Europe’s energy production evades ash cloud impact
Saturday, 17 April 2010
OSLO/LONDON: European oil, gas and electricity production is unlikely to suffer under the volcanic ash cloud looming over much of northern Europe, industry sources said yesterday.
A huge ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano caused air travel chaos across Europe early yesterday, grounding commercial passenger jets and preventing staff-change helicopters from reaching oil and gas fields in the North Sea for a second day.
Helicopter flights to and from rigs in the Norwegian Sea, which lies to the north of the North Sea and largely above the area worst affected by the ash cloud, resumed yesterday, Norwegian oil and gas giant Statoil said, adding that flights might be possible to fields further south today, depending on the weather.
Oil and gas field representatives said flight bans would not have any impact on operations, other than to force workers offshore to stay at work for longer until the cloud passes and relief workers can replace them, unless the volcanic ash cloud were to clog European airspace for a long time.
“The impact on North Sea operations is minimal,” a spokeswoman for Oil & Gas UK, the representative body for Britain’s offshore oil and gas industry said.
If the Icelandic ash cloud were to fill the airspace over the North Sea for a prolonged period it might prompt field operators to put off non-essential maintenance.
Oil & Gas UK said in a statement on Thursday that operators had begun assessing how a prolonged suspension of flights could affect their operations and what non-essential work could be postponed. But boats can also be used to ferry workers and equipment to and from the offshore rigs, if the cloud were to linger long.
Icelandic officials said the volcano was still spewing ash and showed little sign of letting up yesterday, raising the possibility that the cloud which has already slashed European jet fuel demand could eventually affect oil and gas operations.
POWER SECTOR CALM
Power sector companies on both the supply and demand side were unconcerned yesterday about the dust cloud spreading overhead.
Electricity demand increases in overcast weather as people switch on lights to make up for the lack of natural light.
But Britain’s National Grid, which monitors cloud cover closely to manage power supplies, said the cloud was unlikely to noticeably impact demand.
“Our demand forecasting people aren’t predicting an increase in ‘illumination demand’ as the ash is not visible from the ground,” a spokesman for the company said.
The effect of the ash cloud on output from solar power plants is also unlikely to be greater than any other passing cloud.
“We do not anticipate any negative impact,” said Carsten Koernig, managing director of BSW in Berlin, the association representing Germany’s 800 solar companies.
Wind power industry sources said cold volcanic dust on wind turbines should not cause any problems either.