Weekly roundup 02/12/2016

02 Dec 2016

In the news this week:

Oil prices rose by 13% to $51 a barrel after OPEC announced a surprise deal to cut production by 1.2m barrels a day for six months from January 2017. Libya and Nigeria are exempt from the deal, but Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Russia all agreed to cuts. Some scepticism exists over how compliant OPEC members will be, as quotas have been cheated in the past to avoid any loss of market share but, for now, it seems likely that the deal will benefit US shale, which was already showing signs of a rebound before the deal was agreed. The share prices of more than 50 US O&G companies rose by more than 10% after the news was announced. Read more here.

Europe's and Russia's new satellite, the Trace Gas Orbiter, sent back its first images of the planet Mars this week. The TGO is currently in a highly elliptical parking orbit that will be circularised over the next year to allow the mission to begin full science operations. Scientists have taken the opportunity of their proximity to the planet in recent days to use the TGO's instruments and take some photos. The Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS), built at the University of Bern, has taken the impressive images. Read more about the TGO mission here.

Aarhus, Denmark, will use biogas, created from household wastewater and sewage, to clean water and pump it round the city. The Marselisborg Wastewater Treatment Plant in Aarhus has undergone improvements that allow it to generate more than 150% of the electricity needed to run the plant. It is the first time in the world that a city will be powered in this way. Read more here.

Concerns have been raised over the future of a world-leading laboratory that has pioneered research into fusion in the UK for nearly 40 years. The Culham Centre for Fusion Energy is largely funded by the EU and dozens of its scientists come from outside the UK. The vote to leave the EU has cast doubts over the centre’s viability, specifically around future financing (its contract expires in 2018) and freedom of movement. However, a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said, ‘There has been no change in our participation in the EU's nuclear fusion research programme. The UK is a key contributor to joint EU research projects and we will be working closely with our EU partners to ensure international collaboration in this field continues.’ Read more here.

A team of scientists from Caltech have conducted experiments on animals that suggest Parkinsons, the central nervous disorder, could be caused by bacteria living in the gut. If the findings are correct, it would open up new avenues of study and treatment, such as drugs to kill gut bugs or probiotics. Read more here.

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