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Can Renewable Portfolio Standards make RE Work?

Can Renewable Portfolio Standards make RE Work?

Guest post by Geo who is a geologist working in Alaska

People want energy to be cleaner (i.e. emit less carbon dioxide). One way to do this is to use regulations to force either greater efficiency, or a switch to cleaner fuels.

A good example would be Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in the United States. They were first enacted by the United States Congress in 1975, after the 1973–74 Arab Oil Embargo, to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks (trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles) produced for sale in the United States. The idea was that slowly, across the board, the mileage of all cars and trucks produced in the U.S. would gradually increase. Over time this would result in cleaner air, and reduced oil usage. And perhaps save consumers money…

And it more or less worked as advertised. Standards were raised, and efficiency increased, largely without additional cost. U.S. cars are twice as fuel-efficient today as they were 40 years ago, saving car owners millions of dollars, and reducing air pollution. Arguably a win-win.

Figure 1: EPA “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 through 2017,” EPA-420-S-18-001, January 2018.

A slight nuance was added in some markets. Certificates for high mileage vehicles could be traded, so that some manufacturers could continue producing low mileage vehicles. For example, under California’s Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Regulation and those of states that have adopted California’s standard, vehicle manufacturers are required to earn or purchase credits for compliance with their annual regulatory requirements. This means that a certain number of electric cars must be sold to balance any low mileage vehicles.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Attenborough and the deluded elites of Katowice

Attenborough and the deluded elites of Katowice

Transcript of the speech by Sir David Attenborough COP24, Katowice, Poland
3rd December 2018.

Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

‘We the peoples of the United Nations’. These are the opening words of the UN Charter. A charter that puts people at the centre. A pledge to give every person in the world a voice on its future. A promise to help protect the weakest and the strongest from war, famine and other man-made disasters. Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate Change.

If we don’t take action the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.

The United Nations provides a unique platform that can unite the whole world. And as the Paris agreement proved, together we can make real change happen. At this crucial moment, the United Nations has invited the world’s people to have their voice heard, by giving them a seat. The People’s Seat; giving everyone the opportunity to join us here today, virtually, and speak directly to you the decision makers.

In the last two weeks, the world’s people have taken part in building this address, answering polls, sending video messages and voicing their opinions. I am only here to represent the ‘Voice of the People’: to deliver our collective thoughts, concerns, ideas and suggestions.

This is our ‘We the peoples’ message.

…….THE PEOPLES’ SEAT VIDEO SEQUENCE…..

The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision makers, to act now. They are behind you, along with civil society represented here today. Supporting you in making tough decisions but also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Scotland’s wind exports to England and the myth of a 100% renewable Scotland

Scotland’s wind exports to England and the myth of a 100% renewable Scotland

Well over half of Scotland’s wind generation between January 12, 2018 and the present was exported to England and not consumed in Scotland. Euan Mearns reached substantially the same conclusion in his review of January and February 2016 data. Scotland’s government nevertheless assumes that all of Scotland’s wind generation is consumed in Scotland, that intermittency is not an issue, and that Scotland is therefore on track to meet its target of obtaining 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. The chances that Scotland will meet this target are of course zero, and Scotland’s government is pulling the wool over the public’s eyes by pretending otherwise.

[Inset image: Stirling Castle with environmentally enhanced scenery in the background.]

This post is an update of a number of posts Euan Mearns has written since 2015, with the most recent being Scotland-England electricity transfers and the perfect storm in March 2017. It uses five-minute Scotland-England transfer data between January 12 and October 23, 2018 that are now publically available on Leo Smith’s Gridwatch site. Gridwatch, however, does not break out any other grid data for Scotland, meaning that some assumptions have had to be made. These were:

1. Scotland’s wind generation. According to BEIS data UK wind generation totalled 50,004 MWh in 2017 and Scotland’s wind generation totalled 17,063 MWh, 33.5% of total UK generation. In the first two quarters of 2018 UK wind generation totalled 27,802 MWh and Scotland’s wind generation totalled 9,121 MWh, 32.8% of total UK generation. In both cases Scotland’s wind generation amounts to about a third of total UK generation, so it was simulated by dividing the Gridwatch 5-minute UK grid values by three. This conversion assumes that variations in wind generation were the same in Scotland as they were in the UK as a whole.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Every Big Bit Helps

Every Big Bit Helps

The post describes how new supercritical CO2 Brayton Cycle turbines may revolutionise the efficiency of electricty generation. Background image, existing Rankine Cycle steam turbine. Foreground, Brayton Cycle turbine with same power rating.


Let’s say you and I need to move 1 million tons of sand. You show up to the site with a backhoe and a dump truck, and I show up with a teaspoon. Naturally you ask me what the heck I’m planning to do with that teaspoon. I answer seriously with “Every little bit helps.”

Would you think me rational?

The problem with people advocating reducing carbon dioxide emissions is they are frequently bringing a teaspoon to do the work. Oh, they don’t call it a teaspoon, they’ll show you all sorts of fanciful projections and imaginary outcomes, but at the end of the day, it is still a teaspoon. And no, the teaspoon doesn’t help – we are wasting time energy and money on things that have no hope of moving that mountain.

The U.S. EIA International Energy Outlook 2017 projects that world energy consumption will grow by 28% between 2015 and 2040. Most of this growth is expected to come from countries that are not in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Non-OECD Asia (which includes China and India) accounts for more than 60% of the world’s total anticipated increase in energy consumption.

The world currently uses nearly 22,000 TWh/yr. of electricity. But this is far less than what we need. If the world, everyone on it, used electricity as frugally as Europeans, we would need approximately 34,617 TWh/yr. So we need a LOT more electricity. That is just electricity mind you – if we go to electric cars we need much more than that to power transportation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Who Killed the Small Modular Reactor Programme?

Who Killed the Small Modular Reactor Programme?

In his Autumn Statement of 2015, the then Chancellor, George Osborne made an announcement that surprised and enthused many; he announced that the UK was to spend up to £250 million on support to nuclear innovation, including a competition to spur the development of small modular reactors (SMRs), a novel approach to delivering nuclear generating capacity. This post describes how the UK Civil Service has killed this worthy initiative.

The announcement was greeted with an almost universally positive reaction – even the reliably anti-nuclear “Guardian” ran the story under the headline “George Osborne puts UK at the heart of global race for mini-nuclear reactors” [1].  Initially, progress appeared good – in particular, the response from the global nuclear industry was strong, with 38 organisations submitting responses to the call for competition.

However, since then, it has become apparent that the early momentum has dissipated, little substantive progress has been made in nearly three years.  It has now become clear that that there is no real possibility of a technology being taken into the nuclear certification process within timescales compatible meeting Osborne’s ambition.

What are small modular reactors, and what benefits might they bring?

Throughout the history of nuclear development, there has been an underlying assumption: that increases in unit size would bring economies of scale.  This logic has developed to the point that units of up to 1750MWe are now in operation, almost three times the size of the UK’s 1970s AGR units.  Increased size, however, brings challenges: larger units become harder to integrate operationally into anything but the largest grids, and if accompanied with increased complexity can make for extended and risky builds.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Oil Production Vital Statistics September 2018

Oil Production Vital Statistics September 2018

Four months have passed since the last update in May 2018 and it is time to take a fresh look at the global oil market, especially in light of the unique OPEC+Russia+others deal coming to an effective end in July. This led to a predictable fall in the oil price, Brent losing >$6 / bbl on the news, but it has since recovered to >$77 / bbl and looks like it could head north of $80 in the coming weeks. What is going on in the oil markets? Global total liquids production hit a record high of 99.00 million barrels per day in July 2018 while the wheels once again appear to be coming off the wagon in Libya.

Under-reported in the main stream news (MSN) is the fact that unrest seems to have spilled over once more in Libya knocking production back from 970,000 bpd in May to 670,000 bpd in July (inset image up top, Figure 17 below). The FT reported this on July 2:

Libya’s national oil company has suspended crude loadings at two major oil terminals, which together with a separate port blockade is estimated to trigger a drop in production of 850,000 barrels a day just as global outages have tightened the market and fuelled prices.

The dramatic fall in the country’s output, equivalent to almost 80 per cent of its production, comes as Brent has again been rising towards $80 a barrel. This spurred US president Donald Trump to call on Saudi Arabia to release 2m b/d of extra oil on to the market to offset a drop in Venezuela’s output and an expected fall in Iranian barrels.

(FT: Political upheaval in Libya threatens oil production. Tip: Google this title to gain access.)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Energy and Man part 2

Energy and Man part 2

Part 1 of the essay is here.

Origins of Usable Energy on Earth

All to often it is erroneously assumed that all of the energy on Earth is derived from the Sun. In fact, a significant portion is derived from the supernova precursor to our solar system.

All of the heavy elements on Earth, including uranium and thorium, were created in that supernova which is, therefore, the parent of all nuclear power. Natural radioactivity, mainly from the decay of uranium and potassium isotopes, also gives rise to the heat within the Earth, the source of geothermal energy. This heat engine also drives plate tectonics, without which we would have no mountains or hydroelectric power.

Figure 4 The Sun and the supernova precursor to our solar system combined provide most if not all the energy available on Earth that is used by Mankind and other animals and plants.

Tidal energy is derived from the rotation of Earth on its axis and the orbits of the Earth-Moon and Earth-Moon-Sun systems. This angular momentum is also inherited from the condensation of matter from the Supernova. The periodicity of supernova energy flows is more regular and predictable than solar energy flows that are controlled by haphazard weather and in this regard tidal flows are much superior.

Solar energy comes in two main flavours, 1) fossil energy stores comprising the organic remnants of ancient plants and animals that have become concentrated into ore grade deposits by geological processes – coal, oil and natural gas, and 2) renewable energy flows – wind, wave and solar power. Hydroelectric power, the Rolls Royce of renewable energy, is unique in that land forms created by plate tectonics provide the stores (reservoirs) at elevation providing the gravitational potential energy to convert rain water to electricity.

Energy Stores and Energy Flows

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Aberdeen Bay Offshore Wind Farm

The Aberdeen Bay Offshore Wind Farm

After about 15 years in planning, the long awaited and largely hated Aberdeen Bay wind farm has taken shape in recent weeks. I seem to recall early reports saying that the turbines, located on the horizon, would be barely visible from shore. Well that was a lie. The huge towers completely dominate the once unspoiled and beautiful scenery of Balmedie Beach. Those who see this as environmental protection have sick minds. And President Trump, who owns a golf course not far away, and who fought this project in the courts, is going to be mighty angry.

Vital Statistics

The wind farm comprises 11 * 8.4 MW Vestas 164 turbines giving a total installed capacity of 93.2 MW. Here is how Vattenfall, the operator, describe the scheme using the all too familiar venacular of renewables ideology:

  • Annually produce 312 GWh.
  • Have an installed capacity of 93.2MW
  • Annually displace 134,128 tonnes of CO2
  • Remove the equivalent of 736,817 cars from UK roads throughout its lifetime
  • Produce enough electricity every year to meet the equivalent annual demand of 79,209 homes
  • Generate more than the equivalent of 70% of Aberdeen’s domestic electricity demand and 23% of Aberdeen’s total demand
  • Annually invest £150,000 to a Community Benefit Scheme

312 GWh per annum translates to a capacity factor of ~38%. Even although England, Denmark and Germany have vastly bigger offshore wind industries, owing to their favourably shallower water, this facility offshore Aberdeen has been christened the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC). €3 million has been allocated to fund research into the environmental impact. There seems to be hope among local politicians and the press that this windfarm is somehow going to transform Aberdeen’s ailing economy that is still reeling from the 2014 oil price crash. Allow me to pour some cold water on this hope.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Geological Society of London’s Statement on Climate Change

The Geological Society of London’s Statement on Climate Change

A group of geologists have drawn my attention to the 2010/2013 Geological Society of London‘s statement on climate change and asked if I could arrange an on-line discussion about it. The lead author of the statements is Dr Colin Summerhayes who has participated as guest blogger and commenter on Energy Matters before. And so I asked if I could reproduce the statements on these pages and invite informed commentary. This modus operandi was approved by Dr Summerhayes’ co-authors and the committee of the Geological Society of London.

Main sources:

Climate change: evidence from the geological record
A statement from the Geological Society of London November 2010

An addendum to the Statement on Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record
December 2013

The addendum is arranged such that some sections are unchanged from the original. For other sections additional information is provided, but this is not merged with the original content. Its is therefore not possible to read a single updated report. What I have provided below is the full text of the original 2010 statement which is ~ 3000 words long and a copy of the 2013 Addendum summary. Those who want to read the full addendum should simply use the link provided above.

The Discussion in comments

What I am soliciting in primary comments is informed opinion driven mainly by what data tells us, backed up by references to data sources. Primary comments may also take the form of questions.

What I am not going to permit is social commentary and chit chat. Comments will be strictly moderated.

What I am aiming for is to assemble information in one place that either supports or refutes the position of The Geological Society.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The efficiency of US shale oil drilling and production

The efficiency of US shale oil drilling and production

In my recent Oil Production Vital Statistics post, commenter rjsigmund posted a link to this EIA update on shale oil production efficiency which in my opinion contains some astonishing data on how the industry has drilled better and better wells, year on year, for a decade. US production is heading higher. At the same time turbulence has gripped the global oil market sending Brent above $77 / barrel as fresh sanctions loom for Iran and Venezuelan production continues to free fall.

What is shale oil?

First a very brief update on what we mean by shale oil and how it is produced. Oil and gas is formed in the Earth’s crust when organic rich source rocks become deeply buried (>3000 m depth), heated (>100˚C) and squeezed. Some of this oil escapes from the source rock and migrates upwards where some of it is trapped in porous sandstones or limestones. This conventional oil or gas was accessed for decades using vertical or sub-vertical wells (Figure 1) and would flow freely to surface under its own buoyancy pressure.

In “shale oil” (also known as light tight oil – LTO), it is the low permeability source rocks themselves that are the drilling target. Oil does not flow freely for these rocks and requires the assistance of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The default operational mode is to drill a long horizontal well, fracture it and pump it full of proppant (normally sand) that keeps the fractures open allowing the oil or gas to flow out (Figure 1). The main shale oil and gas basins of the USA are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1 Cartoon showing conventional gas being accessed by a vertical well and shale gas being accessed by a sub-horizontal well.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Oil Production Vital Statistics April 2018

Oil Production Vital Statistics April 2018

On the World stage, momentous events are unfolding. The USA, UK and France have bombed Syria risking confrontation with Russia. The Israelis are more than a little concerned about Iranian involvement in Syria. And on the Korean peninsula, peace between N and S is on the cards spreading prosperity and more energy consumption for all. On the second tier, oil production in Venezuela and Mexico continue to tank. No one should be surprised, therefore, that Brent has breached $74/bbl. The only thing standing in the way of another severe oil price spike is the N American frackers going back more seriously to work. They may one day be joined by frackers in Saudi Arabia, China and Russia.


The chart below from the February OMR is one of the more important produced by the IEA showing the balance between supply and demand leading to either stock draw or additions. So important in fact that I have decided to leave it there from the last report 2 months ago so that it can be compared with the equivalent chart from the April OMR that is reproduced just below it.

The difference between the two charts are quite subtle but with dramatic impact. Data revisions result in crude oil stock draws for 7 quarters backdated from 4Q 18. This has meant that the IEA now sees OECD crude oil stocks at the 5 year mean at the present day. The momentum of the trend will see OECD crude oil stocks shooting to the low side. Even higher oil prices may be on their way.

Readers should note that since January 2018 I have been employed as a consultant at ETH Zurich. ETH are a well-kept secret, but are in fact the number 10 ranked university in the world, up there with CalTech, MIT and Imperial College.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The seawater pumped hydro potential of the world

The seawater pumped hydro potential of the world

As discussed in numerous previous posts the world will need immense amounts of energy storage to transition to 100% renewables, or anywhere close to it, and the only technology that offers any chance of obtaining it is sea water pumped hydro (SWPH) storage. Here I consider the practical aspects of SWPH and conclude that there are only three places in the world where a combination of favorable shoreline topography and minimal impacts would allow any significant amount of SWPH to be developed – Chile (discussed here), California (discussed here) and, of all places, Croatia. For the rest of the world nuclear remains the only proven decarbonization technology. (Inset, Valhalla’s proposed SWPH project in Chile.)

In the last few weeks I have wandered through Google Earth looking for prime SWPH potential and have found that most of the world has none (I have not looked closely at Africa). The coastal topography in most places is too low and flat, and where it isn’t the valleys lack good dam sites, and/or are full of people, and/or the sites are too far from the sea. The sites that do exist are also often in scenic areas where significant public opposition may be expected whether there are any people there or not.

This point was forcibly brought home to me by Euan Mearn’s comments on Scottish Scientist’s Loch Ness Monster of Energy Storage guest post, which proposed a 6.8 TWh SWPH upper reservoir at Strath Dearn in the Scottish Highlands. Considered purely in terms of potential Strath Dearn is probably the best SWPH prospect in the UK, but if Euan’s reaction to the proposal is shared by others the chances it will ever get built are effectively zero:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Energy Externalities Day 13: Tidal Stream Power

Energy Externalities Day 13: Tidal Stream Power

An introduction to tidal stream power was given on Monday in this post: “The MeyGen Tidal Stream Power Station: Pentland Firth, Scotland”. The simplest way to imagine tidal stream power of the MeyGen variety is an underwater wind turbine deployed in an area of high tidal flow. Two ebb and two flood tides daily produce four daily spikes in generation with nothing in between.

One aspect not covered in the above post was longevity and maintenance. This press release says this:

Sitting in 30-50 m of exposed fast flowing turbulent waters where the Atlantic meets the North Sea, the steel tripod gravity foundations have been designed from first principles to enable year-round turbine operation over a 25-year life with no maintenance, the awards website states.

It’s a bit ambiguous, but I believe refers only to the steel tripod base and not the turbine itself. But it does imply that the system is designed to last 25 years. It raises the question about repair and maintenance of the nacelle. Recovering the nacelle for repair and maintenance requires the services of a jackup rig and ship. Purpose built light-weight jack-ups are estimated to cost ~ €70,000 / day that could lead to hefty repair bills. If turbines break down and are left idle for lengthy periods this also negatively impacts electricity production and EroEI.

Previous entries in this series:

The Externalities of Energy Production Systems (Day 1 Coal)
Energy Externalities Day 2: Gas-fired-CCGT
Energy Externalities Day 3: Biomass-Fired-Electricity
Energy Externalities Day 4: Nuclear Power
Energy Externalities Day 5: Wind Power
Energy Externalities Day 6: Hydroelectric Power
Energy Externalities Day 7: Solar Photo Voltaics
Energy Externalities Day 8: Diesel
Energy Externalities Day 9: Solar Thermal or Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
Energy Externalities Day 10: Tidal Lagoon Power
Energy Externalities Day 11: Geothermal Electricity
Energy Externalities Day 12: Wave Power

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Energy Externalities Day 11: Geothermal Electricity

Energy Externalities Day 11: Geothermal Electricity

Geothermal energy extraction involves drilling wells into hot rocks that lie close to the Earth’s surface. Given the right geology, i.e. permeable rocks that contain very hot water, the hot water or steam flows to the surface under its own steam (to coin a phrase). Temperatures are typically in the range 200-350˚C, and at surface pressure, this super-heated water will flash to steam that may drive a turbine. The cooled “waste water” is then returned to the geothermal reservoir where it heats up again given time.

Geothermal therefore involves drilling wells, very much like the oil and gas industry and managing very hot water under pressure.

Geothermal applications are confined to areas of the world where hot water filled rocks lie close to the surface and that invariably means areas with active volcanism (USA, Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, Italy, New Zealand, Iceland, Japan) or at least high heat flow linked to plate tectonics (Iran, Turkey, China, France).

[Inset image: Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant, Iceland (123 MW). Iceland exists because a hot spot on the North Atlantic mid-ocean-ridge, a rather unique setting.]

Fatalities

  • drilling into hot rocks and confining the excess pressure is inherently dangerous but drilling companies seem by and large to be able to mange these risks
  • This study found no excess mortality among workers at a geothermal plant in Italy.

Chronic illness

  • Geothermal energy does release some nasty gases like CO2 and H2S. But since the plants are normally located in active volcanic areas, they are also sparsely populated. The study linked above found no adverse effects among workers.

External environmental costs

  • The release of gas mentioned above is small. Beyond that, the footprint of geothermal is relatively small compared with the power produced.

Footprint of energy system per unit of energy produced

  • associated with small power stations located at the well head
  • associated with access roads
  • associated with cables / power distribution network

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Energy Externalities Day 10: Tidal Lagoon Power + a roundup of results

Energy Externalities Day 10: Tidal Lagoon Power + a roundup of results

It’s day 10 of 13 on the Energy Externalities game and its become clear that player fatigue is setting in (or maybe its Easter Holidays). “I don’t want to play any more, scoring technology already proven to not work”. To all players, please stick with it, the results continue to provide indicators with some precision. More on this below the fold. To rekindle interest, I’m jumping to tidal lagoons that we have featured in a number of prior posts.

Tidal power comes in three main flavours: 1) Tidal barrage, e.g. La Rance in France 2) Tidal lagoon, e.g. the proposed Swansea bay lagoon and 3) Tidal flow, e.g. MeyGen in the Pentland Firth of Scotland.

This entry will look only at tidal lagoons since Energy Matters has looked into the proposals for the Swansea Bay lagoon on a number of occasions. If stamina lasts, I hope to include the now operational tidal flow MeyGen tidal flow project in the Pentland Firth of Scotland.

A Trip Round Swansea Bay
Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and Baseload Tidal Generation in the UK

Previous entries in this series:

The Externalities of Energy Production Systems (Day 1 Coal)
Energy Externalities Day 2: Gas-fired-CCGT
Energy Externalities Day 3: Biomass-Fired-Electricity
Energy Externalities Day 4: Nuclear Power
Energy Externalities Day 5: Wind Power
Energy Externalities Day 6: Hydroelectric Power
Energy Externalities Day 7: Solar Photo Voltaics
Energy Externalities Day 8: Diesel
Energy Externalities Day 9: Solar Thermal or Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)

A brief roundup of results to date

Counting Andy D we have 16 full-time players. I have begun to write this up as an article for Energy Policy. Having done some quite extensive searches, I have not turned up any analogous work done before. The closest I have come to is a survey of public opinion which ranked solar PV top while this work ranks PV bottom. This will make interesting reading for the politicians.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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