A round-up of this month's engineering news from around the world with a regional focus on the UK.
German energy giant RWE is considering closing the Garzweil brown coal mine in North Rhine Westphalia - the biggest in Europe - due to the falling demand for energy produced in coal-fired plants. According to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, RWE plans to shut down the mine once all the brown coal is mined from areas already cleared of towns and villages, which is expected to happen by 2017 or 2018.
Nissan plans to open a factory in Nigeria, becoming the first major car-maker to operate in the country following a legislation change. The company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with West African conglomerate Stallion Group and foresees producing its first vehicle in Stallion’s Lagos-based factory by the spring of 2014.
South Africa’s government laid out new regulations for shale gas exploration, opening up possibilities for fracking in the Karoo region, which is believed to have one of the world’s richest shale gas reserves. The decision will enable the country to move away from the currently prevailing coal towards greener energy sources. However, environmental groups are opposing the decision due to concerns about possible damage in the important natural area.
Norwegian scientists started mapping resources along the Mid-Atlantic ridge with the possible prospects of mining precious metals from the sea bed in the future. The team is gathering samples from the depths using remotely operated submarines and has already identified several locations worth further exploration.
A team from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands won the World Solar Challenge, crossing Australia from Darwin to Adelaide in 33 hours with a fully solar-powered vehicle. The Nuon Solar Team became the winner of the competition for the second consecutive time, introducing innovative concentrators enabling the vehicle to stay in motion even in overcast conditions.
Slovenia has voiced its full support for Gazprom’s ambitious South Stream pipeline project to bring natural gas from the Black Sea to southern Europe. Some 165 miles of the 1,482-mile long pipeline will cross Slovenia on the way to Austria.
Turkey opened the world’s first underwater rail link between two continents, realising a project dreamt up by Ottoman sultans more than a century ago. The engineering feat spans eight miles to link Europe with Asia some 60m below the Bosphorus Strait. Called the Marmaray, it will carry subway commuters in Europe’s biggest city and eventually serve high-speed and freight trains.
A Google Glass user will fight a fine for wearing the Internet-connected device while driving in California. Cecilia Abadie was pulled over for speeding and a California Highway Patrol officer added a ticket usually given to drivers who may be distracted by a video or TV screen. Abadie suggested that navigating with the device could be less distracting than with a GPS unit or phone.
Ukraine has signed a $10bn (£6.23bn) shale gas production-sharing agreement with US oil company Chevron in a bid to become less dependent on energy from Russia. The deal to develop the western Olesska field followed a similar shale gas agreement with Royal Dutch Shell in January and has strained relationships with its major energy supplier, Russia.
India successfully launched its first mission to Mars, aiming to put a satellite in Martian orbit at a fraction of the cost of previous missions by the world’s leading space agencies. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) blasted off the south-eastern coast with the satellite scheduled to start orbiting Mars by September, searching for methane and signs of minerals.