Archive for the ‘Coal’ Category

Fossil Fuels Will Save the World (Really)

March 17, 2015

Matt Ridley has an opinion piece in the WSJ which says many things far better than I can.

The environmental movement has advanced three arguments in recent years for giving up fossil fuels: (1) that we will soon run out of them anyway; (2) that alternative sources of energy will price them out of the marketplace; and (3) that we cannot afford the climate consequences of burning them.

These days, not one of the three arguments is looking very healthy. In fact, a more realistic assessment of our energy and environmental situation suggests that, for decades to come, we will continue to rely overwhelmingly on the fossil fuels that have contributed so dramatically to the world’s prosperity and progress. …….

The article is well worth reading. Fossil Fuels Will Save the World Ridley WSJ

Ground zero is that fossil fuels will eventually be replaced only when a cheaper, more reliable source of energy (electricity production) is found. There is no foreseeable “peak” for fossil fuels and availability is not a constraint. Solar and wind technologies have small, clear niches which they can well fill but practical and affordable energy storage is needed before they can be any significant source of our energy consumption. And Li-ion batteries will not cut it. As Ridley points out they provide about 1% of our energy consumption today while fossil fuels still reign supreme at about 87%. Nuclear power could make a severe dent in fossil fuel consumption, but only if the costs and the construction time due to the regulatory process can be drastically reduced – and that does not seem likely as long as alarmists and doom-sayers hold sway. (I estimate that around 30% of the capital cost of nuclear plants is unnecessary and due to CYA regulations which are driven by fear). Small, safe, pre-approved, modular, fifth-generation nuclear power plants could take-off but that requires many alarmists to give up their faith.

(As an aside, I observe that climate and energy politics have become the politics of fear, but I am an optimist and I expect the pendulum will swing to return to energy politics based on courage. It is a form of cowardice which drives energy politics today where I take cowardice to be actions subordinated to fear and courage to be fears subordinated to purposeful actions).

Perhaps fusion (probably hot rather than cold) will come – but a breakthrough is not in sight (though by definition breakthroughs are never generally in sight). We can fantasise that we will someday be able to tap into the gravitational energy of the solar system (which would be solar energy in another form). I don’t doubt that some new, cheap, energy source or energy conversion technique will appear – but until then fossil fuels will provide the basis for human development. And if we are on our way into a new ice age it is fossil fuel which will ensure our survival.

I dismiss the hypothesis – and it is still only a hypothesis – that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide are of any significance for “global temperature”. In fact the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere (and man-made emissions are a tiny contributor to that) has a very small effect on “global temperature”. Instead it is “global temperature” which has a very large effect on carbon dioxide concentration through the balance of absorption and emission from the oceans and from the biosphere. Carbon dioxide concentration lags rather than leads “global temperature”. The sun and clouds and ocean currents and winds (also driven by the sun) dwarf any effects of carbon dioxide. The hypothesis looks broken considering that over the last 18 years man-made carbon dioxide emissions have increased sharply but “global temperature” has been static. Even the assumed “global warming” that is supposed to have taken place over the last 100 years are to a significant extent “manufactured” by “adjusting” temperature data and choosing weighting and averaging algorithms which are biased to show a pre-determined result. There is a shortage of “science” and far too much confirmation bias in what passes for “climate science” these days.

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Japan plans over 13GW of new coal fired capacity till 2025

March 12, 2015

The Wall Street Journal reports on Japan’s return to coal fired power generation following the alarmist – and inaccurate – demonisation of nuclear power after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami which caused the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns. And it is still worth remembering that while the earthquake and tsunami claimed more than 18,000 lives, the Fukushima plant incident has caused no direct fatalities.

The reality is that the cost of electricity production in a 2011 government estimate put the “cost of coal power in Japan at ¥7.5, or about 6 cents, per kilowatt-hour including construction and operation. The same report put the cost of nuclear power at ¥9 per kwh, gas power at ¥10 per kwh and oil power at ¥19 per kwh”Seven new large coal plants with a total capacity of 7,260 MW have already been announced and are planned to be commissioned until 2025. And a further 6,000 MW are being currently tendered for.

The same cost structure prevails in India or China or Indonesia or South Africa. Even in Europe without artificial (and pointless) skewing of the market place, meaningless carbon taxes and subsidies for renewable power which are not commercially viable, coal offers the lowest cost of electricity production. The same cost structure would apply also in Australia. In the US coal is only second to gas.

WSJ: Japan is continuing to re-embrace coal to make up for its lack of nuclear energy, with plans for another power station released Thursday bringing the number of new coal-fired plants announced this year to seven.

……….  Kansai Electric Power Co. and Marubeni Corp. informed Akita prefecture on Thursday of their plans to build a new, 1.3-gigawatt coal-fired power station in the northern prefecture of Japan, the two companies said.

If all seven projects including the plant in Akita materialize, they will increase the nation’s coal-power generation by up to 7.26 gigawatts by around 2025. That is equivalent to seven medium-size nuclear reactors.

……. Kansai Electric, based in Osaka, plans to use the Akita project to supply electricity to customers in Tokyo, the only place in Japan where major growth in power demand is expected, a company spokesman said.

The other projects include Chubu Electric Power Co.’s plan to replace an old oil-power station near Nagoya with a 1 gigawatt coal-power station, and a 1.2 gigawatt coal-power station planned byElectric Power Development Co., Osaka Gas Co. and Ube IndustriesLtd. in Yamaguchi prefecture in western Japan.

More projects are likely to be announced as the year goes on. Tokyo Electric Power Co. is holding a tender to build new power stations to replace 6 gigawatts of old oil-power capacity in Tokyo.  ……

The relative cheapness of coal was indicated in a 2011 government report that estimated the cost of coal power in Japan at ¥7.5, or about 6 cents, per kilowatt-hour including construction and operation. The same report put the cost of nuclear power at ¥9 per kwh, gas power at ¥10 per kwh and oil power at ¥19 per kwh.

……… All of Japan’s 48 reactors are offline over safety concerns following the Fukushima nuclear accident, though four of them are expected to come back online later this year.

 

Adapting to climate change requires the further development and use of fossil fuels

July 31, 2014

The single thing that differentiates the human species from every other known species on earth has been the control and use of fire.The step change then from primitive to modern humans has been due not least to the control and development of the combustion process and the utilisation of fossil fuels. This in turn has multiplied many times the intensity of energy available to be harnessed by man. I would suggest that the human capability of handling change is largely a function of the power intensity available.

power intensity

power intensity

Fossil fuels have been demonised (by association with carbon dioxide emissions) for the last 30 years. In spite of that most  of the growth in the developing world has been – and continues to be – powered by fossil fuels. Fortunately the lack of evidence of any significant linkage between man-made carbon dioxide and global warming  (which is still the politically correct ideology) is beginning to be realised. The unnecessary, misplaced and ineffective increase of electricity prices in countries which have curtailed their use of fossil fuels has prolonged the recession and has cost many millions of jobs.

We have now had almost 20 years with the highest level ever of fossil fuel utilisation but “global temperature” has remained stubbornly static. In the last decade global temperatures have declined slightly. The hypothesised link between man-made carbon dioxide (which constitutes only about 3% of carbon dioxide emissions) and global temperature is well and truly broken. All the various climate computer models – which build on this link being amplified – have failed miserably.

The indicators of a global cooling cycle having started are piling up.

  1. There is more ice in the antarctic than has ever been measured
  2. There is more ice in the arctic than about a decade ago
  3. Total ice cover is higher now than has ever been measured
  4. Ice cover on the Great Lakes reached levels not seen for over 50 years and has persisted into the spring (even summer) later than has been observed for at least 40 years.
  5. The expected super El Nino forecast for this year has been dampened by a cooling Pacific and only a mild El Nino event – if at all – is now to be expected
  6. Sea level rises are no different to the long term average for sea level recovery since the last glacial minimum and may even have slowed.
  7. The deep oceans are cooling and are no repository of “hidden heat”
  8. The net cooling effect of clouds has been underestimated in nearly all models and cloud cover over the world is increasing (slightly).
  9. Man made water vapour is of greater significance than man made carbon dioxide for climate effects. But man made water vapour is almost insignificant compared to the water vapour flux due to evaporation and respiration.
  10. Solar effects are virtually ignored by all climate models but the sun does not much care for models and is reaching a low level of activity comparable to the Dalton or Maunder Minima.

Crying wolf about global warming has been the politically correct thing to do for 3 decades. Before that it was politically correct to be alarmist about the coming ice age. No doubt all the old fears about an ice age can be dusted off and recycled.

Climate change has been the most powerful force which has shaped human evolution and expansion. Sea level changes and patterns of precipitation and desertification have driven both evolution and migrations. Sea level during an ice age is about 120 m lower than it is today. More land is exposed in equatorial and tropical regions during a glacial period while land is rendered uninhabitable by the ice sheets of the north. But even primitive humanity survived during the glacials.

It is the global cooling cycles and not global warming cycles which will place the greatest demands on farming and energy. The greatest sea level change that humanity has had to – and will have to – adapt to  is the 120 m difference between glacial and interglacial conditions. During an ice age precipitation will drop sharply and river water flows will decline. Hydro power will all but dry up. It is the inevitable coming of the next ice age that will pose the real challenge – not the 1 m sea level rise that may come with another warming cycle. And when the ice age comes again it will be fossil fuels which will keep the home fires burning. It is the further exploitation of nuclear energy and fossil fuels in all its forms – coal, oil, natural gas, shale gas, gas from methane hydrates – that will be needed. It is the availability of power at the intensities provided by nuclear power and fossil fuel combustion which is what will provide humans with the wherewithal to cope with climate change, whether warming or cooling, but especially when the next ice age begins.

Whatever the alarmists would have us do in the short term, reality will eventually bite. The use of fossil fuels will – thankfully – continue as will the exploration for new sources of gas. The next generation of nuclear power plant will be developed – even though nuclear alarmism has led to a dearth of nuclear engineers. No doubt some market niches will be filled by wind and solar power but that will not be very significant in the large picture.

 

Fossil fuel combustion at an all time high (but global warming is absent)

June 18, 2014

The BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014 is now out and the consumption of all fossil fuels has never been higher. Coal and gas consumption are particularly strong. And – even though many are in a state of denial about it – global warming has come to a stop over the last 18 years. In the last 10 years global temperatures show a slight downward trend.

There seems to be no purpose to the demonisation of fossil fuels other than for pandering to the religion of global warming. Consider the last 25 years. (I use 1988 as a reference point not only because 25 years should be enough to see some trends but also because the BP data is readily available from that date). During this 25 year period gas consumption has increased by over 80%, coal consumption by 0ver 70% and oil consumption by over 30%. The increased global coal burn since about 1999 is particularly striking. In the same 25 year period the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has increased from about 355 ppm(v/v) to about 395 ppm(v/v) – a rise of about 11%. And global temperatures have not increased at all for almost 2 decades.

Climate policy is policy without any objectives and without any means of checking any achievements. What exactly could we achieve by not using fossil fuels?

There is not a single climate policy proposed by the IPCC or by any government in the world  which has a definable and measurable climate benefit.

25 years of fossil fuel consumption

25 years of fossil fuel consumption

The global warming hiatus now extends to at least 18 years.

Global warming has gone missing

  • The RSS satellite dataset shows no global warming at all for 213 months from August 1996 to April 2014. That is more than half the entire 423-month satellite record.
  • The fastest centennial warming rate was in Central England from 1663-1762, at 0.9 Cº per century – before the industrial revolution began. It cannot have been our fault.
  • The global warming trend since 1900 is equivalent to 0.8 Cº per century. This is well within natural variability and may not have much to do with us.

Queensland switches back to coal

February 5, 2014

Once upon a time Australia had among the lowest electricity costs in the world but that was in the days where the market was not distorted by carbon taxes, mandatory renewable energy targets and subsidies for solar power. Coal prices are declining while gas prives are rising. This from The Australian as Queensland goes the way of Germany:

QUEENSLAND’S largest power generator will today declare that Australia is one of the world’s most expensive countries for energy and warn that the electricity market is being distorted by the carbon tax, mandatory renewables target and solar-rooftop subsidies.

After Stanwell took the extraordinary step yesterday of announcing it would mothball its biggest gas-fired power station and resurrect a coal facility built in the 1980s – sparking predictions that gas-fired power plants would be withdrawn in other states – it will today call for a scaling back of the renewable energy target.

Before the introduction of the carbon tax, the RET scheme and solar feed-in tariffs, the abundance of coal had made Australia a source of low-cost electricity, the company will say. “These policies appear to have been implemented for ideological reasons with little analysis of the impact on electricity prices and economic growth,” Stanwell chief executive officer Richard Van Breda will say.

Stanwell will issue its warnings as part of its submission to the federal government’s energy white paper, being developed by Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane.

The submission will caution that a raft of energy policies is eroding Australia’s competitiveness in manufacturing, which is a sensitive issue for the government amid internal tensions over taxpayer handouts to businesses, including SPC Ardmona.

Yesterday, Stanwell revealed it would withdraw its Swanbank E power station, near Ipswich west of Brisbane, from service for up to three years from October so it could sell the gas rather than use it in electricity generation. …….. A unit at the Tarong coal power station – in cold storage since late 2012 – will be returned to service later this year.

….. Germany is shifting back to more coal-fired electricity generation, reopening some of its dirtiest brown-coalmines that have been closed since reunification, despite having spearheaded Europe’s push into renewable energy. China has plans to add another 860 million tonnes of coal production by 2015. ………  

Stanwell’s energy white paper submission will raise concerns that the surge in rooftop solar panels has increased the capacity of the market, making cheaper coal-fired power stations run less efficiently. It says solar feed-in tariffs (state government schemes) have resulted in high ongoing costs for network infrastructure. …

 

German hard reality is 10 new hard coal power plants to generate 8GW

November 18, 2013

It was inevitable.

The ridiculous energy policies in Germany in subsidising renewable energy and shutting down nuclear plants is backfiring. Green Energy policy in Europe has been at the cost of about 15 million jobs in lost growth opportunities.

They left themselves no option but to return to coal.

It is only a matter of time before the intransigent “green” lobbies of Europe are forced to face realities and cut back the wasteful subsidies on renewable energy and allow the fracking of shale for gas and to return to nuclear power. It has been a costly 3 decades of “green” madness.

1. RT News: 

Germany’s ‘green energy revolution’ costing billions

In the wake of Fukushima, Angela Merkel said Germany would phase out nuclear power by 2022 and subsidize renewable energy. Average German consumers can’t afford the ‘green’ subsidies as they drive up energy prices and suck profits from energy companies.

In the next 27 years, Germany will spend 550 billion euro on renewable technologies like wind and solar, in the hope of attaining 80 percent renewable energy by 2050. 

“It’s being sold on the message it’s either wind energy or radioactive catastrophe, this plays on fear, and makes money for wind energy providers,” Petra Dahms, anti-wind power activist, told RT. 

According to the Cologne Institute for Economic Research, Germany’s energy costs are 40 percent higher than in neighboring France and the Netherlands. …… 

2. Bloomberg

Steag Starts Coal-Fired Power Plant in Germany

Steag GmbH started Germany’s first new power plant fueled by hard coal in eight years, allowing the generator and energy trader to take advantage of near record-low coal prices that have widened profit margins.

The 725-megawatt Walsum-10 plant, located near Dortmund in the western part of the country, began electricity output today, the Essen-based company said in an e-mailed statement. It will probably start commercial operations later in the year after “optimization works and testing,” it said.

The plant is the first new hard-coal-fired generator in Europe’s biggest power market since 2005. It marks the start of Germany’s biggest new-build program for hard coal stations since its liberalization in 1998. Ten new hard-coal power stations, or 7,985 megawatts, are scheduled to start producing electricity in the next two years, according to information from German grid regulator Bundesnetzagentur and operators.

“Coal prices recently fell to their lowest price for over four years in October and carbon prices are half what they were two years ago, making coal-burn extremely attractive to generators in terms of profitability,” Gary Hornby, energy markets analyst at Inenco Group Ltd., said by e-mail today.

The price for coal used in thermal plants for delivery to Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Antwerp next year, dropped to a record low of $80.25 a metric ton on Oct. 14, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. The contract traded at $81.60 at 2:51 p.m. London time, broker data show.

Composition of exhaust gases from humans and from fossil fuels

April 13, 2013

It occurred to me when carrying out some combustion calculations that what humans breathe out is pretty close to the flue gas from a gas-fired, gas turbine combined cycle plant.

In a gas turbine combustion chamber, fuel is burned typically at an excess air level of about 200% (the amount of oxygen available in the combustion air compared to that which is needed for complete oxidation of the fuel). This means that about one third of the oxygen available is used and converted to carbon dioxide and water while about 2/3ds just passes through (i.e of the 21% oxygen in air, about 6-7% is “consumed” and about 14 -15% passes through unused). In coal-fired plants the excess air levels are usually only about 25% which leads to about 15 -16% of the incoming 21% oxygen being consumed with about 5% passing through. The amount of oxygen actually consumed depends on the fuel composition and the oxygen demands of the elements which are oxidised during the combustion process. Carbon, hydrogen and sulphur (giving CO2, H2O and SO2) are the main oxygen consumers. All the other constituents of air pass through – heated up of course – but otherwise unchanged. Minute quantities of the fuel- nitrogen and the nitrogen in the incoming air can – depending upon the combustion temperature – be “fixed” to create the nitrogen oxides – nitrous oxide (N2O) and nitrogen dioxide (N2O). The higher the combustion temperature the greater the “fixing”. Too low a combustion temperature – for example with very wet fuels and bio-mass – can give “incomplete combustion” with some carbon monoxide (CO) and even some dioxins and hydrocarbons with a particularly poor combustion process. Internal combustion petrol engines essentially run at stoichiometric conditions (zero excess air) and there is no oxygen in the exhaust. However combustion is never quite complete and around 1% carbon monoxide is usually present (which is why suicide by exhaust fumes becomes possible). Diesel engines on the other hand have 10% oxygen in the exhaust when idling and this reduces to 1 or 2% when fully loaded.

All fuels essentially contain carbon and hydrogen as the main energy releasing elements when oxidised. Most industrial combustion processes happen fast and speed of combustion – which is desirable for complete combustion – has to be tempered by the need to keep temperatures at levels which can be handled by the materials used. The human use of the same elements of carbon and hydrogen for the release of energy however is by a relatively slow oxidation processes. Not all the water produced leaves the human body with our expelled breath since some part of it leaves in liquid form with urine. But from the composition of the waste gas we breathe out it seems that the carbon/hydrogen ratios in our food intake cannot be so very different to the natural gas burned in gas turbines (and not very surprising considering that plant-life is the ultimate source of both).

exhaust gas compositions

 

Since human exhaust gases emit the same concentration of carbon dioxide as gas turbine, combined cycle power plant perhaps we should penalise every human as well?

 

Coal consumption growing inexorably — but global temperatures are still declining

December 19, 2012

The International Energy Agency has just released its annual Medium-Term Coal Market Report (MCMR) and reports that “coal’s share of the global energy mix continues to rise, and by 2017 coal will come close to surpassing oil as the world’s top energy source”.

Yet global temperatures have not risen for 16 years and continue to decline. And the demonisation of the use of coal has increased electricity prices quite unnecessarily. The end of the world will not happen either on 21st December 2012 or by the use of fossil fuels.

In a press release the IEA says:

“Thanks to abundant supplies and insatiable demand for power from emerging markets, coal met nearly half of the rise in global energy demand during the first decade of the 21st Century,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “This report sees that trend continuing. In fact, the world will burn around 1.2 billion more tonnes of coal per year by 2017 compared to today – equivalent to the current coal consumption of Russia and the United States combined. Coal’s share of the global energy mix continues to grow each year, and if no changes are made to current policies, coal will catch oil within a decade.” 

China and India lead the growth in coal consumption over the next five years. The report says China will surpass the rest of the world in coal demand during the outlook period, while India will become the largest seaborne coal importer and second-largest consumer, surpassing the United States.

The report notes that in the absence of a high carbon price, only fierce competition from low-priced gas can effectively reduce coal demand. “The US experience suggests that a more efficient gas market, marked by flexible pricing and fueled by indigenous unconventional resources that are produced sustainably, can reduce coal use, CO2 emissions and consumers’ electricity bills, without harming energy security,” said Ms. van der Hoeven. “Europe, China and other regions should take note.”

While coal consumption and carbon dioxide have been rising, global temperatures have not been paying any attention – much to the dismay of alarmist models.

(more…)

The demise of coal has been greatly exaggerated

October 11, 2012

Reality Check.

The death of coal utilisation or the exhaustion of coal reserves is not even a glimmer on the world’s energy horizon — thank goodness.

Add to this the fact that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere (and man made CO2 emissions are a minor contribution to this concentration) simply have no significant effect on climate. Trying to control climate by reducing man-made carbon dioxide emissions must rank as one of the world’s most useless and wasteful efforts in the last 30 years.

Terence Corcoran writes in the Financial Post:

….. The idea that coal is dying seems to be mostly wishful thinking on the part of green activists, as well as some politicians and regulators in the United States and parts of Canada. Ontario aims to end dirty coal-fired power generation, at great cost to consumers who are now paying high prices for the putative clean alternatives, wind and solar. The United States, via regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency, has established rules that are said to present the coal-power industry with a “dead end.”

(more…)


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