2019年11月12日 星期二


Yahoo News on 12 October 2019 reported the following -

Melting Ice Redraws the World Map and Starts a Power Struggle
Bloomberg Marc Champion, Bloomberg 23 hours ago

(Bloomberg) -- Melting ice is opening access to new energy resources faster than predicted, prompting a nascent great power struggle in the Arctic as the political and economic map of the world is transformed.

That, at least, is one picture that's being sharply drawn at this weekend’s Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland, a kind of Davos for the far north. The seven-year-old event is the largest annual forum for politicians, scientists, environmentalists and others to talk about the Arctic, including climate change, security and the exploitation of new oil and gas discoveries.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry called for “free nations” to resist attempts from those “that seek to dominate the Arctic from the outside,” an apparent reference to China, which calls itself a “near Arctic” power. Speaking at Thursday’s opening session, he also warned against countries trying to do the same through energy sales, an oblique dig at Russia.

Yet the attempt to rally U.S. allies faces an uphill battle as the Arctic emerges as a potential 21st century geopolitical flash-point in the way transportation routes like the Suez Canal were in the 20th.

Perry was followed on stage by Dmitry Artyukhov, the governor of the Yamal-Nenets region in Russia. He spelled out the growing international involvement in his region’s new and planned liquefied natural gas fields.

In the three years from 2016 to 2018, these have quadrupled Russia’s share of the global LNG market to 8%, from 2%, with much more growth to come. Investors so far include Total SA of France, CNOOC Ltd. and China National Petroleum Corp. of China, and Mitsui & Co. and Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, of Japan. Further projects are already approved.

South Korea, meanwhile, is building ice-hardened LNG supertankers to ship the gas, at more than $300 million apiece. They can only deliver to Asia when Russia’s Northern Sea Route is relatively ice free. Still, this year it became navigable in August and traffic is still passing in October. The time-frame for when the passage will be consistently ice free is shrinking all the time. [sic]

Artyukhov was followed by a double act of diplomats from China and U.S. treaty ally South Korea, who talked about their tight trilateral cooperation on Arctic affairs with another U.S. treaty ally, Japan.

Asked if China might stop calling itself a near Arctic state in the light of U.S. opposition, Gao Feng, special representative for Arctic affairs in China’s foreign ministry, said simply: “No.”

We see the emergence in front of our eyes of a new economic, business and political map,” said former Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who founded and chairs the Arctic Circle Assembly.

What is happening now is first, the emergence of Asia as the leading source of economic growth in the 21st century, and second, the opening up of the Arctic which, combined with new technologies, is creating access to the oil and gas to supply that growth,” he said in an interview just ahead of the conference in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik.

That emerging new world order was mapped out in a slide show on Friday morning by Henry Tillman, who runs Grisons Peak LLP, a London-based investment bank, and its research arm, China Investment Research. Projected onto the conference hall’s giant screen, he called it “Paving the Polar Silk Road.”

The Polar Silk Road is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and aims to reduce its trade logistics costs. Not only is the Northern Sea Route much shorter than current energy shipping lanes to Asia via the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal, there’s also less political risk, Tillman said. There’s nothing like the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, for example, where tension with Iran has escalated.

The U.S. has ambitions of its own to become one of the world’s leading LNG exporters. It’s projected to be producing 100 million tons of LNG by 2024, to Russia’s 63 million tons, but could face higher extraction and transport costs to get to export markets in Asia and Europe, according to Tillman.

That explains the aggressive stance the U.S. has taken against a planned natural gas pipeline from Russia to Europe and toward Russia and China’s activities in the Arctic, said Grimsson, Iceland’s president from 1996 to 2016.

Shawn Bennett, deputy assistant secretary for oil and natural gas at the Department of Energy, said the U.S. was not concerned about competition. Growth projections for natural gas demand in India and other Asian countries are so high, and the need for supply diversification in Europe so acute that there’s little risk of a glut, he told Bloomberg. “Global demand for LNG is just going to grow,” he said.

The U.S. may be pushing back in more concrete ways. On September 30, the Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on units of China’s Cosco Shipping Corp., over alleged breaches of U.S. sanctions against Iran. The move immediately hit the Yamal projects LNG tanker routes because of Cosco’s share in one of the main shipping companies involved.

Still, for those who have been working in the Arctic for a long time, much of the geopolitical discussion sounds a little breathless. Last year, Russia’s Northern Sea Route carried 29 million tons of cargo, with projections rising to 90 million. The Suez Canal carries about 1 billion tons.

Ice floes are unpredictable even when retreating, and insurable risks for shipping through the polar ice can be significantly higher than in warmer seas, according to Janne Valkonen, who specializes in engineering ships and oil rigs for cold weather at DNV GL Group, a provider of maritime risk services.

Disputes, race, scramble – stop using these terms,” said Liv Monica Stubholt, a Norwegian lawyer with the firm Selmer AS, who advises companies on Arctic issues “There is no scramble for the Arctic. The biggest problem my clients have is attracting investment.”


(彭博)- 融冰正在以比預期更快的速度開放獲取新能源的途徑,隨著世界政治和經濟格局的變化,在北極引發了新生的大國鬥爭。


美國能源部長里克·佩里(Rick Perry)呼籲“自由國家”抵制那些“試圖從外部統治北極”的企圖,這顯然是指中國,中國自稱為“近北極”大國。在周四的開幕式上,他還警告各國不要試圖通過能源銷售來達到同樣效應,這是對俄羅斯的一種間接嘲諷。


佩里之後是俄羅斯亞馬爾·涅涅茨地區總督德米特里·阿秋霍夫(Dmitry Artyukhov)上台。他詳細明了國際對該地區新的及在計劃中的液化天然氣田的參與。


與此同時,韓國正在建造冰硬化的液化天然氣超級油輪,以運送天然氣,每艘造價超過3億美元。它們只能在俄羅斯的北海航線在相對無冰的時候才運送到亞洲。不過,今年八月已通航,十月仍能暢通無阻。通道始終保持無冰狀態的時間框架一直在縮小 [sic]

阿圖霍夫(Artyukhov)之後是來自中國和美國的條約盟國 - 韓國 - 的外交官的雙重行動,他們談到一起與另一美國條約盟國日本在北極事務上的緊密三邊合作。



他在會前在冰島首都雷克雅未克接受采訪時 “現在發生的事情是,首先,亞洲成為21世紀經濟增長的主要來源,其次,北極的開放,結合新技術,創造了石油和天然氣的供應渠道的增長”

這個新興的新世界秩序是由Henry Tillman經營的倫敦的投資銀行Grisons Peak LLP及其研究機構 - 中國投資研究部 - 在周五上午用幻燈片放映中呈現。他投影在會議廳的大屏幕上稱其為“鋪設極地絲綢之路”。


美國有雄心壯志,成為世界領先的液化天然氣出口國之一。 Tillman表示,到2024年,該國的LNG量預計將達到1億噸,俄羅斯將達到6300萬噸,但要進入亞洲和歐洲的出口市場,可能面臨更高的開采和運輸成本。

在冰島由1996 2016當總統的格里姆森,這解釋了美國在面對俄羅斯接駁到歐洲的天然氣管道的計劃,以及俄羅斯和中國在北極的活動採取激進立場的理由。

能源部石油與天然氣副部長助理肖恩·本特(Shawn Bennett)表示,美國並不擔心競爭。他對彭博社,印度和其他亞洲國家對天然氣需求的增長預測是如此之高,而歐洲對供應多樣化的需求是如此緊迫,以至於幾乎沒有供過於求的風險。他:“全球對液化天然氣的需求將不斷增長。”

美國可能會以更具體的方式進行反擊。 930日,美國財政部因中國涉嫌違反美國對伊朗的製裁措施,對中國遠洋運輸公司的各部門實施了製裁。此舉立即衝擊了雅瑪律專案的液化天然氣油輪航線,因為中遠所占份額涉及其中一間主要航運公司。


在從事海風險服務公司的DNV GL Group工作, 而專門開發寒冷天气使用工的程船和石油鑽機的Janne Valkonen認為,浮冰即使在撤退時也是無法預測,況且经过極地冰的運輸的可保風險可能比在溫暖的海域高得多。

 Selmer AS公司的挪威律師Liv Monica Stubholt “停止使用這些術語: 爭端,種族,略奪” 。他職责是在北極問題上向公司提供諮詢意見 -- “北極沒有爭奪。我的客面臨的最大問題是吸引投資。”

       So, North Pole passage could become another flash-point for world powers to fight for resources.

2019年11月11日 星期一

"Super-calculation" in the hands of mankind - Google verification

Recently Nihon Keizai Shimbun electronic version reported the following:
「超計算」人類の手中に グーグル実証か
2019/10/18 18:00日本経済新聞 電子版


















New quantum chip that seemed to have been developed by Google

The quantum computer, which was expected to be an innovative technology following artificial intelligence (AI), was approaching the “day beyond the supercomputer”. Google seemed to have succeeded in demonstrating a performance that was a theoretical concept, and succeeded in instantly solving a 10,000-year problem with a state-of-the-art supercomputer. The US IBM and others were also focusing on research. Rapid progress would eventually bring unprecedented computational power to mankind. Through the use of AI and financial market risk predictions, it had the potential to cause disruption (creative destruction) in society.

It seemed that Google had achieved “Quantum Transcendence”. The UK Financial Times reported in September: according to materials obtained by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the company's quantum computer solved a computational problem in 3 minutes and 20 seconds that took about 10,000 years with a state-of-the-art supercomputer.

Quantum transcendence referred to the ability of quantum computers to solve computational problems that were difficult with conventional computers. It seemed that Google had demonstrated the world's first computing performance that was theoretically superior to supercomputers. The company said it had “no comment”; but if it was true, it was "a level that can be recorded in textbooks. A record that stands in history" (Yoshiaki Shimada, fellow of the Japan Science and Technology Agency). It seemed that it would be officially announced soon.

Quantum computers operated according to the physical law of “quantum mechanics”. Conventional computers represent information by “0” or “1”, but in the quantum mechanics world “it's 0 and it's also 1” special states could occur.

By using a calculation unit called “quantum bit” using this mechanism, it was possible to process a large amount of information collectively. The number of calculations would be greatly reduced and the time might dramatically shorten. This time, Google realized 53 qubits, and it seemed that it had demonstrated the performance exceeding a supercomputer in the calculation that made random numbers.

The reason why Google and others had started research on quantum computers was that the limits to improving the performance of conventional computers by micro-fabrication of semiconductors had begun to appear. With the advent of AI and the like, computers that could handle enormous amounts of data were required.

Reaching 50-100 qubits, development was moving to a medium-sized quantum computer called "NISQ". It was not yet usable for a wide range of calculations, but expectations increased when the economy, industry and society changed.

There were many unsolvable problems due to lack of computing power. For example, eliminating congestion in urban areas. Innumerable cars now ran for their own convenience, causing traffic jams. It was difficult to calculate in a short time the path that each vehicle took. If you could use a quantum computer to indicate the "optimal route that does not cause traffic jams" for each car, it would help.

Processing of images and languages ​​by AI might also save energy and time. Utilizing computational power, it might be possible to support the birth of new medical treatments that made medicines according to the individual's body feature.

IBM was committed to developing “ways of utilization” for quantum computers. In 2016 it released quantum computers to external users via the cloud. In addition to over 150,000 registered users around the world, research would be conducted with nearly 80 companies such as Daimler in Germany and JP Morgan Chase in the US.

In Japan, Keio University had a cooperation base, and banks and major chemical companies had participated. Research on innovative drug and material development, financial market risk prediction, etc. was in an exciting and passionate atmosphere.

However, quantum computers did not only bring “light”. Innovative technology could be a threat sometimes. What was whispered was the risk that the Internet society would be shaken from the ground up.

Currently, information such as passwords was encrypted during communication. Even the latest supercomputers were considered "safe" because it took time to decipher. Quantum computers could break this code. The study of new encryption technology could also proceed.

IBM's mainframe (general-purpose machine) was released in 1964. Conventional computers also had a dawning period of about 20 years before that. Norishige Morimoto, executive officer of IBM Japan, pointed out that "quantum computers are in that phase".

In the history of computers, after about 70 years, innovative movement began to occur for the first time. Although there were many issues in putting a full-scale quantum computer into practical use, the US Intel and the Alibaba group in China were also entering the development, and breakthroughs were expected to continue.

           So, it seems that a revolutionary change in the field of computer is happening.

2019年11月8日 星期五

The number of births drops below 900,000 in 2019: two years earlier than expected

Recently Nihon Keizai Shimbun Electronic Edition reported the following:
出生数90万人割れへ 19年、推計より2年早く
2019/10/7 2:00日本経済新聞 電子版













The number of births in Japan was declining rapidly. From January to July, it decreased by 5.9% compared to the same period of the previous year, it was a decrease pacing not seen in 30 years. The baby boomers were in their late 40s, and the number of women in childbirth had decreased. Just three years after falling below 1 million in 2016, it was likely to drop below 900,000 in 2019. The declining birthrate that surpassed government expectations had caste a shadow on the social security system and economic growth. There was an urgent need to create an environment that facilitated childbirth and child-rearing.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's demographic statistics (preliminary report), the number of births from January to July was 518,590, a decrease of 5.9% year-on-year. While the decline had been for 4 years in a row, in 2019,  month after month the decline in March was 7.1%. It was a 2.0% down from January to July 2018 year-on-year.

Mr. Takumi Fujinami of the Japan Research Institute said, “It reflects the end of the baby boomer's childbirth”. Born in 1971-74, all this generation would be over 45-years-old in 2019.

According to the population estimate as of October 1, 2018, comparing to the number of Japanese women in the 40s which was at 9.07 million, those in the 30s was 23% less to stand at 6.96 million and those in the 20s was 36% less at 5.78 million. The number of women in childbirth period had substantially decreased.

The total fertility rate, which was the number of children a woman would have in her lifetime, had decreased to 1.42 in 2018, a continuous drop for three years. The rate for a person who wanted to marry and give birth to a child was 1.8, and there was a big difference between the ideal and the actual situation. The government had been working on the establishment of daycare centers and the promotion of childcare leave with a goal of achieving the "desired fertility rate of 1.8" in 2015, but the result was not good. If the fertility rate did not increase, there would be no end to the decreasing births.

The preliminary figures for demographic statistics had included births in Japan by foreigners, and also overseas births by Japanese. Except for these annual number of births as announced by the government which stood at about 30,000, the number of Japanese births in 2018 was about 918,000. In 2019, if the rate of decline continued until July, it was likely that this number might drop below 900,000. Even including foreigners, it might not reach 900,000.

According to an estimate compiled by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in 2017, the birth rate in 2019 would be 921,000 (based on the total population). There would be a dropping below 900,000 people at 2021 (886,000 people), and if this happened in 2019, it came two years early.

The declining birthrate shook the social security framework of medical care, pensions, and nursing care in which the active generation was supporting the elderly. In particular, the public pension was supported by insurance premiums paid by the present generation. If the number of participants was reduced, the amount paid would be affected. The medical expenses that might increase due to an increase in the number of elderly people would burden the insufficient working generation.

As the birthrate declined, labor shortages in some industries would become more serious. The decline in the labor force, especially in the younger generation, would also lower the economic growth rate.

In order to improve the number of births, there was the challenge to create an environment where young women could easily give birth. Looking at Japan's fertility rate by age group, among the late 30s, it was 1.7-1.9 units, which was not as high as France or Sweden. It was among the 20s that there was a big drop in all countries.

In Japan's labor practice, where life-long employment was often practiced, taking a leave for childbirth or childcare would not be a plus for the career and tended to be a disadvantage for work. It was difficult to hope for further after a second child because of the late birth. It was necessary to change measures now employed to check the declining birthrate, including the establishment of a corporate culture that would allow husbands to increase their child-rearing participation.

Overseas, there had been a significant decrease in the number of births. In the United States, the number of births in 2018 was at the lowest level in 32 years. The number of births in South Korea from January to June 2019 fell sharply by about 8%.

          It seems that a dropping in birth rate is a world-wide phenomenon in many countries.

2019年11月7日 星期四

Large LNG construction in East Africa, 1.2 trillion yen - JGC HD, etc.

Recently Nihon Keizai Shimbun Electronic Edition reported the following:
自動車・機械 環境エネ・素材 中東・アフリカ
2019/10/8 18:00日本経済新聞 電子版









JGC Holdings (HD) had received an order for the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Mozambique, eastern Africa. The business scale was about 1.2 trillion yen, and JGC HD orders were expected to be around 400 billion yen. With regard to infrastructure exporting to overseas, while the exports of nuclear power plants that Japan had worked on in the public and private sectors had become stagnated, the Chinese had made rapid progress in the railway sector. The large-scale LNG business was strong in Japan and would be a key to infrastructure export.

Japan's infrastructure exports were positioned as one of the pillars of the growth strategy as domestic demand shrank due to population decline. Nuclear power exports were not progressing as expected due to the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. LNG had lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than coal, and demand was expanding. Large LNG required high technical capabilities in plant facilities, and the number of plant companies involved was limited to a few companies such as JGC HD and Chiyoda Corporation.

The plants that JGC HD and others had received orders could have a production capacity of more than 15 million tons per year, which was about 5% of the world's LNG trading volume. The largest oil company, ExxonMobil, would operate in 2025 and could supply to Japan and China. Major companies such as JGC Global that was under JGC HD, also Fluor from the America and Technip FMC from Europe had signed a contract with Exxon-led management company for design, material procurement, and construction work.

Off the coast of East Africa, the world's largest gas fields were discovered one after another after 2010, and development proceeded as a new source of LNG. It might become a supply area after Qatar and Australia, and plant companies were also aiming at entering the business. Exxon was looking to increase its production capacity, and the opportunity for the next order was great.

In the plant industry, the presence of the Chinese influence was increasing. Looking at the 250 plant companies around the world that had large overseas sales in 2018 compiled by the US construction research company Engineering News Records, China's sales accounted for a quarter of the total. Orders had increased for construction of railways in Africa and Asia. However, Japanese players were dominant in the field of LNG plants.

In LNG plants, oil development companies' investment declined due to a sharp drop in crude oil prices since 2014, and large-scale investments stagnated until 2016. Large-scale investments had been on a recovery trend since 2017 as crude oil prices rose. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global demand for natural gas was expected to grow to 525 trillion cubic meters in 2035, compared to 3,752 billion cubic meters in 2005.

The government's infrastructure export strategy had set a goal of increasing the order value to 30 trillion yen in 2020, which would be three times higher than in 2010. LNG was likely to become a pillar placing the nuclear power plant originally assumed.

              So, Japan is good at building LNG plants. Specialization is a normal feature among countries globally, and adaptation to the world demand is important for the economic giants to stay in power.