Tag Archives: Gas

Looking forward to Finkel

The Finkel review of the National Electricity Market is due to be revealed to the premiers at COAG tomorrow, but is you’ve been reading the Australian Financial Review it’s all done and dusted. There’s really only one horse in the race, and it’s the Low Emissions Target (LET), which Tony Wood of the Grattan Institute says is the third last horse in the race, but picked because it’s better than the other two. That may be harsh, but the visionary scheme was first proposed by John Howard in 2007. Here’s Howard and Costello launching the scheme way back then:

It’s the least-worst, least-best carbon pricing scheme, but has the attraction of giving coal a chance of sticking around for a while. Continue reading Looking forward to Finkel

Energy crossroads

Transformer over orange sky
The initial stimulus for this post was an article in the AFR entitled We are at an energy crossroad (paper version) by Tony Wood of the Grattan Institute, based on a new report Powering through: how to restore confidence in the National Electricity Market and a series of articles mainly at RenewEconomy. I’ll summarise them Climate clippings style, so the story should emerge and you can follow the links for elaboration if you choose. Continue reading Energy crossroads

Turnbull stands naked on climate policy

Giles Parkinson says of the 2017 budget that Turnbull lets [his] fig leaf droop and stands naked on climate policy. Matthew Rose says Turnbull’s budget ignores energy crisis and dodges climate. The Conversation article is headed Budget 2017: government goes hard on gas and hydro in bid for energy security, which is I think misleading. It goes for gas and hydro, but not hard.

Before looking at what the budget has to offer, it is appropriate to remind ourselves that at the UN climate talks in Morrocco last year, Australia’s proposed effort was ranked fifth worst in a list representing 90% of the world’s emissions. Moreover, Frydenberg has been backsliding since then, suggesting we may not achieve zero net emissions until 2100. Continue reading Turnbull stands naked on climate policy

Power tipping point

The Four Corners program Power Failure added to the sense of crisis around our power system, beginning with the breathless comment that there was almost a breakdown of civil order in South Australia when the lights went out in September. The program looked at the difficulties experienced when the power went off for three days. Recently in some places affected by Cyclone Debbie, crews couldn’t get in to start fixing for about double that time. I’ll come back to Four Corners via a series of articles published on the same day.

First, in the AFR tucked away on page 8, Mark Ludlow penned an article Renewables, EIS ‘make gas-fired power redundant’ (paper edition title). Ludlow interviewed Professor Frank Jotzow, director of the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at ANU, who said gas had been overtaken by renewable energy, including battery storage, in the transition away from coal-fired power. We should skip gas and go straight to renewables with batteries. Continue reading Power tipping point

Gas has got to go

The Climate Council issued a report on the future of gas-fired electricity just after Easter – Pollution and Price: The Cost of Investing in Gas.

Gas is often thought of as a ‘transition fuel’ from coal to renewables. Their advice is clear:

    Do not provide policy support for new gas power plants or gas supply infrastructure.

And:

    Existing gas plants should be thought of as a short-term, expensive, emergency backup as renewable energy and storage is rapidly scaled up.

Moreover, we should leave most of our gas reserves in the ground. Continue reading Gas has got to go

Gas to burn

Jay Weatherill’s energy plan involves the construction of a government-owned 250MW gas-fired power plant to provide emergency back-up power and system stability services for South Australians, and power for his resources minister to instruct the owners of Pelican Point to turn it on. Yet his plans for cheaper gas, or any gas, will not work quickly and possibly will not work at all. Laura Tingle in an excellent article published under the title of Power sources: steaming Premiers and Pumped PMs tells us that on the futures market on Wednesday, the June contract for electricity in Victoria hit $147.50 per megawatt hour, compared to a price for the March contract of just $80 as energy traders put a price on the closure of Hazelwood in Victoria at the end of March.

Meanwhile a group of former BHP Billiton and BP executives is consulting with SA to build a private equity funded power station, using gas from a floating regasification plant sourcing gas from the North West Shelf and from Singapore, some of which may actually come from the Cooper Basin in the state’s north via Gladstone.

Is this for real, and how did we get into this ridiculous mess? Continue reading Gas to burn

Climate clippings 198

1. LiquidPiston engine

The innovative LiquidPiston engine, mentioned by BilB, is targetting a global market worth $460 billion. It has a power to weight ratio more than ten times better than a regular engine:

The big bruiser on the left puts out 35 HP, the one on the right 40 HP. Continue reading Climate clippings 198

Gas, pumped storage and energy futures

Craig Emerson says we can get the gas we need, but is it necessary?

Craig Emerson has an article in the AFR, also on his site, suggesting that politicians need to urgently turn their minds to gas supply in east Australia. Emerson had warned them back in 2014, but they took no notice, and AEMO assured everyone there was no problem.

Suddenly there is. The price of gas-fired electricity threatens manufacturing jobs, and gas is needed to replace coal-fired power. Continue reading Gas, pumped storage and energy futures

Climate clippings 183

1. Preparing for driverless cars

Leaders from federal and state road and transport agencies, motoring clubs, local government and engineering and industry groups met in Brisbane in August to consider how government and industry can better collaborate to ensure a smooth transition to the world of connected and automated vehicles.

They are expecting partially automated vehicles on public roads before 2020, and highly automated and driverless vehicles within the ensuing decade. Continue reading Climate clippings 183

Climate clippings 115

1. Australia’s coal and gas exports are being left stranded

Just four countries account for 80% of Australia’s fossil fuel exports – China, Japan, Korea and India.

China is on the verge of “peak coal”, rebalancing the economy away from energy intensive industry and introducing a national emissions trading scheme.

Japan is on an energy efficiency drive to reduce its fuel import bill.

Korea has introduced a tax on coal of AU$18 per tonne and is finalising an emissions trading scheme.

India has doubled its tax on coal which funds renewable energy projects and has signalled its intention to stop importing coal within 2-3 years.

Official forecasts are in denial.

2. Are Australian and US climate targets the same?

Environment minister Greg Hunt, Radio National, November 17:

If you use the full Kyoto period — 1990 to 2020 — the US is minus 5% and Australia is almost exactly the same.

Joe Hockey made a similar statement that “If you compare apples with apples, the American position and our position on reductions are effectively the same.”

The comparisons are complex, because the starting and finishing dates are different, so are the population increases. Moreover Australia has forestry and tree clearing in the mix.

Malte Meinshausen and Anita Talberg make the necessary adjustments and find:

An apples-with-apples comparison shows that Australia lags far behind the United States in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its energy, transport and industrial sectors.

To match US efforts, Australia would have to increase its 2020 ambitions from the current 5% below 2000 to 21% or even 29%, depending on whether different population growth is taken into account, or not.

In short, they lie!

3. The genius of Tony Abbott’s stance on climate

Abbott-stetsonS_7

At New Matilda Tom Allen comments on Tom Switzer’s claim the Abbott is a climate change genius. Switzer is a climate change denialist, so we won’t bother with that! Allen finds Abbott has proved one thing – that a carbon tax works!

Abbott

will be remembered as the Prime Minister who proved that the carbon tax worked. After it was introduced, Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions fell, the economy continued to grow and the sky remained in place.

When Abbott repealed it and the country’s emissions began to rise again, using Australia as a vast laboratory, Abbott confirmed it: carbon taxes work.

4. Record growth in electricity sector emissions

Abbott’s genius is demonstrated by this graph of emissions change from electricity production:

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The reductions started well before the carbon ‘tax’, but whatever the reason Abbott seems to have made a difference.

WORST. PRIME MINISTER. EVER!!

As Tom Allen said, it’s nothing personal.

The worst things about him are his policies, and his stance on climate change is worst of all.

5. Record-breaking ocean temperatures

The world’s oceans are the hottest they’ve ever been in the modern record, especially in the northern Pacific.

In July this year, ocean surfaces were 0.55 °C above the average since 1890, just beating the previous record of 0.51 °C in 1998. In the North Pacific, the temperatures were about 0.8 °C above average, which is 0.25 °C warmer than the 1998 peak.

29954001_600

No explanation is given as to why this pattern has emerged. However, it does seem to be disrupting the development of an El Niño. Small mercy, because the northern Pacific warming has effects similar to an El Niño:

This includes more hurricanes in the Pacific, as well as more storms curling over into mainland US. Meanwhile, there have been fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic, just as happens during El Niño. Elsewhere, dry conditions have occurred across Australia, and the Indian monsoon was delayed – effects all arising from warm oceans, despite the lack of an El Nino event.

6. Turn down the heat : confronting the new climate normal

This is volume 2 of 2 of a report prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, and hence highly authoritative. The lead author was Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute.

It’s a massive 320 page report. This is from the Foreword:

There is growing evidence that warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is locked-in to the Earth’s atmospheric system due to past and predicted emissions of greenhouse gases, and climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now be unavoidable.

As the planet warms, climatic conditions, heat and other weather extremes which occur once in hundreds of years, if ever, and considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the “new climate normal” as we approach 4°C—a frightening world of increased risks and global instability.

The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources change, diseases move into new ranges, and sea levels rise. Ending poverty, increasing global prosperity and reducing global inequality, already difficult, will be much harder with 2°C warming, but at 4°C there is serious doubt whether these goals can be achieved at all.

That’s about as far as I could get tonight. Climate Progress has a post.

Another way to cook the planet

Around 80 to 85% of coal in the ground cannot be mined by conventional methods. That’s 18 trillion tonnes according to the International Energy Agency’s Clean Coal Centre – enough to supply the world for 1000 years, at current requirements. Fred Pearce in the New Scientist (paywalled) takes a look at efforts to liberate this potential by a process called underground coal gasification (UCG). Apparently that’s enough to add about 10°C to global warming, if the carbon is not sequestered.

The process involves burning the coal in situ underground, bringing the gases thus created to the surface and then burning them in a conventional power station. This image from the British Geological Survey illustrates the process:

USG_Figure_03_001_600

The “Zero emissions power generation” is totally misleading (see below).

Stalin’s engineers and their successors have been doing it to a brown coal seam for 50 years near Angren, a town east of Tashkent in Uzbekistan. Air is piped 300 metres down one well, the gas comes up another. It is cooled, scrubbed of coal dust and compressed on site, then piped across the plain to Angren. Australians bought the operation seven years ago, with a view to scaling up the technology to transform the world’s energy markets.

A cocktail of gases is created when the coal is burned – methane (natural gas), CO2, which can be disposed of safely, carbon monoxide (CO), and hydrogen. There are four ways the gases can be used:

  • Gas to electricity. Methane is burned in a power station.
  • Gas to chemicals. Hydrogen, methane and CO have value as feedstock in the chemicals industry.
  • Gas to liquid. Methane can be liquified to LNG, or CO and hydrogen can be turned into synthetic diesel.
  • Gas to tech. Hydrogen can be used as a transport fuel.

As methane burns it oxidises to CO2 and water. Potentially, it is said, the same infrastructure of pipes can be used to pipe the CO2 from the power station back to the mine and insert it in the place vacated by the burnt coal. Obviously you’d have to double the pipeline for continuous operation. And obviously the process would add to the expense.

A second concern is that chemicals can leak to contaminate groundwater. If the rocks above the seam are impermeable before the process, they may not be after. Fracturing is estimated to occur up to 60 times the width of the seam. In fact fracturing the nearby rocks could release even more gas for use.

USG_cougar-energy_cropped

Australian engineers trialled an adapted process at Chinchilla in Queensland in the 1990s. Within two years UCG was shown to be feasible. But in 2011 benzene and toluene leaked into a nearby borehole in an operation near Kingaroy. Similar problems had emerged in the US, so Qld authorities shut the operation down for investigation. Last July ‘Can do’ Campbell’s mob came up with the idea that you could only operate if you successfully decommissioned a commercial scale operation to show that you could do it. So you had to start an operation, stop it, get your operating ticket, then start up again. Brilliant!

There were three companies involved in Qld – Linc Energy, Carbon Energy and Cougar Energy. They responded by shutting Chinchilla down after more than a decade of successful production, and relocating to China, the US, Argentina, Chile and Indonesia.

There are trials elsewhere, including Canada and South Africa. At Cook Inlet in Alaska and Swan Hills in Alberta, Canada, there are plans to go commercial as early as 2015. In Britain, they reckon 70% of coal has never been mined. Furthermore there is 10 billion tonnes of the stuff under 400 square kilometres in the North Sea. An Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil has been set up with £1 billion seed money to stimulate the industry. Half a dozen start-ups have been spawned. There is interest also in supplying feedstock to energise the flagging chemicals industry in Scotland.

All this momentum is a worry unless in practice ‘clean’ coal turns out to be completely clean. For example in Britain it is said that only 30% of CO2 could be sequestered. There they are throwing £1 billion at the problem.

Remember, for a safe climate we need to reduce the concentration of emissions initially to 350 ppm. Or you can go back and depress yourself by re-reading The game is up.

Our best chance lies in the possibility of renewables becoming cheaper than the fossil alternatives. If we rely on the human race acting rationally in its own longer term self interest our prospects are not good.

Climate clippings 88

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition is completely about implementation issues and is largely based on a number of links drawn to my attention by John D, for which gratitude and thanks. I’ve restricted the offering to six items to make it more digestible.

1. The battery storage system that could close down coal power

A German company is developing relatively large scale battery storage (up to 10MW-sized battery parks) which could “stabilise the grid faster, cheaper and with greater precision that conventional generation.”

Screen-Shot-2013-11-21-at-3.48.40-am_450

It says that these systems can substitute 10 times the capacity from conventional generation – coal, nuclear and gas – and at a fraction of the cost. According to Younicos spokesman Philip Hiersemenzel, each battery park can be installed at around € 15 million, which means that for an investment of €3 billion, conventional generation in Germany’s 80GW would no longer be needed – at least for frequency and stability purposes. Continue reading Climate clippings 88