Monday Jun 24, 2013
- Tuesday Jun 25, 2013 -
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - USA
Data Informed´s Marketing Analytics and Customer Engagement provides marketing, sales, and customer support managers with the information they need to create an effective data-driven customer strategy. more...
Monday May 20, 2013
- Saturday May 25, 2013
- 8:30 AM Eastern -
Stowe, Vermont - USA
Legal Essentials for Utility Executives: May 19 to 25, 2013 and October 6 to 12, 2013 This rigorous, two-week course will provide electric utility executives with the legal foundation to more fully understand the utility regulatory framework, the role of more...
We know you have something to say!
There is an immediate need for articles on
the hot topics in the Power Industry!
EnergyPulse, like no other publication,
also provides a means for our readers to
immediately interact with experts like you.
Several years ago I politely asked every student in my course on oil and gas economics at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) to master some important materials dealing with the availability of oil. By "master" I meant learn perfectly, assuming that they preferred a passing to a failing grade.
On the other hand, I have not dealt with thermal (or steam) coal in the classroom for many years. As many energy professionals probably know, thermal coal is a source of energy that, despite its widespread use in electricity generation, has not received much notice in the 'learned' literature, and comparatively little on the blogosphere, despite its ubiquity in the provision of heat, light, transport, and as an intermediate good in producing other forms of energy. I once tried to write a 'neutral' book on coal (1987), but as things turned out its neutrality was brought into question when a Dutch gentleman accused me of plagiarism. Under normal circumstances I would have responded to that charge with at least a show of offence, but at the time I was in Australia, and fully occupied lecturing on the coking coal used in steel making.
In that book I predicted a coal price of less than fifty dollars per tonne (=$50/t) for high quality steam coal at the present time. The average global price for coal just now is about $100/t. What has happened of course is an explosion in the demand for coal by China and -- to a lesser extent -- India. China consumes about 40% of global production, or 2.6 billion tonnes. China is a major producers, but demand is larger than supply, and the gap is certain to increase. As compared to these two countries, Japan is a large consumer, but with essentially no production. South Korea and the UK are also sizable consumers (and importers). On the other hand the major coal exporting countries are Australia, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, South Africa and Colombia.
I often use the term "game" when talking about coal, because I feel certain that more of that commodity coal is going to be burned than commonly believed, or for that matter desired by many; and despite assurances to the contrary by well-meaning (or slightly confused) decision makers, most of that coal will not be 'cleaned'. (See for example the articles of Victor and Cullenward (2007 and Victor and Rai (2009.) Thus, on one level or another a game is in progress, which in the context of the present exposition means a medley of competitive situations in which strategic considerations (bluffing, disinformation, and exploiting the options provided by prevailing political routines and attitudes) have a key significance, which is NOT the case in the Econ 101 and 201 literature. Moreover, if the cost of cleaning larger quantities of coal is for one reason or another associated with a substantial increase in average energy costs and/or prices, then the tolerance of dirty coal is going to be much higher. One reason is that pollution-wise, the great coal game features a play now-pay later format, with the likelihood that later -- assuming that water begins to rise on Canal Street or the Reeperbahn -- could be very much later. For example. about the time when the music starts at the 'end-of-century' parties on December 31st , 2099.
With all due respect, I have come to believe that energy economics has been taught so poorly, that the next time I present a course on any branch of this topic at any institution of higher or lower education, students will be held responsible for the information below, regardless of what else they absorb about coal.
As pointed out by Joe Hung (2010), coal is the most rapidly growing fuel source in the world. It is also broadly distributed, and Hung states that the energy in it exceeds that of all other fossil fuels combined. This can be easily shown by multiplying the (average) BTU (British Thermal Unit) content of a fossil fuel by proved reserves, as demonstrated in my energy economics textbooks (2007, 2000). Readers who want to extend this operation can also examine the total BTU content of proved uranium and thorium reserves. If these reserves are used in the next generation of nuclear reactors (Gen 4), assuming that those reactors deliver as expected, then the energy they can supply is greater than that in all proved or hypothetical fossil fuel reserves, as well as the energy that can likely be economically obtained from the exploitation of renewables during at least the first half of the present century.
Where electricity generation is concerned, in the U.S. coal accounts for 48%, gas 20%, nuclear 20%, hydro 7% and others -- mostly renewables -- for 5%. These numbers are highly suggestive where most industrial countries are concerned, however China consumes almost half of the annual world coal output, and together with India -- which also is a very large coal consumer -- they are on a febrile hunt for more suppliers of that resource.
Johanna Rose (2010) claims that China opens a new coal based electricity generating plant every week, however on an annual basis this is probably slightly in error. Regardless, the Chinese, Indian, and U.S. consumption of coal will ensure that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the atmosphere overwhelm any technological countermeasures, or cap-and-trade foolishness, for at least the foreseeable future.
Knock on any door these days and you might be informed of the beauty of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by turning coal into a gas and burning it in an ultra-efficient turbine, or burning it in pure oxygen without gasification, and then pumping the waste into the ground. (The latter is termed carbon capture and storage, or CCS.) I seem to remember saying a great deal about this process over the years, but I first heard of it during my tour as visiting professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore about 20 years ago. More recently though I have read or heard a great deal about this issue in Denmark, Germany and Norway. Jeffrey Michel, an MIT graduate and one of the most important commentators on German energy matters, has referred to CCS as a "thermodynamic travesty", however economic travesty is a characterization that appeals to my taste. In any event, utilizing either of these pollution reduction options could double or triple the cost of a full-scale power plant -- which admittedly is not of interest to Norwegians, since in some respects Norway is the richest country in the world, and its governments (and perhaps citizens) are always eager to flaunt their environmentalist credentials (when discussing their production and use of natural gas). However the so-called zero-emission plant that the Swedish utility Vattenfall has constructed at Schwarze Pumpe (in eastern Germany) is only a pilot operation, which I prefer to think of as a publicity stunt rather than a serious attempt to solve a weighty problem. To get some idea of the expense that will be involved, CO2 might have to be transported more than 300 kilometers, and then pumped into empty caverns 3 kilometers below the surface of the earth.
Cap-and-trade is the method favoured in the U.S. for combating CO2 emissions, largely because it has a capitalist aura, and it is believed that it has succeeded in Europe, where it is called The European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (or EUETS). In fact, as opposed to fiction, the EUETS has failed or is failing, and is predicted to fail in Europe by almost everyone who does not have something to gain in financial or career terms. The essential thing that needs to be recognized and repeated whenever possible is that the economists who initially proposed this scheme have now declared it hopeless. For example the Wall Street Journal (Aug. 13, 2009) reported that the 'inventor' of this concept, Professor Thomas Crocker, has denied its utility, and in California an important energy and environmental executive openly referred to cap-and trade as a scam. (See Jon Hilsenrath (2009).) Similarly, despite their seminal work on the topic, the late Professor John Dales, and Professor W. David Montgomery, have said that it was inapplicable in the real world. By way of contrast, a U.S. government confidant and expert, Joseph Aldy, once rejected the judgments of the above scholars, and insisted that cap-and-trade arrangements display a flexibility that make them a useful policy device. But what else could he say if he wanted to continue strutting his stuff in various White House meetings and social occasions.
In the U.S. Department of Energy, and also in the U.S. Congress, educated men and women are attempting to make the impossible possible by accepting various ill-considered departures. Without going into details, I would like to claim that it would be better if they attempted to assimilate the rhythms and logic of mainstream economic theory, instead of latching on to crank concepts proposed by itinerant delegates at international conferences.
Banks, Ferdinand E. (2007). The Political Economy of World Energy: An Introductory Textbook. London, and Singapore: World Scientific.
_____.(2000) 'Energy Economics: A Modern Introduction' Kluwer Academics New York.
______ (1985), The Political Economy of Coal. Boston: Lexington Books. Dales, H.H. (1968). Pollution, Property and Prices. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Harlinger, Hildegard (1975). 'Neue modelle für die zukunft der menshheit' IFO Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (Munich).
Hilsenrath, Jon (2009). 'Cap-and-trade's unlikely critics: its creators'. Wall Street Journal (August 13).
Hung, Joe (2010). 'Coal: the contrarian investment'. 321 Energy (April 10).
Montgomery, David. (1972). 'Markets in licenses, and efficient pollution control Programs'. Journal of Economic Theory (No. 5).
Rose, Johanna (2010). 'Drömmen om rentkol'. Forskning & Framsteg (March).
Victor, David G. and Danny Cullenward (2007). 'Making carbon markets work'.Scientific American (2007).
______. and Varun Rai (2009). 'Dirty coal is winning'. Newsweek.
For information on purchasing reprints of this article, contact sales. Copyright 2013 CyberTech, Inc.
Good article on coal. It is a versatile resource as Sasolburg in South Africa has cleary shown . . . . they produced synthetic oil from coal for US$25 per barrel a few years ago when world oil prices exceeded US$100 per barrel. Coal is more than a fuel for power stations . . . . it is become a raw material that can be processed into synthetic fabrics, rubbers and plastics. It has much economic value and coal will likely becomre a resource for many other pharmaceutical-based industries It will play a dominant role in the energy sector and in many other sectors of national economise for decades, if not centuries to come.
Len Gould 8.18.10
An excellent list of unfortunate truths.
Michael Keller 8.18.10
From a strictly energy efficiency standpoint "sequestration" of greenhouse gases is just plain dumb. The on-going technology advancements associated with coal gasification can achieve remarkable plant efficiencies and that is the direction we should move. The government's dopey misadventures with "cap-and-tax" and "sequestration" should be abandoned.
Malcolm Rawlingson 8.18.10
A fascinating article Fred. A pleasure to read. Even at the rate of nuclear plant construction in China, coal will be the dominant energy source for years to come...whatever the protestations of global warming crowd. It is this simple fact that lays waste any chance of curbing CO2 emissions. Anything done in the west is dwarfed by China.
What always amazes me Fred is why the public accepts as normal the deaths of thousands upon thousands of coal miners every year and yet finds unacceptable the mere hint of an additional dose of radiation from any nuclear plant that is unlikely to kill an insect let alone a human. Nuclear is considered "risky" and kills no-one every year. Coal is considered "conventional" and kills thousands a year.
Strange this human race.
Malcolm Rawlingson 8.18.10
Thanks Michael I agree. Putting CO2 into the ground is the most stupid idea I have ever heard of.
A conference of food scientists this week identified that increasing atmospheric CO2 levels will improve crop yields throughout the world and help feed the growing population. Sounds to me like quite a useful gas.
Fred did refer to it as a "pollutant" a term which I have heard many times in the context of CO2. I hope it isn't because I am breathing it out right now and good grief it appears to be doing me no harm at all. It is not a pollutant it is a gas essential to life on earth. Sticking it in the ground is a really idiotic idea.
The oil companies like it of course because they make money pumping oil out of holes in the ground and make even more pumping CO2 back down it again.
When you can make money at it any stupid idea will do.
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.19.10
The dilemma is obvious where energy is concerned: the wrong people are being listened to. As Malcolm suggested, the bottom line is money - which is perfectly all right, but it has gone too far when our voters install bunglers and know-nothings in high places.
The Chinese want it all. A large slice of their country is still underdeveloped, and they have no intention of accepting this situation. What this means is that no matter how much solar and wind they exploit, and talk about exploiting, a huge amount of coal is going to be burned. Period. In addition, unlike our political masters, they don't have to play the fool where nuclear is concerned. What they want is to turn the expression 'workshop of the world' into a reality that is repeated on every street corner and in every drawing room in the civilized world, and maybe in some other places. Would somebody please tell me how they can be so smart, and we can be so dumb.
Malcolm Rawlingson 8.19.10
Fred - I could not have put it any better. The West invented nuclear power and has failed miserably at exploiting even 1% of its potential. While the British dismantle their very successful fast breeder reactor the Chinese build one so that they will not have to import nuclear fuel from other countries. While the US fumbles and agonizes about building a couple of measly nuclear plants the Chinese have 24 on the go right now and another 90 - 100 on the drawing board. While the Swedes shutdown a perfectly good pair of reactors because they might upset the Danes and those attending the fleshpots of Copenhagen the Chinese build whatever they like where they like when they like and could care less what the rest of the world thinks or doesn't think.
How dumb are we - Fred we are not dumb - we are completely STUPID because the eventual outcome of such policies will be that communist China will surpass the US as the economic and therefore military superpower. Then all the precious freedoms that the Liberal do-gooders cherish so much will be gone for a very very long time.
Stupid is what we are Fred - just plain stupid.
Malcolm Rawlingson 8.19.10
Just a further point. As Fred said the Chinese have gone without for so long (centuries) that they are determined to redress the balance and you really cannot blame them for wanting what we have. I am also equally sure that they are not bothered buy the fact that when this process fully plays itself out the west will be have nots and the Chinese will be the have's it is the only possible outcome.
I listened to some nutbar social "scientist" (a misuse of the word if ever there was one) saying that the West is becoming a "knowledge" economy and does not need to manufacture anything. That is exactly the idiotic thinking that has got us to the point we are at today because it makes the crazy assumption that the only people with "knowledge" are the west. Knowledge is useless unless you DO something with it.
As a good friend of mine once said "To know and not to do is not to know"
As the Swiss found out it is no good if you know how to build a quartz watch if you never make any.
Len Gould 8.20.10
Malcolm: "A conference of food scientists this week identified that increasing atmospheric CO2 levels will improve crop yields throughout the world " - just a short re-direct there. Higher levels of CO2 than normal assist plants using C3 photosynthesis, but harm the more evolutionarily advanced plants using C4 photosynthesis. It generally agreed that the net result for human food will be negative.
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.22.10
Thanks for your comment Harry. That is a very important point, and is one of the reasons why more coal - in quantity of coal per time period - will be used than some people think. The TV audience may be willing to drive less, but whether they can cut down on e.g. petrochemicals is another matter.
Jerry Watson 8.22.10
Where are these amazingly efficient gasifiers? Name one, I worked at one for two years learned just a tad about them. Never saw any amazing numbers, nothing better heat rate wise than advanced supercritical traditional type boiler. For some reason there is a fantasy that coal gasification can duplicate combined cycle gas fired heat rates. It just is not so. It takes a lot of energy to create the syngas prior to burning resulting in unimpressive net heat rates. But things can and do change combined cycle nat gas has 60% efficiency using the LHV. I am open to hear about a super efficient IGCC plant; however, to quote EPRI in a 2006 study comparing IGCC a SCPC. “Super Critical Pulverized Coal (SCPC) technology provides the lowest capital cost, best efficiency, and lowest O&M when comparing the two 100% Powder River Basin (PRB) options. Additionally, the 100% PRB SCPC unit has the lowest busbar cost of all alternatives.
It there has been significant developments it sounds like EPRI missed it also.
Michael Keller 8.23.10
Jerry, The efficiency of combustion turbines continues to move upward due to increases in firing temperature, with outputs also climbing. For instance, MHI's recently introduced 60 Hertz "J" machine is rated at +320 MW(e) with a combined-cycle efficiency well over 60% (LHV) and firing temperature of +2600 F- see Gas Turbine World. These advancements will also translate into improvements in the efficiency and output of Integrated Gasification Combined-cycle Plants. MHI expects their 2x1 "G" IGCC plant to achieve efficiencies approaching 43% (HHV) on Powder River coal - see www.mpshq.com.
Supercritical (and ultra-supercritical) coal plants are ultimately limited in efficiency by thermodynamics (basically the pressure of the steam - check your Mollier diagram at the triple point). At operating pressures of over 3600 psig and temperatures of over 1100F, they are really pushing materials (personally, I'd prefer not to deal with such pressures and temperatures from an operations standpoint). Combustion turbines have no similar pressure and temperature limitations, thus their upside potential is much greater than the Rankine Cycle based supercritical plants.
EPRI coal gasification comparisons (at least the ones I've seen) are based on "F" series gas turbines. I suspect the comparisons based on "G" and "J" combustion turbines would give the cost edge to the IGCC plant because of the significant increase in output, which inherently drives down $/kW costs. There are other developments on other fronts involving gasification as well.
In any case, the Rankine cycle based coal plants are a mature technology, while the combustion turbine in tandem with gasification is a developing technology.
As I alluded to earlier, the idea of CO2 sequestration and IGCC is a commercial dead-end, in my opinion. Ditto for super-critical coal plants.
Jim Beyer 8.23.10
Isn't peak coal due to arrive around 2040-2050?
Malcolm Rawlingson 8.23.10
I certainly agree with you. Having briefly operated a coal plant in my younger days and seeing the steam pipes glow red when you're running the unit flat out has always concerned me. As you say I think we are at the limits of materials capabilities with supercritical steam plants and the future is most certainly coal gasification which - by comparison - is relatively recent technology.
Also agree that dumping CO2 into old oil and gas wells seems to be a dumb idea - uless you are an oil company that stands to make millions from doing it.
Malcolm Rawlingson 8.23.10
Ah well Len - we are all doomed. The only place worth living will be Canada where all the pine trees will disappear and palm trees will flourish. We will no longer have to travel South for the Winter - Canada will BE the South.
Quite looking forward to this global warming.
Billions of tons of coal under Antarctica - biggest coal field in the world - but no one will touch it. They will when it is necessary. Don't think it is going to start running out in 2040 but as usual it is all a matter of price. As price goes up so economically poor mines will be worth producing. If you mean peak coal at todays prices - you could be right.
Bob Amorosi 8.24.10
Interesting discussions from everyone here, I know little about coal but it is clearly a very economic source of heat energy as my story below reveals.
I have a colleague who is a developer of computerized environmental controls for the farm greenhouse industry all over the world. Here in Ontario there are many of his products in use throughout Ontario's greenhouse installations, and back in the summer of 2008 when oil prices spiked into the stratosphere, the Ontario greenhouse industry got involved with using coal for heating believe it or not.
In colder northern climates like Canada's, greenhouses must have supplemental heating in addition to the sun. The supplemental heating is typically used during the late fall, winter, and early spring months of the year, and many are set up with oil burning boiler heating systems. But when oil prices spiked in 2008, many turned to burning coal by late 2008 ! No pollution controls on them either like a power plant has, and if oil prices hadn't come back down for them to go back to oil, air pollution in rural areas would have become a steadily growing problem. The economics of running their greenhouse operations demanded a cheaper source of fuel at the time or potentially face going out of business.
Richard Goodwin 8.24.10
Federal Government realizes that coal will remain a signficant component of US Energy. Private and public sectors are investing billions of dollars in Clean Coal Technology.
DOE funding of FutureGen 2.0 to demonstrate Carbon Capture and Sequestration [CCS] will be augmented by new coal-fired power plants also employing CO2 removal and capture technology i.e. Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle [IGCC]. Ameren Energy Resources Company-- the holding company for merchant generation for Ameren Corporation; The Babcock & Wilcox Company (B&W) and Air Liquide Process & Construction, Inc. (Air Liquide), have been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) clean coal power program to negotiate the installation of the world's first full-scale oxy-coal-fired power plant that includes permanent carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage (CCS). Proposed funding for the project -- known as FutureGen 2.0 -- would supplement the construction and operating costs of a 200-megawatt, near-zero emissions generating facility to be located at Ameren's Meredosia Plant near Jacksonville, Ill. If the project is accepted and regulatory approvals are received, the next steps would be the negotiation of a cooperative agreement with DOE, followed by a six-month initial design process and analysis of costs. Construction is expected to begin in 2012 with a targeted completion date in the third quarter 2015. Since coal-fired power plants provide about 50% of the electrical energy for the USA, the government supports technology to improve future plants’ environmental compatibility. The additional costs, however, may increase cost of energy production.
Implementing Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle [IGCC] significantly increases the cost of these types of plants. The IGCC power plant in Edwardsport, is expected to be in operation by 2012 will cost $2.88 Billion or $4660/KW. The 602 MW Taylorville IGCC plant will cost $3.5 Billion or $5800/KW. The 582 MW Kemper County IGCC will cost $3.2 Billion or $5500/KW. If a traditional coal-fired plant was to be built for Kemper County, it would cost $2.4 Billion or $ 4100/KW. In this case the additional cost to opt for IGCC raises power plant cost by about 35%.
For example, CNBC, Mad Money, Jim Cramer Thursday August 19, 2010 warns
Thanks to new energy-efficiency standards that will be phased in from 2012 to 2014, regular incandescent bulbs will effectively be banned as they burn too much electricity.
of possible electricity problems shortly.
Cramer is reported to have recently warned
[M]ad Money’s Jim Cramer issued a damning blanket statement on all solar and wind stocks yesterday because of his concerns about whether or not these stocks are viable businesses without government subsidies.
I am pleased to see folks citing thermal efficiencies are stipulating whether their divisor is HHV or LHV.
I had always assumed e's on HHV unless it was explicitly noted to the contrary, so I have often seen e's higher than I could believe. (Approx ratios of LHV/HHV for hydrogen, methane, liquid hydrocarbons are 0.846, O.90, 0.94 respectively.)
Bill, You wrote above,"The nation's fleet of over 100 coal plants is responsible for 57 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S..." I don't have the exact number of US coal-burners in front of me but I suggest you are an order of magnitude too low,.and as noted often here the percentage of US electricity from coal is about 48%. Sixteen new coal-burners have gone on stream in the last year or so and 16 more are nearing completion.
Don Hirschberg 8.24.10
Bill, I am curious about your statement, "I'm Iran educated in higher algebra in 1958." I cannot remember the year, but the Shah was still there. Iran contacted my employer looking for a man to be an assistant to their Oil Minister (who also was some kind of prince). I was picked. The pitch was that I would always be on call to travel with him - at the drop of the hat. Iran at that time was touted as the stable oil country in the Middle East. I was told that if I took the job my wife and I would have access to doctors and dentists in Beirut,Lebanon and would have good accommodations etc. I was tempted but I demurred..
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.24.10
Jim B., one of my colleagues here at the Uppsala College of Economic Knowledge has coal peaking in the not too distant future, and also a gent at Cal Tech. The latter chap is a very smart man, whiile the boss/mentor of the former is a stupido. But that doesn't worry me, because when it comes to looking at OPTIMAL electric costs I choose nuclear. Of course I was Chicao educated in lower algebra until the dean of engineering called me to his office for a little heart-to-heart, which sent me to the recruiting officer as soon as I reached the age of consent.
Don Hirschberg 8.25.10
Professor Banks, I searched for "Uppsala College of Economic Knowledge" the words you cited in your comment above..I get the same "hits" as when I had searched for Uppsala College, Uppsala University or Uppsala University Economics Department, and other permutations, etc.
I worked my way through a labyrinth and eventually got to a site that let me ask about faculty members and university employees. I got many names, including those of economics professors and visiting professors, but no hits when I submit your name. Perhaps you will explain?
Fred Linn 8.25.10
When I look at the total energy production numbers published by the US Energy Information Agency on August 11, 2010. This includes information on energy generation by sector since 1996.
Coal has held relatively steady at around 2 million (thousand Megawatt hours) down slightly in 2009 to just under 1.8 million after reaching highs of over 2 million in 2005 and 2007.
Over the same period, 1996-2009, natural gas more than doubled from .455 million to .920 million.
Over the same period, renewable energy sources other than hydro also come very close to doubling, from .075 million to .141 million.
If these trends continue for the next 14 years at the same pace as they have for the last 14 years----the US energy mix will be a very different picture in 2024 than it is today.
When I divide coal generation by total generation for 2009, I get 44.6%.
Richard, The DOE pouring over a billion dollars into a retrofit on a small 250 MW (electric) power plant is not my idea of a wise investment of tax payer money. Odd that a former B&W Exec, now at DOE, was a key DOE player in the decision that benefits B&W.
Fred, Simply projecting the continued doubling of small percentages into the distant future does not necessarily ultimately lead to really large numbers. The fundamentals need to be understood.
Fred Linn 8.25.10
Michael----stuff happens, whether we understand it or not.
Stuff like people realizing that there is no such thing as "Clean Coal". No matter HOW you try to clean up emissions, etc. at the generating plant---coal still comes from strip mines. There is no such thing a "Clean Coal", and there never can be.
14 years is not a distant future. Especially when you consider that it is far cheaper and technically more effective to convert a coal plant to use natural gas. All you do is take out the coal furnaces and replace them with ng burners. All we are doing is boiling water----it ain't rocket science.
Christopher Noble 8.25.10
OK, so we have much more coal than any other non-renewable energy source. Not exactly news. Using coal means tearing up landscapes and creating a lot of CO2. CO2 sequestration is still a very fuzzy idea and appears very expensive.
As former Saudi Oil Minister Zaki Yamani said, "The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone".
Rinaldo Sorgenti 8.25.10
Dear Prof. Ferdinand E.Banks,
I read with interest your valuable article above and I fully agree with you on its content.
About the EUETS system, living in Italy I could only confirm that this cap-and-trade system has totally faIled because, primarily, it has been based on a distorted distribution of emissions permits amongst the various EU major countries, which had been able to influence the burden of CO2 emission reduction in order to get a competitive advantage on some others. So Germany, U.K., France and Netherlands got a higher/disproprtionate volume of allowances when compared to the emissions figures of Italy and Spain. This generated an extra-amount of emission's permits in the hands of some which caused the financial system to collapse when the final emissions figures where made public, late in 2007.
You are certainly right when saying that just pumping underground the CO2 in depleted oil and gas deposits or caverns is a costly pure nonsense. Quite a different matter if thE CCS is linked or related to EOR or ECBM, where the CO2 help to recover additional quantities of OIL and GAS otherwise left in the ground.
A perfect example of this is in Weyburn/Canada where the CO2 - produced from a gasification Plant based in Beulah/USA then moved by a pipeline 300 km. north and cross the border with Canada in Weyburn. The capture and compression/transportation costs are more than compensated by the extra volume of oil recovered from the Weyburn oil fields.
In relation the the above topic and in general to the clear speculations going on in relation to the higher CO2 emissions from COAL fired Power Plants, I would like to suggest the reading of the below excerpt from an article written at the end of 2008 in relation to the same CO2 naturally present in all natural gas fields/deposits and naturally extracted with the natural gas during exploitation. Where, normally, all this CO2 is going to? Simply vented to the atmosphere. The silly question or point is that this is NOT accounted for by anybody and the famous IPCC scientists are just totally forgetting to account for this huge amounts of CO2 emissions (look at their IV IPCC Report as a confirmation for what above (they simply mention the CO2 content of the major natural gas fields in the world by showing the CO2 figures AFTER the CO2 had been remouved from the wells' natural gas flow, before pumping the gas into the pipeline or converting it to LNG to transfer same to the final destinations! A logical question would then be: why?
Q U O T E " The Wall Street Journal of Europe: 26/12/2008 “Exxon could benefit from emissions work” by Russel Gold. “ …. Exxon …. is spending $70 million to expand by 50% the plant’s capacity to capture carbon dioxide, brought to the surface along with the natural gas. The plant separates the natural gas from impurities. Note: “ About 1/3 of the world’s natural-gas reserves are mixed with high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), according to Exxon Mobil. That means, producing more natural gas will lead to even more carbon dioxide being vented into the air. Just an example: In Exxon’s natural-gas fields near La Barge (USA), about 65% of the gaseous mixture from the wells is carbon dioxide (CO2). Natural gas is only 22%. “ U N Q U O T E
Someone correctly wrote that CO2 is a gas on which life is based on our Planet, while speculations are not necessarily helpful to the humanity.
It would be useful and interesting if you try to investigate on the above topic and comment about same to your students and in your future valuable articles.
Michael Keller 8.25.10
The idea that "zero" emissions from a power plant is completely ludicrous. I trust the "green-energy-at-any-cost" crowd is aware that their breathing creates CO2.
Might also want consider the ramifications of "reductio ad absurbum" and similar logic forays into forecasts of the future.
Peter Mason 8.25.10
Would you care to elaborate on why you believe that; the idea of zero emissions from power plants is completely ludicous?
Can you also tell us what you classify as an emission from a power plant?
Don Hirschberg 8.25.10
Dare I broach for the umpteenth time that what is seen as many problems are only corollaries of only one problem.
Too many people.
Fred Linn 8.25.10
You are people.
Fred Linn 8.26.10
---------" The idea that "zero" emissions from a power plant is completely ludicrous. I trust the "green-energy-at-any-cost" crowd is aware that their breathing creates CO2."-----------
Wind turbines produce zero emissions. Solar cells produce zero emissions. Hydroelectric produces zero emissions. Wave power produces zero emissions. Geothermal produces zero emissions. Solar thermal produces zero emissions.
They all produce power. What is so ludicrous about that?
Len Gould 8.26.10
The Dinosaur era did end for lack of dinosuars....
Len Gould 8.26.10
Among his other good points, Rinaldo above notes "CO2 naturally present in all natural gas fields/deposits and naturally extracted with the natural gas during exploitation. Where, normally, all this CO2 is going to? Simply vented to the atmosphere. "
Proponents of N Gas-fired electrical generation need to read, then understand, than internalize this point. I've also seen Japanese exploration company statements to the effect that their gas fields in Indonesia typically produce CO2 in a ration of 1:1 with the natural gas, which CO2 is simply separated and vented.
At those levels, N Gas is a worse contributer to global warming per unit energy than coal.
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.26.10
Thank you for your contribution Rinaldo. Let me sum up my beliefs here. A lot more coal is going to be used, and CO2 emissions are not going to be suppressed. My favorite example is the Swedish firm Vattenfall in Germany. They are in the business of making large profits, and also making fools of people who pay attention to whatt they way. The last statement of Len Gould is also interesting. Ten years or so ago I heard intelligent (non-fanatic) people say what he said.
Michael Keller 8.26.10
Gentlemen, The presence of man on the planet creates emissions. To presuppose that CO2 is such a threat that none can be produced by man and his machines is irrational in the extreme when viewed in the context of the CO2 produced by nature. Nature's contribution vastly overwhelms ours.
Further, because we do not have endless piles of money lying around, cost must be considered when producing and using energy. This rather key consideration is simply ignored by many in the environmental movement.
Finally, in order to improve mankind’s lot, energy is required. Renewable sources are simply not capable of providing all of the needed energy.
P.S. Without CO2 in the atmosphere, we all would be quite dead.
Fred Linn 8.27.10
Micheal Keller----" P.S. Without CO2 in the atmosphere, we all would be quite dead."-------------------
Without oxygen in the atmosphere you would also be quite dead. This does not mean that more oxygen than the amount that naturally in the atmosphere(21%) is good for you. Breathing high concentrations of oxygen(above 40%) can produce toxicity within a short time---one to two days, and sometimes just a few hours depending on the susceptibility of the individual.
The same is true of carbon dioxide. The amounts are much smaller for CO2 but the effects are still the same. CO2 is carried in the blood dissolved in water in the serum where it forms carbonic acid. This is the primary means of preserving the acid/base balance in the blood. This is needed to buffer the electolyte needed to maintain potassium exchange that mediates nervous impulse response. When pH rises above 7.6 it can cause erratic and overly stimulated nervous response leading to seizures, cardiac arrhythmias and death. When the blood pH falls below 7.2, it can lead to coma, depressed cardiac conductivity and death.
All life exists within very narrow parameters. Too much or too little of just about anything, and life ceases to exist.
-----------" Further, because we do not have endless piles of money lying around, cost must be considered when producing and using energy. This rather key consideration is simply ignored by many in the environmental movement."----------
How much money you have will not matter when you are dead.
-------------" Finally, in order to improve mankind’s lot, energy is required. Renewable sources are simply not capable of providing all of the needed energy."-----------
Destroying the environment by the greedy pursuit of profits from cheap energy is not in the benefit of mankind.
Jerry Watson 8.27.10
You are right the current proven 44% efficient (HHV) SCPC will never be able to compete with a theoretically 43% efficient (HHV) IGCC plant you mentioned. Other than being less efficient, more expensive to construct, and more difficult and expensive to operate and maintain the IGCC plant is the hands down winner.
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.27.10
THE MARCH OF SCIENCE: A Swedish wind enthusiast reported in one of the major newspapers in this country (Sweden) that the capacity factor for wind - in the most modern installations - is not 20 percent, but 80 or 90 percent. And this from an educated person in one of the most literate countries.
What can you do or say?
Jeff Presley 8.28.10
Don, did you need Fred's contact info? * Professor with the Nationalekonomiska Institutionen, Uppsala University, Dalbovagen 33D, Uppsala, Sweden, 75633. E-mail: ferdinand.banks[at]telia.com.
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.29.10
Fred Linn provides the right bottom line for ALL of our work. "RENEWABLE SOURCES ARE SIMPLY NOT CAPABLE OF PROVIDING ALL THE NEEDED ENERGY." Will somebody pass that to the US Energy Department. Don't bother to pass it to the young lady in Sweden who thinks that the CF of windmills is 80 or 90 percent. She would just call you a...devil.
Bob Amorosi 8.30.10
The US Energy Dept. knows already that renewables won’t be enough, but they won't admit it publicly, at least not very loudly. They know that to provide all the energy needed in the future is going to mean spending a lot of money to build substantially more nuclear, including refurbishing the existing fleet. They also know that saying this loudly to the public is not going to be very popular, so in the meantime they are pushing much more renewable source generation, just like Ontario has started doing, and telling us all that this approach will create new green industries at home and lots of new green jobs. This is also what the public wants to hear.
How successful they are at doing the latter (in order to put millions of unemployed North Americans back to work) remains to be seen.
Michael Keller 8.30.10
Jerry, Supercritical Coal Plants are not capable of 44% efficiencies - ultra-supercritical, maybe. If you believe MHI, their gasification technology is pushing 50% LHV (about 47% HHV) - see Gas Turbine World 2010 GTW Handbook. As I observed earlier, gasification has a much higher upside potential because the Brayton cycle technology is not as restrained by thermodynamics/materials as the Rankine cycle cousin.
At the risk of tooting our own horn, our Hybrid-nuclear/coal gasification technology has an efficiency north of 50% and the emissions of a natural gas combined-cycle plant. The hybrid-nuclear technology was presented at the Coal-Gen and ASME Power conferences this summer and is also slated for presentation at Power Gen International and Nuclear Power International this fall.
Fred Linn 8.30.10
-------" Fred Linn provides the right bottom line for ALL of our work. "RENEWABLE SOURCES ARE SIMPLY NOT CAPABLE OF PROVIDING ALL THE NEEDED ENERGY."--------
Keyword, NEED. With biofuels, you can mix to provide any amount you need.
With natural gas power vehicles, you can switch back and forth to gasoline, biofuel mixes or whatever else you are using.
When wind and solar power are not enough, we can add hydro power. And natural gas can add power by direct generation from diesel engines in a few seconds.
The question is, how much power is "needed". We waste incredible amounts of energy just because it is cheap. Acres of parking lots illuminated bright as day with no sign of a car or person anywhere. Golf courses built in the middle of deserts. Swimming pools in the middle of deserts, Cities in the middle of deserts. Grapes flown in from Chile, tomatos from Mexico, beef from Brazil. I think as much as 1/2 the energy used is not "needed" at all.
Just changing from incandescent bulbs to fluorescent bulbs produces the same amount of light at 1/4 the power usage. A 23 watt flouro bulb produces the same amount of light that a 100 watt incandesent bulb does.
Bob Amorosi 8.30.10
NEED is a very big keyword here indeed.
Ontario's government has for some years now been on a public campaign to change the public's culture of electricity use. They have been attempting to promote a new culture of energy conservation through tax and rebate incentives for consumers on energy efficient products, and more recently promoting Time-Of-Use electricity billing enabled by smart meters as a new means to save money on energy bills through load shifting to off-peak billing hours.
Energy efficiency upgrades are also very big not only in Ontario but many other government agendas in North America. In fact many governments are in the process of FORCING energy efficiency improvements onto the public by manipulating market rules for consumer and industrial products. For example incandescent light bulbs are being phased out and will soon become illegal to sell commercially within several years. White goods and large-screen televisions are recently being mandated for new energy efficiency targets never achieved before.
The whole purpose for all these measures has been to slowly reduce the public's NEED for energy, and that means perceived as well as actual needs. The perceived needs is an area that they feel has huge potential for reductions because it includes wasted energy.
In Ontario they have gone even further by banning outright any coal-fired electricity generation, partly due to environmental issues but also to take a stand on what they believe will be the best future mix of generation sources. All of Ontario's existing coal burning plants are slated for closure within the next few years or so. Replacing this generation (amounting to many hundreds of megawatts) is not going to come easy, since only large numbers of much smaller renewable source generators and some natural gas turbine plants are currently slated to come on line. So they are counting on massive total reduced consumption eventually, equivalent to taking 1 in 5 customers off the grid in Ontario when they're done. That's a huge level of energy use reduction, a very ambitious target.
Yes it promises to be a very interesting future without coal in Ontario, and with perhaps a big cultural change in how the public views and uses electricity.
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.30.10
Bob, the llast time I looked, Canada was a democracy. Ergo, what will happen is the following. The voters will eventually figure out that they have elected a passel of fools, and put in a government with a different energy agenda.
Taking away coal might be a good idea. The problem is that they are also taking away energy. That is not going to work in a country filled with intelligent people.
Fred Linn 8.30.10
Bob A.-----" The whole purpose for all these measures has been to slowly reduce the public's NEED for energy, and that means perceived as well as actual needs. The perceived needs is an area that they feel has huge potential for reductions because it includes wasted energy."-------------
Well Bob, it the price of energy goes up, use will go down. People will be forced to change their energy use because of the cost.
Fossil fuels are doomed. They are running out. Maybe 20-30 years for petroleum. The US Dept. of Defense is figuring on about 1/2 that amount of time. Cheap energy is when gasoline was $.19/gallon----it is now running close to $3/gallon around here. They haven't given away free Huckleberry Hound or Yogi Bear glasses with an 8 gallon purchase for a LONG time. The price of petroleum over the long run is only going to go one way. Up.
Coal is similar. There is coal in the ground all right, but getting it out is getting harder. And more expensive. The easiest coal is gone, same as petroleum. And coal is even more damaging to remove. Both coal and petroleum have to be strip mined now.
We have two paths to follow----business as usual, in which case the price of energy and environmental damage is just going to go up and up.
Or, we can plan for the future, and change our energy source mix.
Either way there are going to have to be some changes made.
If you flip the switch, and the lights come on, what does it matter whether the lights are running on wind power, coal, or natural gas?
If you get in your car and turn the ignition, start up and drive off, what does it matter if you are running on petroleum, ethanol, natural gas or electricity?
I think the best idea is to plan ahead and start making some changes now, so that we don't have more economic blowouts like the price of oil skyrocketing and setting off recessions again.
Nothing says we can't use a wide and varied mix of energy sources. But no matter what we do, it will take time to implement. We'd best be working on it. We've already wasted way too much time arguing.
Bob Amorosi 8.30.10
Many voters in Ontario have already decided that we elected a passel of fools based on the changes being foisted on us so far regarding energy. The next provincial election is coming in about a year from now, and it promises to be a daunting one for Ontario’s sitting majority government to get re-elected into power.
Yes I agree Fred the majority of voters will some day wake up and realize we never had it so good in the past with cheap plentiful electricity supply. In fact many of these same voters believe it is the public's right to continue to have it this way, and expect our politicians to do everything in their power to keep a lid on rates, and keep the lights on at the same time. When as I predict rates will skyrocket over time to keep the lights on down the road, there will be hell to pay and you can bet most of the voters will direct their anger at our politicians.
Fred Linn 8.31.10
Bob-----it seems to me that a main argument against wind and solar is that it is costly to install. Yes, it is. But cripes---once it is installed, you NEVER pay for fuel unlike coal and petroleum. If someone offered you a car that cost more than most cars, but once you bought it, you never put fuel in it-----it seems to me that there would be a lot of people who'd be wanting a car like that, in spite of the cost.
The complaints about the higher initial cost of wind and solar seem the same to me. The more we install, the better off we are in the long run. The same goes for geothermal, wave energy and all forms of renewable energy.
It sort of reminds me of something my Dad used to say.
"He's such a skinflint, he'd pinch a penny till Abe hollered."
Penny wise, pound foolish.
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.31.10
I'm sorry, Fred Linn. You can't replace assets with a capacity factor of 90+ with equipment that has a capacity factor of 22-. That isn't going to work. I'm for as much renewables and alternatives as possible, but no more. Some woman wrote to my morning paper and said that capacity factors are no 20%, but 80-90%. The question is why did they print this, and the answer is that where energy is concerned, people don't know ten percent of what they should know.
Fred Linn 8.31.10
A watt, is a watt, no matter where it comes from, or how it got there.
Each watt that comes from RE is a watt that does not come from coal.
Bob Amorosi 8.31.10
As an electrical engineer who specializes in electronics, it is clear even to myself that any generation method has pros and cons. None are perfect when one must consider fuel costs combined with up-front construction costs, maintenance costs, operational lifetimes, size in Megawatts, capacity factors, and of course environmental footprints. And, like any system design, the grid, our budgets for up-front construction costs, and the world's environment all have real limits and are rife with tradeoffs when considering what generators to build.
Another factor to consider is every form of generation has the potential to displace another, but RE tends to always displace others when they are on line because their fuel sources tend to be very intermittent, and therefore they intentionally get utilized at all times their fuel is available.
With the widespread proliferation of RE in several forms coming out now, I predict we should all get used to having a large mix of generators on the grid for decades to come.
"A watt, is a watt, no matter where it comes from, or how it got there."
Very important comment! Most consumers know this and most are / have historically been indifferent in that they wouldn't normally care where their watts come from or how, and moreover those consumers that do care about it have no way to know at any given time where their power is coming from. Today however many in government and in industry are trying very hard to change that indifference through education and through economic force e.g. TOU billing with smart metering among other things sends the public the message that higher priced power during peak times generally comes from less desirable sources and puts more strain on the grid.
Influencing where a consumer’s power comes from is precisely what Len's IMEUC proposals would handle quite easily because it would enable each and every customer on the grid to pay for their watts from specific generators at an agreed upon price. In practice of course the watts will often physically come from any generator, generally the one closest to the customer, but IMEUC would ultimately permit customers to "vote" with their wallets in choosing the generators they prefer to pay. And if coal were to become a dirty word for some segment of customers (pardon the pun), those customers can then intentionally avoid paying any coal generators if they so choose to under IMEUC.
Coal’s low cost relative to other fuels should however ensure it continues to be used in many generators all around the world, probably for many decades to come, barring any unforeseen environmenta
Bob Amorosi 8.31.10
... environmental crises. Please excuse me for bringing up the environmental scare, but one must face it is a real and growing concern for the public whether you believe in it or not. i.e. the environmental footprint of any generation method will increasingly become important over time, in my humble opinion.
Don Giegler 8.31.10
Tis heartening to see some respondents looking toward DOE EIA annual statistics, even if selectively. One finds the EIA EPA 2008 summary of average power plant operating expenses for U.S. IOUs at: www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat8p2.html. As has been the case in past years, the overwhelming advantages of hydroelectric and nuclear are apparent. What's missing, of course, is the criteria used by state regulatory agencies to evaluate utility strategy for recovery of new construction costs and the ultimate price per megawatt that assures regulators of fuel source competitiveness.
John Herron, president and CEO of Entergy Nuclea,r gives us a sample of the industry's thoughts on this aspect in the July-August 2010 Nuclear Plant Journal: " When you look at natural gas being a little over four dollars right now, it's hard to make the business case to achieve the present value that we would want from new generation capacity. Net present value is a vital measure when evaluating the investment. ...Our view on the markets, both rate-regulated and wholesale, is that it's pretty bearish right now. The country has large supplies of natural gas and a huge supply of shale gas that's available. Additionally, the demand for electricity has come down due to overall economic conditions of the past couple of years. Even as the economy has started to recover - and we are seeing some recovery in our utility service territory - it is not to the point where we're seeing demand that would drive natural gas prices up. "
Such an outlook has caused Entergy to suspend two COLs for future use.
Fred Linn 9.1.10
Bob A.------" With the widespread proliferation of RE in several forms coming out now, I predict we should all get used to having a large mix of generators on the grid for decades to come."--------
I think that is a good thing. As you have pointed out, there are strengths and weaknesses in any given technology.
Ferdinand E. Banks 9.1.10
A watt is a watt no matter...
No no no no. That isn't what we want to hear in any discussion that intelligent people are involved in. The Swedish watt is not the same as the Danish watt because the Danish watt costs more. And the reason it costs more is because most of it is generated with wind and coal.
Michael Keller 9.1.10
Unlike men, all watts are not created equally.
It makes a huge difference in terms of cost from where energy comes.
To state consumers do not care where a watt comes from is flat out wrong, just as the good doctor has observed.
Consumers obviously care about cost. We do not need a bunch of oxygen wasting government bureaucrats to "educate" us, nor do we need TOU meters forced down our throats by monopolies attempting to make more money.
Further, spending money on seriously overpriced energy does not make us better off, only poorer.
Bob Amorosi 9.1.10
Michael, and Fred Banks,
When I said customers historically didn't care where their watts came from, I was referring to the past when most of us enjoyed cheap plentiful supply of electricity from a variety of generation sources, and when environmental concerns of power generation were not even on anyone's radar screen.
Today there is still a variety of generation sources, and I believe most consumers still don't care about where their watts come from AS LOING AS THEIR RATES DON'T GO UP more than the rate of inflation.
Yes of course consumers would care about costs of generation provided they make the connection that rates are supposed to reflect generation costs. However the vast majority of consumers do NOT connect generation costs with the regulated rates they pay because they know electricity rates are set by regulators under government direction, and there is always tremendous political pressure to keep a lid on the size of any rate hikes.
In Ontario the old monopoly Ontario Hydro racked up literally billions of dollars in publicly owned debt for decades principally because rates did not go up historically as fast as generation and transmission costs went up. We Ontarians are now paying that debt off through additional “debt retirement charges” on our utility bills, which are spelled out as a separate billing item from our current energy rates.
Bob Amorosi 9.1.10
In essence regulated rates must eventually reflect all generation costs, even if, as in Ontario, those costs get billed as debt retirement charges added to our current energy bills.
The trouble is our politicians are not going to permit massive rate increases to cover up any past mistakes in setting regulated rates, or pay now for bringing lots of RE on line today. So what they have decided to do instead is foist changes on the public to soften the impacts of eventually much higher electricity rates brought on by RE and environmental penalties for older generation sources. Those changes are the TOU billing with smart meters, and reducing the rate of total consumption growth by forcing efficiency targets on consumer and industrial products, and by breeding more conservation with the public.
If it’s any consolation Michael, you have much company because there is a large and growing segment of the public who is very dissatisfied with these changes being foisted on them. Like I said before, we never had it so good with cheap plentiful electricity supply in the past, and many people still remember those times. Come future elections, I certainly wouldn’t like to be any incumbent politician of the party in office seeking re-election.
Fred Linn 9.1.10
Environmental costs are overhead costs. Coal has very high environmental costs that have been ignored for 200 years. Now that the true overhead cost of coal is being factored in, coal is not so cheap.
PGE is right now has a proposal to close the only remaining coal fired electrical generation plant left in Oregon. The Boardman plant will require nearly $500 million in emissions control devices just to meet EPA standards that should have been met over 20 years ago. PGE wants to close the Boardman plant by 2020.
There is a lot more of that on the way.
Dean Tibbs 9.1.10
" A watt, is a watt, no matter where it comes from, or how it got there. Each watt that comes from RE is a watt that does not come from coal."
This is a simplification for a watt-hour is a watt-hour. Not true in two important ways.
1. Many of the watt-hours that could be replaced are not from natural gas, rather than not from coal.
2. A watt-hour is a watt-hour to a consumer only when he wants a watt-hour. Another watt-hour at 1:00 AM is not the same as one at 4:00 PM. And the wind blows more in many areas at 0100 hours than at 1600 hours. Storing a watt-hour requires changing it to another form of energy and back to a watt-hour. After expensive storage it is only 2/3 to 3/4 of a watt-hour, which is not equal to a watt-hour. And that watt-hour produced at 0100 hours is all that much more expensive than alternate watt-hours by the time it is stored until it can be used. Ramping fossil plants to make room for a wind watt-hour without losing a big slice of it with storage requires increased fuel, and pollution, per watt-hour from the fossil plants. So what is the point of expensive watt-hours from RE if total emissions are not reduced, or not significantly reduced?
All of this may be too sophisticated for the RE crowd, but it is real.
Fred Linn 9.2.10
----" All of this may be too sophisticated for the RE crowd, but it is real."----
Natural gas(methane) is easily and cheaply produced from any type of organic material including sewage and landfills. A city in Germany with a population of 90,000 recently went online providing all their natural gas and electrical power needs with biomethane generated from livestock manure from local farms. Excess methane is fed into the national pipeline grid. (or maybe I should have left my original mistype----a poopulation of 90,000) Natural gas can be stored and used when needed with no loss of energy.
Using wind power to pump water into storage resevoirs for later use as needed is nothing new. The Dutch and the Danes have been doing it for over 300 years. Solar could also be used the same way.
It is also cheap and effective to store thermal energy. The Anasazi Indians built their cliff dwelling on south facing cliffs. In the winter, the sun would shine onto the cliff faces heating the rock as a thermal sink---this kept the pueblos warm. In the summer, the more northerly sun orientation left the southern facing cliff in the shade. This kept the pueblos cooler than the outside temperatures.
Bob Amorosi 9.2.10
There are people saying RE could potentially comprise 20 or 30 percent of the grid's total power capacity in the future, when online of course. This would require massive amounts of backup generation and /or storage when offline. Backup will very likely be coal or natural gas or nuclear, but now chew on this concept for a moment - many believe TOU billing, or by extension real-time pricing applied to all customers, combined with widespread implementation of automated demand response technology with many customers will alleviate much of the need for storage and backup of RE.
When the wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine I don't think demand responses even if widely implemented on a large portion of customers will lower total demand sufficiently to avoid some backup generation or uses of storage. But TOU billing with smart metering is being rolled out all across North America, and so is lots of RE generation, so there must be many people in political power and in the utility business that believe in these things or they wouldn't be spending all the money on them.
Michael Keller 9.2.10
Fred Linn, Could you provide a source for "Cow-crap-powered" power plant that serves all the needs of a city of 90,000?
Per Web statistics, Germany uses about 822 watts/person, so we need about a 74 MW power plant for our German city.
Assuming the power plant is some form of combined-cycle unit (most efficient for natural gas use) and figuring say a 1x1 75 MW(e) plant, works out the power plant needs about 28,000 lbm per hour of methane gas. While I am not fully familiar with how much methane is produced per pound of cow crap, I obtained the following off the Web:
Composition: ~65% Methane, 35% CO2, heating value 600 BTU/cubic foot, 1 cubic foot of gas from 1 pound of dung. One cow produces about 11,250 cubic feet of “fuel gas” in a year, or 1.28 cubic feet per hour.
Works out to be something roughly 650,000 cows. Germany has about 13 million cows, according to the Web. So I guess it’s possible … but seems hard to believe. The logistics of transporting cow crap would appear daunting and “odorous”, while the emissions would rival those of a coal plant.
Michael Keller 9.2.10
Doing a little follow-up work, with methane gas apparently 25 times worse than CO2, it would appear that crap from our bovine friends in Germany is the equivalent of about twelve 600 MW coal power plants!
OMG!!!!! We've got to kill all the cows to save the planet.
Fred Linn 9.3.10
Lünen or Luenen is a town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located north of Dortmund along the Lippe River. It is the largest town of the Unna district, and part of the green Münster area. A biogas plant will be built to provide electric power to the city. Lünen will be the first city in the world receiving electricity via public utility companies that was generated on the base of animal waste. The plant will produce up to 6.6MW, to supply 26,000 homes with heat and electricity.
Basic statistics Area 59.18 km2 (22.85 sq mi) Elevation 58 m (190 ft) Population 87,783 (31 December 2009) - Density 1,483 /km2 (3,842 /sq mi)
German city to generate energy from waste---NewEnergyWorldNetwork.com
------" The German city of Lünen is building a dedicated biogas network, powered by agricultural waste, offering an alternative to oil, coal and Russian gas. The city in the north-western Germany state of North Rhine-Westphalia lies on the Lippe River and the Seiten Canal, just north of Dortmund, and has a population of some 91,000 inhabitants.
Lünen is the first city in the world to build and manage a biogas network. Fed by local farms, who deliver animal waste, as well as corn, wheat and grass the power plant is located in the industrial port. This feedstock is turned into biogas in anaerobic digesters. The plant produces 6.8MW, enough energy to supply 26,000 houses with heat and electricity.
The gas is distributed over the city through a new underground biogas pipeline network."---------
Germany is also going into bi-fuel CNG/petroleum engine vehicles. Most auto makers including VW, BMW and Mercedes offer bi-fuel models, and there is a strong secondary installaton market. Just from memory, Germany now has somethng like 1.5 million CNG capable vehicles on the road and a little over 5,500 filling stations offering CNG.
The biogas is run through scrubbers just like fossil field gas----this removes impurities and produces a grid ready gas containing over 98.5% methane.
Transportation is no more difficult or smelly than sewage------that is what it is, sewage from domestic farm animals supplemented with crop waste at the anaerobic digester site. The animals graze and do most of the transporting. The farmers just hose down the "finished product".
The effluent from the anaerobic digester is high moisture content compost, suitable to be sprayed on fields as organic fertilizer. Sort of a very thin slurry, soupy consistency.
None of this is new technology. Biogas was first produced in Bombay, India from sewage in 1859. But the roots of the technology go back to ancient times in both China and Persia(modern Iran).
CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Methane is also a GHG with 17X the infrared capture and heat conversion that CO2 has. This means, that if we capture methane produced naturally(like composting cow poop) and burn that methane to produce electricity or power our vehicles----the net heating effect on the atmosphere is 0 with as little as a 6% mixture of biomethane. Any mixture greater than 6% biomethane has a net negative effect on atmospheric warming. This is because we exchange high GHG effect methane to much lower GHG effect CO2.
We can actually reduce the heating effect on the atmosphere using biogas. This is the only way I know of that we can do this.
Michael Keller 9.3.10
So we apparently need about 52,000 cows just for the power plant, assuming the plant is some form of combined cycle unit (say a Solar Centaur 40 machine)
I'm guessing the CO2 is removed by some form of amine system. Wouldn't happen to know what do they do with the 1/2 ton/hour or so of CO2?
Any idea what the all-in cost of the power is? I suspect it is pretty pricey.
Fred Linn 9.3.10
Micheal---it is distributed generation powered by diesel engines that run on methane. Waste heat from the engines goes to zone heating distribution. Overall efficiency runs in the neighborhood of 90% as I understand it. Waste heat could also provide cooling with as gas/liquid ammonia system, but I think Lunen is far enough north that they have not installed this yet.
CO2 is removed with a simple scrubber----the raw biogas is passed countervector to a water cascade which readily absorbs CO2(Henderson-Hasselbach reaction) and silicates----the methane is almost insoluble in water and comes out over 99% pure, ready to use or mix in the national grid. Methane from biogas or fossil sources is chemically exactly the same and can be mixed in any proportion with no loss of performance in any application.
-------" Any idea what the all-in cost of the power is? I suspect it is pretty pricey."-----
I do not know. However, it is not expensive I'm sure. It is already widely used in India, China, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan(over 2 million generators in Pakistan alone). It is known as gober gas, and has been arounnd for centuries.
Advantages to biogas include, compatibility with fossil natural gas which is currently the cheapest form of consumer available energy we have. It is clean, energy dense, has very little loss or degradation in storage or transmission, and is easily and cheaply produced from any type of organic materials even waste like sewage or landfills.
Methane can be used directly or almost any application needed and is a basic raw material that can be transformed into almost any hydrocarbon at all. It can even be used in fuel cells.
I do not know what is done with the effluent from the scrubbers(water containing CO2)-----however, I suspect that it may be discharged to wetlands where aquatic plants would readily consume the CO2 and other nutrients. Biogas production is after all, simply normal anaerobic treatment of sewage waste, the only real difference is catching the methane instead of letting it escape into the atmosphere. The final product of biogas production is compost and water slurry---a valuable commodity in itself.
52,000 cattle represent about one animal to supply the energy needs of 2 people in the system as being used. Not bad. Don't forget, it also works with swine, fowl, even fish. Dairy cattle operations are especially suited to biogas production-----the cows harvest and transport the raw material themselves when they come into the milking barns.
Don Hirschberg 9.6.10
Fred wrote: "[bio-gas] is distributed generation powered by diesel engines that run on methane. Waste heat from the engines goes to zone heating distribution. Overall efficiency runs in the neighborhood of 90% as I understand it."
I get kind of crotchety about giving the same value to BTU's that make electricity or do other work as to low temperature heating. If "waste heat" i.e. heat that must be disposed of whether there is a use for it or not can be used, so much the better, but it is very misleading to say the combined efficiency is, say, 90%. The diesel engine may well get an e of 35-40 % HHV.
By this logic if I am heating with incandescent bulbs then my e is never less than 100%. Since no work is done all the wattage goes to heat at 3413 BTU's per kWh. If I am heating by burning a fuel I will get significantly less than the calorific value of the fuel delivered as usable heat as some goes out the chimney. This penalty was taken at the power station in the case of the bulbs.
In the US HHV which gives lower values of e is the standard for engines and power stations. In Europe LHV is often used. Now, the European method with combined super critical cycles and credit for heating we see the quite embarrassing situation of e's well over 100% being reported. Eureka, we have at last attained perpetual motion and the Laws of Thermodynamics have fallen!
Michael Keller 9.6.10
It is highly unlikely that the methane powered diesel plant can compete, absent very heavy subsidies, which really means the power is very expensive to produce.
Small plants in the vast majority of cases are unable to compete because their small output is not able to pay-off the debt incurred in building the units. In this particular case, adding in the cost of material handling, including dung transport (presumably truck), is a major drag on the economics.
There is a simple and basic reason large power plants are preferred over small: "economies-of-scale"
Even with district heating (and perhaps cooling), the energy output of 6 MW electric and maybe 2 MW heat is quite small for the needs of a city of perhaps 90,000 or so.
The 90% efficiency is also very suspicious; around 70% is more typical of the configuration in question.
As a general observation, such efficiencies are generally the result using the heat associated with condensing low-pressure/low-temperature steam for heating buildings (cool water can also be produced thru absorption cooling systems). A stand-alone power plant is not able to effectively use this type of waste heat. Thus, a co-generation district heating facility has a higher efficiency than a simple power plant.
However, one should note that district heating systems require piping to get the steam (or cold water) to users. Hot water could also be transported, but steam is vastly more effective – technically, the enthalpy change associated with condensing steam vastly exceeds that of simply cooling off hot water.
Underground piping is extremely expensive to install, with above ground piping not exactly cheap either. That is why district heating really only makes economic sense in really densely populated cities – like those in Europe. Although, even there, moving beyond the city center rapidly becomes expensive unless the piping distribution network already exists.
Fred Linn 9.6.10
Well, maybe you are correct Micheal.
But the people of Lunen built and installed the system and are using it now.
Maybe they think it is worthwhile to pay a little extra to power their city with a system that is renewable, sustainable, clean, and handles sewage removal problems all at the same time.
Or, maybe they just don't like coal smoke.
Don Hirschberg 9.7.10
Fred Linn, I think it might add some perspective to note that Germany makes 46% of their electricity from coal. Not that this is terrible but we have been incessantly bombarded for many years about how evil the rest of us are while green Germany builds so many wind turbines and lectures us all. I have no problem with the Luenen project but it is infinitesimal.
Off subject. At first I confused Luenen with Lingen which lies farther north and much smaller. About fifty years ago I visitied a small oil refiery in LIngen regarding a mecaptans problem (sufur compounds) in their products. I had a pleasnt couple days. These people are traditionally the goats of German humor, like Arkies such as I.in the US. and near Schleswig-Holstein from which I have ancestors. They were called Danes then but now it is part of Germany. Our European rep introduced me as doktor ingineer Hirschberg von Hirschberg als Hirschberg. (A pope was a Hirschberg and two cities have that name.) So we all had a good laugh for this guy from Chicago.
Fred Linn 9.7.10
---------" I have no problem with the Luenen project but it is infinitesimal."------
Yes, the change is tiny compared to the total power output of the entire country---however, it is not so tiny if you happen to be a resident of Luenen I think.
I don't think you are evil. I think the environmental consequences of strip mining and coal use have some pretty evil repercussions though. I think the more we use renewable energy sources and the less we use coal and petroleum, the better off we will be.