World News

A round-up of this month's engineering news from around the world with a regional focus on Japan

30 July

About 50,000 litres of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Thailand due to a broken pipeline operated by PTT Global Chemical about 12mi off the Thai coast. The oil spill, described as the fourth worst in Thailand's history, resulted in oil washing ashore in a popular tourist resort on the Koh Samet island, affecting local tourism.

29 July

A robot bartender called Carl has taken up residence at a futuristic bar in the eastern German town of Ilmenau. The brainchild of mechatronics engineer Ben Schaefer and his humanoid robots company H&S-Robots, the 2.5m tall Carl can prepare ingredients for mixing cocktails, serve drinks and engage with customers in simple conversations.

29 July

The Saudi Arabian government awarded $22.5bn (£14.6bn) in contracts to build a driverless metro rail system in the capital Riyadh. The project, involving six rail lines extending 110 miles and carrying electric driverless trains, is the world's largest public transport system currently under development.

1 August

Morroco has launched a tender for two concentrated solar power plants producing 200MW and 100MW respectively to be built near the southern city of Ouarzazate. Both proposed power plants are expected to use sun-beam concentrating technology that relies on precision-curved mirrors to focus the sunlight from a large area onto a small area.

23 July

A natural gas well that exploded off the coast of Louisiana, USA, is deemed to pose less environmental risk than previous offshore accidents. The Hercules 265 drilling rig located in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico partially collapsed on 23 July after catching fire because of a ruptured natural gas well.

18 July

A ranching town in Colorado is considering paying bounties to anyone who shoots down an unmanned drone, similar to those governments once paid to hunters who killed animals that preyed on livestock. Next month, trustees of Deer Trail will debate an ordinance that would allow residents to purchase a $25 hunting license to shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles.

10 July

The Pentland Firth in Scotland could potentially generate power equivalent to almost half of Scotland's annual electricity consumption. Research led by the University of Oxford suggests the maximum the firth, which separates the Orkney Islands from mainland Scotland, could produce would be 1.9GW, with 1GW a more realistic target, well below previous estimates of 10GW to as much as 20GW.

15 July

French President Francois Hollande said the ban on hydraulic fracturing would stay in place despite a legal challenge by US company Schuepbach Energy. France is reported by the International Energy Agency to have some of Europe's most abundant shale resources but exploration permits issued before Hollande's pro-green government was established in 2011 have since been withheld.

24 July

A train derailed two miles south of Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain injuring more than 100 people and killing 78. Investigators initially considered whether fail-safe systems were at fault but ultimately decided human error was the likely cause, prompting the driver to be arrested for 'recklessness'.

22 July

Prospectors Providence Resources failed to find oil at an exploration well in deep water off the south-west coast of Ireland. The firm said it found water, not oil, at the Dunquin North well, drilled by its partner Exxon Mobil, but analysis of the well still found indications of the potential for oil to be found nearby keeping alive hopes of big offshore discoveries in the area.

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