral role in Texas so we can continue to meet the energy needs of our great state for generations to come.”

The next generation of nuclear reactors, with a potential power capacity ranging from 10 MW to 1 GW, have the potential to revolutionize power generation and meet the vast energy requirements of Texas.

The new generation of reactors also could provide vital power sources for artificial intelligence companies, Sharp said.

“We at the Texas A&M University System understand …

Utility Stocks Increase from Dismal 2023

By Alex Mills

The demand for energy continues to rise across the United States, especially in Texas, creating new opportunities for energy producers and investors.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts energy consumption will increase as much as 15% through 2050 and electricity plays an increasingly large role.

Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) President and CEO Pablo Vegas unveiled a “New Era of Planning” initiative recently predicting tremendous electric demand growth in the next 5-7 years. In addition to utilizing the tools from the last two Texas legislative sessions, ERCOT is focused on changing transmission planning processes to adapt to the changing grid and exploring new opportunities to stay ahead of the growth curve.

Utility stocks, which declined 13% in 2023, have become a leading sector by investors since January.

“The climb in shares of power companies is in part a rebound from a bleak 2023,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “But their move upward also reflects the growing belief that the U.S. economy can power through higher interest rates and turn the hype around artificial intelligence into reality.”

“Data in recent weeks has shown job growth cooling and inflation resuming its gradual slowdown without any alarming deterioration in economic…

Natural Gas Set Records During 2024 Winter


By Alex Mills

Implementation of additional weatherization of natural gas resources in Texas following the record winter storm in 2021 apparently paid dividends in January of this year as electric generation by natural gas set a new record, according the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Natural gas is the largest source of electricity generation in Texas and the U.S.

“The electric power grid managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) recorded an all-time high for winter natural gas-fired electricity generation for an hour in January, according to our Hourly Electric Grid Monitor, when a three-day cold snap increased electricity demand,” EIA stated.

“Hourly natural gas-fired electricity generation increased to 49.4 gigawatts (GW) for the hour starting at 7:00 p.m. central time on January 16, 2024, 1% more than the previous winter record of 48.8 GW set on December 23, 2022, and within 4% of the summer hourly high of 51.2 GW set between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on August 25, 2023.”

EIA said electricity demand typically peaks in Texas in the summer during heat waves and in the winter during cold snaps. During peaks in electricity demand, grid operators must have dispatchable electricity generation sources available.

“On a daily basis, natural gas-fired…