Today’s Key Takeaways: Lithium-ion battery fires in New York City abound. Incorrect media headline triggers oil price spike. Top LNG players are pushing more, greener, investments. Families in Congo dependent on income from children working in cobalt mines.
NEWS OF THE DAY:
Lithium-Ion Battery Fires Abound in New York City
Institute for Energy Research, July 14, 2023
So far this year, there have been 108 lithium-ion battery fires in New York City, which have injured 66 people and killed 13, up from 98 fires that had injured 40 and killed two at this time last year. The most recent was a fire at an e-bike shop that killed four people near midnight on the morning of June 21 and left two individuals in critical condition and one firefighter with minor injuries.
According to Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, it was “very clear” that the fire was linked to lithium-ion batteries, and she warned New Yorkers that such devices could be very dangerous and typically exploded in such a way that rendered escape impossible, as opposed to slowly catching on fire. The volume of fire created by lithium-ion batteries is incredibly deadly.
The NY fire department issued a warning on Twitter, advising citizens to keep devices with lithium-ion batteries away from exits or windows, avoid using batteries that lacked “approved safety certifications,” avoid charging batteries overnight or when they are not present and to not use damaged or after-market batteries. In just three years, lithium battery fires have tied electrical fires and have surpassed blazes started by cooking and smoking for major causes of fatal fires in New York City.
Across the United States, over 200 micro-mobility fire or overheating incidents have been reported from 39 states, resulting in at least 19 fatalities, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The problem is particularly acute in densely populated areas like New York City where 23 people have died in battery fires since 2021. In London, lithium battery fires are the fastest-growing fire risk, with 57 e-bike fires and 13 e-scooter fires this year.
Reasons for the Increased Fires
The reasons for the increased NYC fires include a lack of regulation and safety testing for individually owned devices, hazardous charging practices (such as using mismatched equipment or overcharging) and a lack of secure charging areas in a population-dense city with numerous residential buildings, where most fires start. New Yorkers rely on e-bikes and other battery-powered devices to make deliveries or use them in other ways to earn a living.
Media Error Triggers Significant Oil Price Spike
Julianne Geiger, OilPrice.Com, July 17, 2023
If you’ve ever wondered if media headlines and jawboning really influence oil prices, you can now put the question to rest. A mistake in publishing sent oil prices up sharply on Monday morning—but prices have since bounced back to normal levels now that the offending media piece has been removed and a retraction printed.
The Reuters headline wasn’t exactly incorrect. “Saudi Arabia’s Energy Department will voluntarily extend production cuts until the end of 2024.” But we knew that. This is old news that dates back to June 4, when Saudi Arabia agreed to extend its additional voluntary oil cut until next year.
But even just rehashing the old news today like it was some new event sent Brent and WTI up by 2%, with Brent reaching above the important $80 threshold. But that was then. Within the span of less than an hour, crude oil prices returned to earth, and are now trading at a loss for the day.
At 9:48 a.m. ET, WTI was trading down 1.22% on the day, at $74.50. Brent crude had sagged 1.25% back to $78.87 after the market realized that Saudi Arabia wasn’t doing anything extra today to prop up prices.
Saudi Arabia has taken action to balance oil supplies with demand, to hear its energy ministry tell it—the result often ending with price hikes. But those moves have recently been quite temporary in nature, failing to keep prices higher.
Not even two weeks ago, Saudi Aramco—the country’s state-run oil giant—raised its crude oil prices to its prized market, Asia, for a second month in a row, while cutting production voluntarily by a million barrels per day. Saudi Arabia’s Light for August loading is now $3.20 per barrel above Oman/Dubai quotes.
World’s top LNG players push for more, but greener, gas investments
Katya Golubkova, Marwa Rashad, Reuters, July 18, 2023
Current investments in gas infrastructure are falling short of what is needed, officials at an industry conference in Japan said on Wednesday, citing the role they say the fuel has to play in both global energy security and the transition to net zero.
Big producers have in recent years promoted gas as a transition fuel in the push for cleaner energy – a move fiercely resisted by environmentalists – as renewables like wind and solar face technical factors like intermittency of supply.
Fears over energy security have also boosted demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG), after a European energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 left countries scrambling for alternatives to Russian gas.
In video remarks played during the LNG Producer-Consumer Conference in Tokyo, the energy minister for the United Arab Emirates said that to date, there has not been enough investment in the sector.
“Lack of investment is affecting both producers and consumers, and their access to affordable and reliable energy and economic growth,” Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei said.
“Do we have enough investment in gas and LNG to cover for converting all coal plants in the world to gas? The answer is no,” he said.
Gas has a long-term role to play in the global energy markets, Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, told the conference in a video message, though he added there is a “strong need” to cut emissions from gas supply.
“The challenge is how to balance the near-term needs for additional gas supply when the global markets are volatile, with (the) longer term (need) of reaching our climate goals,” he said.
“We think that strategies to future proof investments in gas infrastructure are needed, (eg) by incorporating technologies like carbon capture and storage throughout the value chain, or by allowing for the integration of low emission gas,” he said.
Families in the DRC increasingly rely on children working in cobalt mines — report
Valentina Ruiz Leotaud, Mining.Com, July 16, 2023
Families in the southern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have become dependent on the income produced by their children working in cobalt mines, a new report by Canadian NGO IMPACT: Transforming Natural Resources Management states.
The DRC is known for its cobalt mining — about 70% of the world’s cobalt is mined there and between 15-30% of the metal comes from informal, or artisanal mines. The trade has been previously linked to violence, substance abuse and food-water insecurity.
According to IMPACT’s document, women tend to turn to artisanal cobalt mining because is the highest-earning job in the region, it provides between $2.15 and $8.60 per day in cash, and it requires no investment, little training, or skill. However, inequality prevails at mine sites and women tend to take on the lowest-paid roles, such as washing ore. They are also more likely to be cheated on price when selling their minerals or even prevented from accessing some mine sites under the stigmatic belief that their presence would bring poor fortune.
Within this context, the cost of living is rising, with the estimated living wage in the area reaching $15.78 per day. Consequently, families are struggling to make ends meet and bring enough food to the table. Thus, children are encouraged to step in.
“Children work when families get desperate, leading to a reliance on income from child labour to cover basic needs like food, clothing, or school fees,” the report reads. “Women understand children are not allowed to work in mine sites but see no other alternatives for their survival. Children circumvent bans on child labour by moving between mine sites, adjusting the hours they work, and paying informal ‘access fees’.”
An Amnesty International report mentions that roughly, 40,000 young boys and girls were working in copper and especially cobalt mine sites in the southern DRC in 2014. The number, however, is expected to have grown as the production of electric cars expanded worldwide.
Children working in cobalt mines in Congo earn up to $2.50 per day. They usually give their earnings to their mothers, who use it for basic household necessities and educational fees.