The U.S.’s most prestigious national newspapers in the last week have published a number of interesting stories that highlight new wrinkles in global energy markets.

Further contributions to the continuing gas glut

The Wall Street Journal on Friday, June 26, had an interesting piece on Exxon Mobil’s scheduled start up of three LNG projects in Qatar. The three could produce more than three billion cubic feet a day of natural gas, which could end up here in the U.S. Of course with low demand and seemingly excess capacity already here, one could ask, why bother? But as the story explains, the Qatar gas is very inexpensive to produce, and competing markets also are already oversupplied.

Alternative energy to power refinery

The Journal also took note of the fact that Valero Energy Corp., “which can process more crude than any other U.S. refiner, recently installed 33 windmills to supply a refinery [in Sunray, Texas] with green electricity to produce gasoline and diesel. The $115 million wind farm, which will be ready to operate at full capacity in August, “will pay for itself in about 10 years at current electricity prices” company officials say.

Turbulence in carbon capture efforts

The New York Times on Friday, June 26 said that “two of the nations, biggest coal-burning utilities have said they are withdrawing from a $2.4 billion project to demonstrate carbon capture and storage, and would instead “pursue their own work in the field.” The announcement by the utilities, Southern Company and American Electric Power, is seen as a blow to the multinational consortium called the FutureGen Alliance.

Identifying uses for carbon dioxide

On Monday, June 29 the Times had a story on a pending announcement from Dow Chemical and Algenol Biofuels that they will build a demonstration plant that would use algae to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol as a vehicle fuel or an ingredient in plastics. The story goes on to say, “Because algae does not require any farmland or much space, many energy companies are trying to use it to make commercial quantities of hydrocarbons for fuel and chemicals. But harvesting the hydrocarbons has proved difficult so far.”

What the earth giveth…

Finally, on Wednesday, June 24 The New York Times ran an in-depth piece on efforts to tap into geothermal energy as an alternative energy source. To capture geothermal energy from hot bedrock, it must be broken up to extract the heat, and it turns out that can create a danger of earthquakes. As companies begin to drill deeper, fears of more sizeable earthquakes being unleashed are being voiced.