Tuesday, May 25, 2021

China: a listing of failing chinese technology

 Legal Insurrection writes: 

The Chinese mishandling of infectious agents is merely one in a long list of potentially deadly scientific missteps. There have been several news stories in the last few weeks and months that show disturbing and potentially catastrophic failures of many engineering projects.

Last year, experts questioned the massive Three Gorges Dam’s safety, warning that it could collapse at any moment due to summer rains. Unfortunately, we do not know if anyone resolved the engineering issues associated with that structure with the summer rainy season approaching.

More recently, officials evacuated and closed the 1,167-feet SEG Plaza in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen as the skyscraper began to wobble.

The Shenzhen government said on its microblog that no additional swaying had been detected since Tuesday, when the moving building caused objects on desks in the building to move and workers were evacuated from the tower.

Panicked pedestrians could be seen fleeing the area after the rocking began in videos shared to social media. Several nearby buildings were also evacuated, as police and fire crews sealed off the surrounding area.  

“Based on an analysis, any seismic event has been ruled out as a possible cause,” the Shenzhen government said, adding that the building’s infrastructure, windows and other architectural features appeared undamaged and there were no signs of cracks in the surrounding streets.

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EU: state of affairs of the ITER fusion reactor

 ITER is a unique project, aiming to build the world’s largest fusion machine. By fostering innovation and international collaboration, the project creates economic growth and job opportunities, while putting the EU in the lead of global fusion research. 

The construction work started in 2007 in Cadarache, in the south of France, on a 42 hectare site that today hosts the tokamak, several buildings, infrastructure and power supplies. ITER is one of the most complex engineering projects in history, as it will require millions of components to assemble the giant reactor that will weigh 23,000 tonnes.

The project stems from the ITER agreement, which was signed by 7 partners in 2006: China, Euratom (represented by the European Commission), India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the USA.  Together, they govern the ITER Organization, which is responsible for constructing and managing the project, and they all pool financial and scientific resources to it. Each partner has a domestic agency that manages its contributions; the EU’s agency is called Fusion for Energy and is located in Barcelona, Spain.

In addition to the ITER activities, the EU is also supporting fusion research, education and training activities through the EUROfusion consortium funded by the Euratom Research and Training Programme 2021-2025.

The (near) fusion future

ITER aims to produce 10 times more fusion power than the heating power put into the plasma, making it the key experimental step between today’s research machines and tomorrow’s fusion power plants.

2020 marked an important step with the start of the 5-year assembly phase of the tokamak. The next big milestone will be in 2025, by which time ITER is expected to create its first super-heated plasma. This should reach full power by 2035, with the aim of demonstrating that more energy can be taken out than is put in. 

Even though ITER itself will not produce electricity – it is rather intended to prove that large-scale fusion is possible – it represents a giant step in the creation of fusion energy, and will drive the transition from research to reality.

In addition to the progress on the European site, later this year, the EU and Japan will inaugurate the fusion reactor JT-60SA, located in Naka, Japan. It will be the largest tokamak in operation, until ITER is operational. JT-60SA has been designed and built jointly by Japan and Europe under the “Broader Approach” agreement. Its specific properties are its capability to produce long-pulse plasmas. Its main missions are to support exploitation of ITER (scheduled to start in 2025) and to contribute to the design of the EU’s next generation fusion reactor, DEMO.

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EU: decrease of CO2 emissions in 2020

Eurostat estimates that in 2020, the year when COVID-19 containment measures were widely introduced by the EU Member States, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel combustion (mainly oil and oil products, coal, peat and natural gas) significantly decreased by 10% in the EU compared with the previous year. CO2 emissions from energy use are a major contributor to global warming and account for some 75% of all man-made EU greenhouse gas emissions. They are influenced by factors such as climate conditions (e.g. cold / long winter or hot summer), economic growth, size of the population, transport and industrial activities.

CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are generated in the country where the fuels are burned for purposes such as electricity generation, transport, steel production etc. Consequently, imports and exports of energy products have an impact: for example, if coal is imported for electricity generation this leads to an increase in emissions in the importing country, while if electricity as such is imported, it has no effect on emissions in the importing country, as these emissions would be reported in the exporting country where the electricity has been produced.

Biggest decreases in CO2 emissions from energy use in Greece and Estonia, lowest in Malta and Hungary

According to Eurostat estimates, emissions fell in 2020 in all EU Member States, with the largest decrease in Greece (-18.7%), followed by Estonia (-18.1%), Luxembourg (-17.9%), Spain (-16.2%) and Denmark (-14.8%). The lowest decreases were seen in Malta (-1.0%), Hungary (-1.7%), Ireland and Lithuania (both -2.6%).

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Nord Stream 2: constructions works continue

 In the Baltic Sea, the Russian laying vessel "Fortuna" is now continuing to build the controversial German-Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2. "The" Fortuna "is currently working in German waters according to the existing permits and the announcements made by the authorities," said a spokesman for the Nord Stream 2 AG on Sunday the German Press Agency. The Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) in Hamburg had previously approved the continuation of the work.

Pipes should now be laid over a length of two kilometers. The background to this is a decision by the BSH, according to which there are currently no resting birds there that need to be protected. Therefore - as originally planned - there is no need to wait until the end of May to start work, it said.

The pipes may be placed on the seabed, the assembly should take place later, it said. The two kilometers are in the German Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). According to information from Nord Stream 2, work with the Russian laying vessel «Akademik Tscherski» is currently also ongoing in Danish waters.

The Naturschutzbund Deutschland (Nabu) and Deutsche Umwelthilfe went to court against the BSH approval from January for further construction in the German EEZ, with reference to birds resting in the protected area. The office has now allowed the pipes to be placed on the seabed until construction continues, since the birds' resting time in this short section is over.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany has largely been completed. According to the information, 13.9 kilometers of one strand and 16.8 kilometers of the second strand are missing in German waters. The USA and several European countries are against the pipeline because they fear that Europe is too dependent on Russian gas.

The US has issued sanctions to prevent prefabricated construction. But Washington recently refrained from harsher punitive measures out of consideration for the federal government in Berlin, which supports the pipeline for energy security in Europe. Russia hopes to end the project in the next few months and to be able to pump the first gas through the 1,230-kilometer pipeline this year.

Source: WELT

Nord Stream 2: Biden clarifies statements concerning sanctions

The report from the renowned news agency Axios hit, not only in the US capital Washington: President Joe Biden waived sanctions against the pipeline company Nord Stream 2, registered in Switzerland, and its managing director, the German Putin intimate partner Matthias Warnig.

So far, Biden had criticized the underwater pipeline, which is supposed to connect Russia directly to the German Baltic Sea coast, as a "bad deal for Europe". The tube increases the dependence of the Western European allies on Russia and helps to finance an aggressive Russian expansion policy. This is what the US has argued so far. Now, however, in his quarterly report to Congress, Biden seemed to relent.

The German government had always defended the project led by the Russian Gazprom group - and also fought with Washington. US sanctions threats against German project partners were sharply rejected as unlawful interference in German and European sovereignty.

Now Biden's statements seemed to point to relaxation: The statement by the US President was seen as "a step towards us," said Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maaß.

People in Russia also listened: If the media report is correct, then "there is a hint of normality in American politics," said Vice Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Moscow, according to the Interfax agency. The outrage among the pipeline opponents in the Republican Party in Washington was correspondingly loud.

The top Republican in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, said that if the Axios report were correct, it would be an indication that the Biden administration never really wanted to prevent the pipeline.

But Biden was misunderstood, as the circumstances of his latest statement suggest. The US president had simply responded to repeated, persistent inquiries from the Republicans with a clarification regarding the project company Nord Stream 2 itself. But that had never been the target of the US sanctions, not even under Biden's predecessor Trump.

Source: WELT

Nord Stream 2: Report of State Department do Congress

Report to Congress on Provision of Pipe-Laying Vessels and Activities for Certain Russian Energy Export Pipelines

Nord Stream 2: context of the abandonment of sanctions by Biden administration

 In the dispute over the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the government of US President Joe Biden waived sanctions against the operating company - also out of consideration for relations with Germany. In a report sent to Congress by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, it is said that the waiver of punitive measures against Nord Stream 2 AG in Zug, Switzerland, its German managing director Matthias Warnig and four other employees is in the “national interest” of the USA. The reason given was that such sanctions "had a negative impact on US relations with Germany, the EU and other European allies and partners".

The report submitted to the German Press Agency further states that, on the basis of the US sanctions laws against the Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2 and the Russian-Turkish gas project Turkstream, punitive measures would be issued against four Russian ships that laid pipes. Sanctions would also be imposed on four Russian institutions. Nevertheless, with Washington’s recent positioning, it seems increasingly unlikely that the completion of Nord Stream 2 will still be prevented over the last few meters. The Republicans accuse the Democrat Biden of having given Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin "a present".

According to the US Department report, Nord Stream 2 AG and managing director Warnig have also violated the sanctions laws. Blinken decided to forego penalties. This creates space for talks at diplomatic level with Germany in order to address the risks for Ukraine and European energy security through the completion of the pipeline.

In plain language, this should mean that the Americans are now expecting a sign of concession from the German side - perhaps by the next sanctions report, Blinking, to Congress in three months. Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) has already brought up an idea for a compromise: to finish the pipeline, but make operations dependent on Russia's behavior. With the smaller coalition partner SPD, however, such mind games are not so well received. In contrast to the Union, the Greens and the FDP, the Social Democrats are firmly committed to the pipeline project, without any restrictions.

In the federal government, the extensive waiver of sanctions by the USA is causing a sigh of relief for now. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) speaks of a “constructive step”. He sees the decision as a sign of appreciation for Germany, an important ally. In Berlin one has recently been increasingly annoyed that the much-invoked new beginning in German-American relations after the disastrous era of US President Donald Trump was overshadowed by the ongoing pipeline dispute. You now have to see “that this project does not burden our really excellent cooperation in any way,” Maas said on Wednesday.

The waiver of sanctions should also ease the strained relationship between the USA and Russia to a certain extent. The Russian company Gazprom is formally the sole shareholder of Nord Stream 2 AG. In addition, however, the German corporations Wintershall Dea - a joint venture between BASF and LetterOne - and Uniper, as well as the Dutch-British Shell, Engie from France and OMV from Austria are added as “supporters”. The Russian government spoke of a step towards normalizing the strained relations with Washington. Putin may now agree to a European summit proposed by Biden in June.

The government of the Democrat Biden may meet with applause for its actions in Berlin and Moscow. But she gives the Republicans in the US Congress a great opportunity - also because Blinken had promised to prevent the completion of the pipeline as best it could. It doesn't help that the chief diplomat is now declaring that they are still strictly against Nord Stream 2. Republican Senator Ted Cruz - one of the authors of the US sanctions laws against Nord Stream 2 - is already outraged about the “Biden-Putin pipeline” ». The top Republican in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Jim Risch, accused the Biden government of putting German and Russian interests above those of allies in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe.

Both Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly support the sanctions laws against Nord Stream 2. Biden has also repeatedly called the project “a bad deal for Europe”. In fact, since taking office on January 20, he has hardly taken any concrete action to stop the pipeline. In the previous State Department sanctions report three months ago - the first one that was blinked - no new sanctions were imposed. What goes down in the criticism of the Republicans, however: Even the Trump administration has only issued punitive measures against a single Russian ship and its operating company.

Trump - who was repeatedly accused of being too Putin-friendly - regularly railed against Nord Stream 2. But the Republican also shied away from imposing far-reaching punitive measures. He would have had the power to do so as US President, regardless of the sanctions laws against the pipeline. Senator Cruz - otherwise a loyal Trump ally - said at a hearing in Congress in December 2019: "If the pipeline is completed, it will be the fault of the members of this administration who sat on their buttocks."

Source: WELT

Nord Stream 2: Biden administration renounces sanctions against Nord Stream corporation

The US government officially waives sanctions against the operating company of the controversial Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2 and its German managing director. In a report sent to the US Congress on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote that waiving the punitive measures would be “in the national interest of the US”.

Nord Stream 2 AG and its managing director Matthias Warnig are involved in activities that violate a US sanctions law, according to the report available to the AFP news agency. However, the application of sanctions would have "negative effects" on relations between the USA and Germany, the European Union and other European allies. However, sanctions are to be imposed on Russian laying vessels, as the report says.

US media had already reported on the sanction decision of the administration of US President Joe Biden on Tuesday. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) then said that the federal government saw this "as a step that is being taken towards us".

Washington is strictly against the 1200 kilometer long Baltic Sea tube, which should significantly increase the potential for Russian natural gas deliveries to Germany. Like his predecessor Donald Trump, Biden argues that Germany and Europe would become increasingly dependent on Russia and damage Ukraine, the gas transit country.

Source: WELT

Friday, May 14, 2021

EU: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on EU energy supply in 2020

Since early 2020, restrictive measures have been taken to slow down the spread of COVID-19. These measures included the closure of factories, schools and restaurants, and required people to confine themselves in their homes. In late spring, many EU Member States began removing some restrictions following the first signs of recovery. By late autumn, however, the second COVID-19 wave had started and restrictive measures were again put in place. The EU’s fuel supply was adversely affected by these measures.

Inland deliveries of petroleum products

The oil industry was affected most by the pandemic and striking differences between 2020 and 2019 were evident. The most dramatic differences were seen in the deliveries of fuels for transport. In April 2020, deliveries of kerosene-type jet fuel dropped by more than 80% compared to the same month in 2019, while motor gasoline recorded a drop of nearly 50%. Gas oil and diesel oil also recorded a decrease of 20% over the same period. The reintroduction of restrictions by many Member States in autumn 2020 did not influence the deliveries of these fuels as much.

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Colonial Pipeline Hack: gas prices hiking and panic buying as shutdown persists

The ransomware cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline has led to a continuous shutdown of significant stretches of the company’s system. The response is now fueling gas shortages and panic buying in portions of the 17 states that receive their fuel from this source. 

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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Lebanon: Turkish Firm Threatens to Cut Floating Power Plants

 A Turkish company threatened to switch off two floating power plants that provide about a fifth of Lebanon’s electricity, amid a dispute with authorities over corruption allegations and payments. Lebanon’s Financial Prosecutor asked for Karpowership’s vessels to be seized pending an investigation into the renewal of the power supply contracts. “We are alarmed at the actions taken by Lebanon’s Financial Prosecutor and firmly deny any violation of our contract or the law,” a Karpowership spokesperson said in a statement late Saturday.

Read more at: https://www.bloombergquint.com/business/turkish-firm-threatens-to-switch-off-lebanon-s-power-boats

Cyber attack forces US pipeline to shutdown


The operator of the country’s largest fuel pipeline, Colonial Pipeline, fell victim to a cybersecurity attack on Friday that involved ransomware, forcing it to temporarily shut down all pipeline operations, the company said in a statement on Saturday.

The firm has hired a third-party cybersecurity firm to launch a probe into the incident and has contacted law enforcement and other federal agencies. The cyberattack has affected some of its IT systems too.

Colonial Pipeline, which transports nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supply, said it is “taking steps to understand and resolve this issue.”

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