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London, UK
Interests: business development, accountancy, engineering, history and music. i love swimming and hill walking (if only i could find more time) !!
Recent Activity
Steve. Many thanks for your kind words about my writings. Unfortunately I have not had time these last few months to complete some new material for the blog. There are however quite a few words in progress. I think getting a handle on the measurement of emissions is one of the more useful tasks that those concerned about the topic of climate change should be tackling in anticipation of a day (now further off then ever) when some meaningful agreement to cap emissions might be reached - see for example, a comment about the need to measure emissions in real time that I drafted around the time of the Copenhagen conference on climate change. I went to have a look at the journal you referred to, but unfortunately it will only be available by subscription. It also seems articles may be pitched at a select bunch of academics . I only hope you can find a way to make the effort more educational and accessible to the average reader!! Regards, Robin
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I have taken the opportunity to update the graph showing the price of EU emission allowances at the start of this blog article. Not much has changed this last year other than a small rally during the Summer of 2010. It will be interesting to see what impact a run-down to the end of Phase 2 of the EU's scheme may have. This is scheduled for the end of 2012 with no carry over of allowances into Phase 3.
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Walking through a number of town centres in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year sales I was struck by how many people were out shopping. Reasons vary, but I do feel that a good part of what makes... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2011 at A Response to Climate Change
Could someone in your software support department please check the coding of the script in the frame that we use to log on to our blogs? I have noticed that this section of your home page has not rendered properly these last 2 weeks and after logging on at the office using IE8 and a Sonic firewall, I get the following error message: Yahoo is undefined iframe Line: 19 Undefined is null or not an object jquery.newsticker.js Code 0 URI: I get more undefined Yahoo errors when I load and attempt to work on blog pages before publication. The fact that most of your home page renders without problem, makes me think that the problem isn't simply about the firewall we use in our office. But even if it is, it is important that you sort out the coding because we cannot expect casual readers to contact Typepad when they have difficulty reading one of our web pages. Thanks Robin
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Thanks for the comment - I must say I had not read much about the Mexico Loop Current, nor was I aware that it might have stopped as a consequence of this summer's Deepwater Horizon incident (which I have written about in an earlier post). I do not claim the illustration of the Ocean Circulation System to be rigorously accurate, rather it was prepared to show the basic direction of streams such as the Gulf and regions of the World such as the North Atlantic where scientists have identified major exchanges of heat with the atmosphere. The Gulf Stream has been responsible for mild winters in recent years, but this could all be changing if as has been suggested, Arctic melt waters are affecting thermo-haline gradients and circulatory currents. Although I believe people need to be a lot more responsive to the consequences of climate change, I have started leaning towards the argument that it is the Jet Stream, rather than weakening of the Gulf Stream which is responsible for Europe's recent weather - see this interesting web-cast by Matt Taylor of the BBC's weather team explaining why the Jet Stream has delivered an early taste of winter (image reproduced without permission): Of course, further research may demonstrate that behaviour of the Jet Stream is integrally linked to performance of the Gulf Stream. Whatever the reason, the concern remains how society will respond to cold winters (or for that matter, hot summers) 15-20 years hence when it is more than likely supplies of fuel will be a lot harder to come by.
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This seems to have been another one of those years where you could attribute a number extreme weather events to the forces of nature unleashed by climate change. We have seen flash floods in the UK, extreme floods in Pakistan,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2010 at A Response to Climate Change
I have been remiss in not responding more promptly to Milan's question! On reflection, I think the most important thing about cumulative emissions is that they help us understand the complexity of the task nations face in attempting to reach any agreement on reducing emissions. In all likelihood these will be sunk by demands from the developing nations for equitable quotas and the inability of developed nations to make the large cuts needed because their electorates will never countenance a voluntary reduction in life styles. It also seems likely that proposals to spread any reduction in emissions over a longer period of time will not break this impasse. // On a slightly different note, I have recently come across a paper published in the Proceedings of the US's National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that reviews the factors (source and sinks) which its authors believe contribute to the ongoing rise in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide. This material is summarised in graphical format below and encompasses: Sources: a) combustion of fossil fuels (grey) b) manufacture of cement (dark grey) and c) deforestation - temperate zones (dark brown) and tropical regions (light brown) Sinks: a) the atmosphere (yellow) b) land (green) and c) the oceans (blue) Reproduced from a presentation on Carbon Budgets for 2008 by the Global Carbon Project (GCP) Results conclude that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are rising because of increased economic activity, greater carbon intensity of the processes used and reduced take up of carbon dioxide by natural sinks. I wonder if this material would help to address the comments raised by Tim Curtin in earlier correspondence. It is also interesting to see how annual land fluxes have varied so much since the 1950's.
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Prompted by a letter in October's edition of The Chemical Engineer (TCE) expressing doubts as to whether emissions of carbon dioxide were responsible for climate change, I found myself writing to the editor of the magazine for a second time... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2010 at A Response to Climate Change
Recent correspondence about confidence in the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) detracts from the more substantive issue of whether it is time to develop an accounting methodology capable of quantifying the impact emissions of carbon dioxide... Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2010 at A Response to Climate Change
Although some 25,000 organisations across Europe currently report their Scope 1 greenhouse emissions under the Community's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), it is probably not appreciated that these same business entities must also submit details to their national authorities under... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2010 at A Response to Climate Change
An article in Friday’s Financial Times reports that members of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) have questioned the complexity of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme recognizing that companies are finding it difficult to understand and comply with its workings. It would appear that a third to nearly half of the 25,000 companies required to register by 30th of September may miss the deadline and might therefore be liable to a fine. Complexity is certainly not a good way to raise awareness or to encourage firms to pursue energy efficiency. However, it does seem elements of the scheme such as trading from 2013 are to be replaced. Expect to read about more changes !!
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I cannot say I am surprised, but the Carbon Disclosure Project has removed details of emission intensities (expressed as metric tons CO2e per million US$ revenue) [1] from its Global 500 Report for 2010 and replaced them with a metric that groups organizations by performance bands [2]. It is not that the more quantitative indicator can't be calculated, but now this needs to be determined by a more onerous trawl of the annual accounts for each company. The CDP’s questionnaire for 2010 had asked companies to supply a financial emissions intensity measurement with their annual returns [3], but it seems pressure has been brought to bear to ensure that only performance band results are published. Whilst such figures are well suited to CSR reporting and make it easier to appear carbon neutral, I would say the usefulness of voluntary reporting via the CDP is in retreat. In separate correspondence with Phil Henshaw, it is possible some companies would have felt that their counts of carbon emissions were inaccurate, so by shifting from absolute to relative targets the CDP might be hoping to bring more pressure to bear on those that need to improve performance. I am not particularly convinced by this line of reasoning because I don’t think many companies believe their counts to be inaccurate (after all they pay third parties to audit their processes). Rather the decision was most likely driven by the prosaic desire not to disclose more information than necessary. Notes: 1. Emission intensity in CDP reports for 2009 were defined as disclosed Scope 1 and 2 grid average emissions total divided by annual US$ million revenue. Revenues were based on data retrieved from Bloomberg on June 18, 2009. 2. The CDP now scores carbon performance according to the following bands: A – Leading B – Fast Following C – On Journey D – Just Starting 3. CDP questionnaire for 2010 report: Please supply a financial emissions intensity measurement for the reporting year for your combined Scope 1 and 2 emissions, including a description of the measurement.
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It is reported that the relief well intercepted the Macondo well on September 16th. The annulus was found not to be in pressure contact with the reservoir and therefore a further kill operation was not required. The annulus is to be cemented and the well sealed completely today. However, the story does not end here because investigations into the cause and responsibility for the blow-out are set to continue. And wearing my engineer's hat, here is the text of a letter about the incident that I have recently submitted to the editor of The Chemical Engineer: Deepwater Concerns Madam, It is easy to be wise after the event, but reading BP's report about the causes of the Deepwater Horizon accident raises concerns. Both BP and its contractors appear not to have followed best industry practice in the 8 areas where the investigating committee identified non-performance of a protective barrier. This cannot be considered a probabilistic anomaly, but rather the consequence of a culture involving all parties that lead the investigators to recommend that BP review its procedures pertaining to drilling and well ops, management systems, as well as the oversight and assurance of sub-contractors and service providers. At the same time, the Financial Times reports in last Friday’s edition that rival companies plan to review the report’s recommendations in an effort to improve their own performances. One must assume that Transocean, Halliburton and Cameron will also be looking to review their procedures, as will the Minerals Management Service and most other supervisory, certification agencies and technical standard bodies. Why should things have come to such a pass in an industry where everyone working on the rig should have been well aware of the risks involved before the event? Is it that people have become de-sensitised to the hazards involved or that they simply didn’t understand the risks? For example, the rig was constructed some 10 years ago, but I wonder if anyone ever thought it necessary to HAZOP the design of the drilling facilities or to think through the consequences of a major upset condition such as a blow-out. Would this have been the case if the operator had been required to prepare a Safety Case? The description of the mud gas separator detailed in the report shows that the vessel was designed to handle small amounts of gas, but not the quantities associated with a blow-out. If such an upset condition had been identified and design of the rig’s hazardous area classification, cold vent, flammable gas detection and emergency shut down systems been more rigorously assessed, then large volumes of gas would have been directed overboard and not over areas of the platform. This inevitably led to the explosion and loss of a final opportunity to contain flow from the well. When, if ever, are we going to learn?
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Two articles in the Financial Times about transport and the consumption of oil recently caught my attention. The first which discusses intelligent traffic systems includes a graph that shows a continual rise in miles travelled by vehicles in the UK,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2010 at A Response to Climate Change
A Postscript The leak of crude oil was contained on 15th July when BP placed a capping stack on the Macondo well. This was followed by a static kill on 5th August that involved pumping high pressure mud from the top of the well, followed by cement into the central casing. A decision to further cement the well from the bottom (via the first relief well that BP has drilled) will be taken after tests have been completed to see if the annulus is still in pressure contact with the reservoir. After 2 months of major headlines oil no longer leaks into the Gulf, yet people continue to drive their cars, consume hydrocarbons and live their lifes as though nothing had ever happened. It is obviously going to take a great deal more than the second largest spill in history (Iraq's torching of Kuwait's oil wells in 1991 comes first) to start weaning economies and people off hydrocarbons.
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You can find some informative maps of UK emissions mapped by blocks 1 km square on a National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI) website maintained by AEA. The following figure shows the conurbations to be major sources of carbon dioxide, but the range assigned to locations coloured in red (2,000 to 6 million tons per km squared per year) appears to lump together emissions from cities with point sources such as power generation stations - consult the NAEI website for more details of the methodology used. It should also be noted the map only covers Scope 1 emissions, typically static sources of combustion (industrial and domestic) as well as those associated with road transport, but not the carbon embodied in the imported goods, services or power (electricity) consumed by the populace. These are significant. Details of emissions from offshore oil and gas platforms located in UK waters are also missing from the map. .
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Phil, Many thanks for your comments which I need to study some more. In response, here are a couple of initial points. 1. I don't have information at this time as to how the major operators have calculated the Scope 3 emissions that they submitted to the Carbon Disclosure Project. For example, you can see from the second graph that British Gas (BG Group) has reported very large values compared to its rivals. On the other hand, Exxon Mobil and SASOL have omitted to report Scope 3's completely. I am sure they are all using different methods and without necessarily realising it, using subsidiaries to move any number of emissions off-books. I think a closer examination would show that most of the major operators are under-reporting. 2. Your figure of 340 ton CO2 / million $ GDP would indicate these companies have a very low what I have thought to call 'return on embodied carbon employed' (ROCO2e). These values may be compared with those for firms in the financial services sector who by not owning the businesses they invest in, are able to demonstrate extremely impressive ROCO2e's. I think I am beginning to understand why. Regards Robin
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I have written an article to be published shortly in the Chemical Engineer that identifies a number of work-arounds (some deliberate, some performed unknowingly) that companies use to appear 'carbon neutral' when reporting emissions of greenhouse gases. I have taken... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2010 at A Response to Climate Change
The EU's Environment Agency (EEA) in a recent press release reports that member states continue to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and that values for 2008 were 11% less than levels recorded in 1990. Sources of the decline include the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2010 at A Response to Climate Change
I continue to follow commentary on the Deepwater incident and note that the estimated rate of leakage is now reported to be somewhere in the region of 40,000 barrels per day. This obviously means that the quantities of greenhouse gases previously estimated need to be revised upwards. Additionally, concerns have been raised that the casing is damaged which in a worst case scenario, could result in more leakage from below the seabed. Even though the quantity of crude released into the environment is approaching or even surpasses that of the Ixtoc spill, there still seems to be little likelihood that the incident will prompt society to rethink it's over-dependence on hydrocarbons. Reasons for this continue to include:No political leader or media group with influence has been able to map out a convincing moral case for moving to a lower carbon economy.Peope's lifestyles and beliefs are too entrenched. Thus the public considers the availability of oil and gas to be a 'right', not a 'blessing'.People have overlooked the fact that perhaps they should be saving some hydrocarbon reserves for their grandchildren, rather than trying to exploit all such resources for the sole benefit of this generation.There are no simple tools to help quantify the impact a high technology such as deepwater drilling has on the draw-down of natural resources. Are we moving to a point where the energy required to exploit such a resource exceeds that which can be recovered? See for example, the IEA illustration below which shows the rising cost (and by association) the qualitative increase in energy needed to recover oil from ever more challenging locations.Energy companies are finding it necessary to recover hydrocarbons from ever more hazardous and difficult locations, yet there is no statutory obligation requiring them to account for the 'carbon footprint' of such activities. In parallel, any pre-assessment of potential environmental impacts has become a box-ticking exercise with no real come-back (other than a financial cost) should something serious occur.IEA - Oil Cost CurveReproduced (without permission) from IEA Resources to Reserves, 2005. The x axis represents cumulative accessible oil whilst the y axis represents the price at which each type of resource becomes economical.
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It is more than six weeks since the Deepwater blowout and notwithstanding the truly sad pictures of birds covered in oil, loss (unseen) of marine life and serious environmental damage, I think it important that people should reflect a little... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2010 at A Response to Climate Change
Dave, thanks for your correspondence. I have indeed read the papers that were published in Nature and have provided a link to them via a page maintained by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Research that can be accessed from the text above the graph of cumulative emissions that I updated in April. I assume you meant to say that you were pessimistic (not optimistic) about people coming up with a scheme capable of allocating cumulative emissions between nations. If so, I would concur with your thinking. I discussed the subject of liabilities for past emissions with a fellow blogger a while back and am still hoping to find the time to prepare an article about it for possible consideration by the FT. Our opinion is that demands by the developing nation for compensation is a negotiating ploy that will only serve to further muddy the waters of what is a very difficult issue. For example, it could be argued there are a few countries in the developing group of nations that should also be asked to contribute to any reparations scheme because of their over-reliance on change of land use and carbon-intensive activities to grow their economies, whilst others could be charged with failing to take responsibility for the demands their huge populations place on the World's resources. Obviously, adopting such an approach would quickly reduce negotiations to a futile exchange of words when both the developing and developed nations are in this together - we are where we are. I would therefore be interested to learn more about the concept of trading inter-temporal permits to see if this might introduce a way out of the log-jam.
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The illustration below comes from an interesting video that I came across recently on YouTube. Although the accompanying sound track is not to my liking and I would have preferred it to be slower so that there was more time... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2010 at A Response to Climate Change
Considerable time and effort is needed to log and compute emissions data. To this end, suitable data architectures need to be developed to simplify the future reporting of emissions. The following example illustrates elements of such a system. Features include:... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2010 at A Response to Climate Change
According to a Lex article in this week's FT, companies that were late in computing their carbon dioxide emissions have been forced to buy permits in large quantities to meet the deadline set by the European Union's trading system. This requires them to hand-over permits for emissions made in 2009 by the end of April and has pushed the price up to close to €16 per tonne - see updated graph. Unlike the 2006 reporting season when there was a surplus of permits, the increase in prices during the Springs of 2009 and 2010 indicates that a number of (less prepared?) companies found themselves short of permits at the end of the 2008 and 2009 reporting periods. At the same time, the Sandbag organisation identifies in a recently issued report (Carbon Fat Cats) that there remains a considerable surplus of permits, most particularly those held by operators in the heavy industry sectors of the EU's trading system. These companies have profited from selling freely allocated permits, mainly to operators in the power generation sector who in turn, have passed the cost on to consumers. The EU's emissions trading system remains seriously distorted and still only able to influence the investment decision making process in unforeseen ways. Some of the ongoing problems arise from the absence of a system that would require companies to track and report carbon emissions in a manner approaching real time.
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