2015-volt-1024x381 1180

In 1985 when Doc and Marty McFly powered up the Mr Fusion Home Energy Reactor in Back To The Future they travelled forward 30 years in time using household waste and nuclear fusion.

Little could they have imagined the reality – that by 2016 the world would be seriously contemplating the end of oil and the emergence of brand new energy technologies.

Money Lane 1180

Breaking news over the weekend in the Sunday papers – the UK’s going to let ordinary citizens in fracking areas reap a share of the proceeds.

It happens in the US, where there’s been a massive energy and economic revival thanks to shale.  Why shouldn’t it happen here? Families could be in line for tens of thousands of pounds.

There’s potentially hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of gas, and hundreds of billions of barrels of oil, sitting right under the UK.  The country desperately needs an energy bonanza and to stand on her own two feet economically. Mark my word, a country without energy security will eventually be another’s slave.

Back in 1987 BP, one of the great global oil majors, found oil at the base of the Surrey Hills just outside the M25.  The nodding donkeys at the Brockham X1 oil well have been quietly pumping Portland oil for the UK economy for 14 years now.

But did they miss something?  I think so.

Brockham X1 is a deep well. Nearly 7,000 feet. BP drilled straight through the the Kimmeridge limestones that were the secret to this year’s spectacular success at Horse Hill, only five miles away near Gatwick Airport.

Horse Hill was fondly nicknamed the “Gatwick gusher.”  That’s pretty accurate because it really did gush.

Nearly 1,700 barrels of Britain’s finest black gold gushed to surface at Horse Hill. Open up the choke to full bore and it’s anyone’s guess what it would have gushed. The biggest oil hit for a single well in British onshore history.

At 41 API, it’s an even better brew than North Sea Brent at 38 API. That means (for the non oil folk amongst us) better quality and better price.

And it wasn’t just BP who may have missed the potential of this extraordinary deposit.  That other global major Esso actually drilled not one but two wells at Horse Hill in the 1960’s and didn’t realise the potential of the Kimmeridge limestones either. They never even tested the limestones!

Cock up?  Or conspiracy?  There is indeed an argument for both.

Matthias Muller is no slouch.

He ran Porsche before the emissions scandal blew up in VW’s face.  He then took over as VW CEO in September last year.

I’ve been tipping him as a CEO to watch since last December.  And I’ve been watching VW closely –  last year I advised the car giant to get serious about EVs.

Looks like they’re listening.

Muller just announced VW’s new strategic plan.  It’s a big deal and people are sitting up and taking note. He’s called it VW’s “biggest transformation in the company’s history.”

I’m inclined to agree.

The analysts are already getting stuck into the detail.  Efficiency gains, €8Bn savings, a combined Group components business with 70,000 employees, and margins up to 8%.

But the really interesting stuff is VW’s total commitment towards EVs, battery tech, digitization, and autonomous driving.  Muller says he’ll create “entirely new areas of competence for the Group” which includes of course Audi and Porsche.

Development of EVs is going into overdrive. Over the next 10 years, VW will develop around 30 new battery powered electric-car models.  This could rapidly account for 25% of VW total sales.

Muller says he’ll launch the first fully autonomous vehicles by the end of the decade.  That’s in less than four years.  They’re hiring 1,000 software specialists to help them do it.

This caps VW’s recent announced of $300 million investment in GETT, an Uber rival.  His plan is to put GETT at the heart of a new ‘mobility services division’ delivering €1 billion revenues by 2025.

For those of you who don’t know, ‘mobility services’ are going to destroy the traditional model of car ownership.  Who wants to spend tens of thousands on an asset that sits idle in a car parking space 90% of the time?  Mobility services – shared cars – are possibly the single biggest threat to old fashioned car makers, and VW has jumped on that bandwagon good and proper.

And Muller announced his plans to make battery technology a core competency at the group. At the moment, car makers rely heavily on suppliers for their batteries.

VW is investing €11bn on innovation in batteries, electrification, and related technologies, and the car company is in a good place, literally.  Just across the border, in the Czech republic, lies Europe’s largest lithium deposit.  This deposit at Cinovec, is perfectly located to supply VW and others with this vital element which Goldman Sachs has dubbed the ‘new gasoline.

So good for you, Herr Muller.  VW had a brush with the grim reaper last year and some thought this venerable brand may not survive.  But (as I have written previously) these events may not have been entirely of VW’s making.

When the going gets tough it is heartening to see bold, clear and smart strategy from the new leadership.  VW’s plans make sense to me.

 

 

Volkswagen 1180

So, Volkswagen is building a Tesla style gigafactory to mass produce lithium batteries. And they’re investing €11bn, 3 times as much as the Tesla Panasonic behemoth in Nevada.

This massive story, sourced authoritatively from Handelsblatt, Germany’s version of the FT, might be the news that draws a line under one of the sorriest tales of modern times.

The VW emissions scandal wasn’t simply about duping its car customers.  Although you’d be mightily peeved if you’d spent all that money on a clean motor, only to discover it was a dirty polluting banger after all.

The real scandal was the gross manipulation of the entire European car market by corrupt EU bureaucrats and lobbyists.

This is how the scam worked, and thank you to the brilliant Dan Hannan MEP for explaining how these EU lobbying scams work.

There are 25,000 lobbyists in Brussels.  (yes you read that correctly – 25 thousand!)

One such group representing the European auto industry spotted a chance to get one over on their US and Asian rivals.  Under the pretence of reducing CO2 emissions by 15% – they skilfully lobbied Brussels to adopt standards favouring the diesel engine.

Diesel had almost died out – having lived up to its reputation as dirty and polluting.

But then in 1998 one Neil Kinnock, the (unelected) EU Transport Commissioner, proudly trumpeted a new set of emissions standards favouring diesel.

It didn’t take long for the entire European car fleet to be transformed from mainly petrol to mainly diesel.

Did anybody mention that diesel produces four times as much deadly nitrous oxide as petrol?  Nah – inconvenient truth.

Or that diesel produces 22 times as many tiny particulates that penetrate people’s hearts, lungs and brains?

So in order to line the pockets of the Euro carmakers, the unelected EU bureaucrats, and the parasitic lobbyists, in cahoots, polluted our cities and consigned men, women, and children, old and young alike, to terrible health risks.  In the US alone the MIT has estimated 60 premature deaths.  The figure will be significantly higher in Europe when all is said and done.

In a way VW’s behaviour is understandable (don’t get me wrong I’m not condoning it!)  But it acted in a way that sought commercial advantage and worked under the rules prescribed by Brussels.  The real scandal in my view is the corrosive and corrupting influence of Brussels in this whole saga.

VW has such a long way to go to rebuild trust.  The company now faces massive lawsuits around the world.

But a concerted effort into EVs, and a serious effort to develop and deploy battery technology into their vehicles is the right answer.

CEO Matthias Mueller reckons it’ll take VW two years to recover its ‘shine’.  Lithium battery technology will help them do it.

I reckon it’ll take a bit longer than that.  But if VW is serious in its intent, if it explains what it’s doing and why, and if it can prove that it’s turned over a new leaf, the company has a fighting chance.

VW last week still reported figures that would be the envy of most automakers. The German carmaker made a profit before tax of €3.2bn (£2.4bn) in the three months to March, down from nearly €4bn a year earlier. Revenues were down 3.4% to a mere €51bn.

With VW’s colossal financial horsepower and serious “kick arse” bold moves into lithium battery Gigafactories, and its desire to win the EV car race, it will be a serious global force to reckon with.

There’s nothing like a crisis to focus corporate minds.

Sitting on Germany’s door step is Europe’s biggest lithium deposit at the old mining town of Cinovec in the Czech Republic. There’s reportedly 5.7 million tonnes of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (that’s technical jargon) already drilled up on the German boarder, with another 3-5 million more tonnes of the stuff to still be drilled up.

That’s $10’s of billions of the magic white Lithium stuff sitting at VW’s feet. Wouldn’t that be an interesting tie up? VW is going to need a hell of a lot of it to fill an €11bn battery factory.

But all in all, VW has been the reluctant victim of the undemocratic, unaccountable and corrupting practices of these unelected EU bureaucrats.  Time for VW to shine!

Electric Car

It’s been a long time coming but electric vehicles – EVs – will soon reach a tipping point and start to overtake petrol cars.   But for that to happen a great leap forward is needed in range and battery technology.

The race is on.

In January this year we heard a slew of announcements about forthcoming EVs.  Every car maker is jumping onto the EV bandwagon.  GM announced the Chevrolet Bolt, rolling off the production line in 2017.  Nissan has announced the Gen II Leaf which we’ll see in 2018.  And Ford are working on the Model E which I expect in 2019.

And that’s not to mention the ludicrously brilliant Tesla range already in production.

But the problem remains – range.  200 miles (the current de facto standard) is simply not good enough.  Those in the business refer to ‘range anxiety’, that dreaded feeling you get when you don’t know whether you’ll make it to the next charging station before you run out of juice.

aberdeen-Harbour 1180

Your average management consultant wouldn’t know a Kimmeridge limestone if it cracked him on the bazzer with a cricket bat.

Good management consultants are few and far between.  The world famous John Caswell of Group Partners is one of them.  John’s brilliant – better than brilliant.  That’s why he advises the bosses of some of the biggest corporations on the globe as well as world leaders.

And I’ve also been impressed by Ernst and Young over the years.  So I read with interest the latest EY report on the now famous Horse Hill oil strike at Gatwick Airport..

Ernst and Young are the third big global consultancy to look at Horse Hill and what it all means.

When somebody smart, in a suit, with a degree from MIT or Harvard pipes up and says it’s 124 Billion barrels of oil in the UK’s Weald Basin, what do these numbers actually mean?

They’re just numbers.  Or are they?

Numbers are important because they inform and guide important strategic decisions, management plans and operational considerations.  But they’re still just numbers.

The experienced oil men will put these into the context of the bigger picture.  Is it recoverable?  At what flow rate?  What’s the quality of the oil?  Project forwards?  What are the long term strategic, political and economic factors?  Bottom line – what is the potential upside for the business?  And the risks?

But at the end of the day it’s also about more than that.

It’s about jobs.  People’s livelihoods.

EY reckon 300- 1,500 jobs in the Southeast of England, and 990 – 5,600 jobs nationwide as a direct consequence.  And the multipliers that attach to real jobs. Just think about that for a moment.  We’re talking about real people and families like yours and mine, folks.  Families sustained, mortgages paid, children educated, dreams realised.  These aren’t empty numbers.  This is wealth created.  Real impact.

I’m sick and tired of whingers moaning about how shitty the economy is or how expensive things are.  Get out there and generate wealth.  Create something new. Add value.  Make it happen!

EY reckon the tax man’ll get £2 – £18Bn in tax.  Think about that!  That’s money going into the exchequer – to every man, woman and child in this green and pleasant land.  Funding the NHS.  Paying for kids’ education.  Helping the next generation.  Best case scenario is £18Bn which will help pay for schools, hospitals and pensions.  So when the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us that Brexit will leave a £36Bn hole in the public finances (a highly dubious claim by the way as I think any hole will be short term) – I say let’s fill that hole and generate new revenues.

And let’s not forget about community impact.  We’re not talking about shale and fracking.  This is keyhole surgery.  Low impact.  £70m – £550M worth of community benefits.  It’s about being a good neighbour and actually enhancing the community in which the oil industry operates.  The industry has done this admirably for decades in Scotland.  If you want a good example go and look around Aberdeen – it’s a beautiful city, well kept, with a myriad of community projects all benefitting from the economy and the input of Aberdeen people contributing something – not only for themselves and their families but also for their county and country.

So next time somebody tells you there’s between £7.1 billion and £52.6 billion ‘GVA’ – Gross Value Added economic impact sitting under The Weald just stop for a moment and think. That’s the prize.

But it’s not just a number.  It’s people’s lives.

 

 

 

 

IMG_0953

Like a good pint of Guinness on St Patrick’s day, Monday’s news from the Gatwick Gusher was worth waiting for.

Some people think that because the initial test results are out, then that’s the end of the story for now. ‘Pack your kit bag and move on.’

Wrong.

This is just the beginning of the story, as UKOG and its pioneering partners move to make Horse Hill and the Weald Basin a big success. Even BP started as little tiddler way back in 1908.  Look what happened to them.

(If you don’t know, BP was founded in 1908 as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company following the discovery of its large oil field in Masjed Soleiman, Iran. It was the first company to extract petroleum from there.)

Now back to Horse Hill, a subset of Nutech’s 124 billion barrel (P50) potential of the UK’s Weald Basin.

The final Horse Hill 1 Portland test blew the lid off expectations.  323 barrels of oil per day, double the previous rate, made it the highest stable dry oil flow rate from any onshore UK Portland sandstone formation well.  Thanks to good old Mother Nature, and a bigger pump.  An even bigger pump would have given even more flow, but alas I don’t think they could find one in time. Pity.

London - Big ben and houses of parliament, UK

In tomorrow’s budget Chancellor George Osborne is going to greenlight the £33Bn Crossrail 2 project.  He reckons that Crossrail is a top priority scheme for London.  He’s right.

London is the world’s second greatest city (after Brisbane of course).  And I’m pleased London is taking its infrastructure seriously.

So, George – I have some good news for you.  I might be able to help you pay for it.  You see, there’s a damn good chance that there’s oil under London.  Probably quite a lot of it!

The recent Gatwick Gusher oil discovery at Horse Hill, a mere 6 miles south of the M25, proved that those big thick juicy limestones in the Kimmeridge Clays, sitting only half a mile beneath the picturesque Surrey countryside, are full of the black stuff.

Cate-Blanchett

Last Sunday’s Oscars was the usual glitzy parade of silly grins, gushing speeches and fakery.

Because that’s what acting is – faking it on the screen, with those best at the Hollywood make-believe game walking off with the gongs, cash and fame.

That sounds a bit unfair.  I actually love the movies as much as anybody, and thought it was a great travesty that the incomparable Cate Blanchett missed out on a gong for Carol.

So, fair play to Leonardo and the gang, but the only drama I’m interested in right now is watching so-called experts eat their words.

But that’s another story.

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