Thursday, November 29, 2012

Global Trends in Nuclear Power

Russia's Rosatom recently signed a deal with 13 collaborating Czech companies to build an advanced lead-cooled fast reactor SMR called the SVBR-100.
The main advantage of fast-neutron reactor technology over traditional nuclear power plants is that it can utilise this waste product – irradiated or highly-enriched nuclear fuel – in the process of generating energy. Fast reactors also produce far less new nuclear waste than conventional reactors, while some reactors, called fast-breeder reactors, can be used to produce an excess of plutonium, which can then be used in nuclear weapons or recycled to fuel the plant.

According to Leonid Bolshov, professor at the Institute for the Safe Development of Nuclear Energy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the development of fast nuclear reactors is essential to close the nuclear fuel cycle.“Fast reactors will help us solve one of the most pressing problems connected with atomic energy, and that is what to do with the atomic waste from nuclear power stations that are currently operational.”

In Britain, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is considering plans to build two fast reactors at Sellafield in Cumbria to deal with the 120-ton plutonium waste problem there – the world’s largest stock of civilian plutonium. A feasibility study has already been submitted for building the plants, which, if given the go-ahead, could eradicate the British plutonium stockpile by around 2030. This would also have the benefit of generating electricity in the process. _Behind the Headlines
More at the link above.

ATMEA, a Gen III + reactor collaboration by Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, is on the way to being installed in Jordan, Argentina, probably in Brazil, and elsewhere:
The ATMEA1 reactor is an evolutionary Generation III+ medium-sized pressurized water reactor (PWR) embedding proven technologies and providing top level safety as well as high economical and operational performance. As such, it is the best response to Brazil’s energy needs and constraints. Perfectly adaptable to Brazil’s grid requirements, the ATMEA1 reactor can provide Brazilian utilities with advanced operational flexibility.

The ATMEA1 reactor has already been pre-selected in Jordan and pre-qualified in Argentina for those countries’ nuclear new-builds programs. ATMEA is also looking at other opportunities in Asia, where utilities have expressed interest in the ATMEA1 reactor. _ATMEA Reactor
Here is an update from Brian Wang on China's high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR) developments. China is commencing its nuclear buildup, after a safety delay caused by concerns over the Fukushima earthquake & tsunami caused accident at a nuclear power plant.

The Next Generation Nuclear Power Plant Industry Alliance accepted two new members recently -- the Savana River Site Community Reuse Organization, and the Advanced Research Center. The goal of the alliance is the production of high and very high temperature reactors for joint production of electricity and high quality industrial process heat.
Rick McLeod, Executive Director of the SRSCRO said “These high temperature reactors present a very real and very exciting possibility for our region of the country. We have several local industrial heat users in South Carolina and Georgia that would greatly benefit from the price stability and environmental benefits of heat produced by this type of small modular reactor. Our community is a pro-nuclear community and we have an existing skilled nuclear work force associated with the Savannah River Site and surrounding nuclear industry. We also have established training programs to train future workers for jobs in the nuclear industry. Plus, there are a number of well-characterized and appropriate sites for these next generation modular reactors.”

Fred Humes, Director of the Advanced Research Center added “The market for HTGRs is substantial. The NGNP Industry Alliance and the Idaho National Laboratory have conservatively estimated that in North America alone, there is a market for over 700 of these advanced high temperature SMRs. The Aiken area can be in on the ground floor in terms of fuel manufacturing, components, materials, etc. The need to build out this capability definitely plays to our strengths. In addition, there are several potential uses of the technology that are particularly intriguing to me, including high temperature steam for our industries along with an added advantage of a supply of electrical power. There’s also the very exciting potential for using HTGR heat and electric power for the production of large quantities of hydrogen without fossil fuel use – this could be revolutionary for petrochemical and carbon conversion industries around the world.”

On the subject of timing, Moore stated that “The impression some people may have that HTGRs are decades away is simply false. There is a good historic legacy, including in the U.S., for this technology. Two test reactors are currently operational globally and a commercial sized unit is being built in China. Although a technology development effort is needed in parallel with a modern, U.S.-based licensing process, the technology development risk is very low. With a focused, aggressive effort, the first-of-a-kind modern HTGR module could be up and operating in the U.S. by about 2026 as part of a multi-module deployment.” _NextGen Nuclear Power Plant Alliance
Finally, Microsoft's former Chief Technology Officer Nathan Mhyrvold, continues to push the development of Terrapower's Traveling Wave Reactor, which is a fast reactor design. Bill Gates and other wealthy backers have been supportive of Terrapower, in the hopes that the design will lead to safer nuclear power plants which consume nuclear waste along with depleted uranium and more conventional nuclear fuels.

Nuclear power offers the potential for virtually unlimited clean safe and affordable electrical power and industrial heat -- if it is done properly.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gas to Liquids (GTL): A Growing Market; And More

Due to plentiful supplies and an attractive gas to oil price differential, the natural gas to liquid fuels (GTL) market is beginning to take off, according to a new report, The Gas-to-Liquids Market 2013 - 2023. The 182 pp report suggests that the GTL global market will already exceed $5 billion in 2013. And this market is just getting started.
Two large-scale commercial Gas-to-Liquids plants have been opened in the 21st century and both are accumulating vast revenues due to the potentially lucrative differential between the price of natural gas and the price of oil. Building on the success of these facilities and a range of other factors, the Gas-to-Liquid market is set to grow strongly over the next 10 years. Visiongain has determined that the value of the global Gas-to-Liquids market in 2013 will reach $5.29bn. _ReportLinker _ via _ SacBee
The two large scale GTL plants built by Shell appear to be generating healthy profits. And as detailed in the above report, a number of startups are planning to build smaller scale GTL plants, which are also expected to be very profitable -- given the big price differential between crude oil and natural gas.
Carbon Sciences Inc. (OTCBB: CABN), provider of a complete solution for transforming abundant and affordable natural gas into clean burning gasoline and other transportation fuels, today announced its plan to act as the project developer of a "miniGTL" plant in the United States.

Flared and stranded natural gas is abundant and available. The World Bank estimates that 134 billion cubic meters of gas was flared worldwide in 2010, equivalent to almost 5 trillion cubic feet. If all this gas were converted to liquid fuels, it would equate to around 500 million barrels each year...

..."As the world searches for the security of new energy and fuel sources, miniGTL operations have the potential to unlock a vast quantity of natural gas that is either wasted or less accessible. We believe that flared gas could generate around 3 million barrels per day of synthetic fuel, and 'problem' gas, either stranded reserves or that associated with crude oil which would currently be re-injected, a further 20 million barrels per day," concluded Elton.
Going beyond natural gas to liquids, we see that several other feedstocks can also be profitably converted to liquid fuels, if the price of crude oil remains inflated.
The United States could eliminate the need for crude oil by using a combination of coal, natural gas, and non-food crops to make synthetic fuel, a team of Princeton University researchers has found.

...In the Princeton research, Floudas' team found that synthetic fuel plants could produce gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuels at competitive prices, depending on the price of crude oil and the type of feedstock used to create the synthetic fuel. About two-thirds of crude oil consumed by the United States is used for transportation fuel, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA said the United States imports about 45% of its annual crude oil consumption.

"Even including the capital costs, synthetic fuels can still be profitable," says Richard Baliban, a chemical and biological engineering graduate student who graduated in 2012 and was the lead author on several of the team's papers. "As long as crude oil is between $60 and $100 per barrel, these processes are competitive depending on the feedstock," he says.

The core of the plan is a technique that uses heat and chemistry to create gasoline and other liquid fuels from high-carbon feedstock ranging from coal to switchgrass, a native North American grass common to the Great Plains. The method, called the Fischer-Tropsch process, was developed in Germany in the 1920s as a way to convert coal to liquid fuels.

The chemistry is complicated, but it basically takes the carbon and hydrogen from the feedstock and reassembles them into the complex chains that make up fuels like gasoline and diesel. Essentially, the feedstock material is heated to 1,000 to 1,300 C and converted to gas, and using the Fischer-Tropsch process, the gas is converted to chains of hydrocarbon molecules. These hydrocarbon chains are then processed over catalysts such as nickel or iron. The end products include fuels, waxes, and lubricants normally made from crude oil. _RDMag
Synthetic liquid fuels from natural gas, coal, biomass, bitumens, kerogens, gas hydrates, etc. have enormous potential to substitute for crude oil, should the price of oil remain high.

As inexpensive process heat becomes more widely available, a wide range of synthetic fuels will become more profitable to produce.

High temperature and very high temperature nuclear reactors of advanced design will begin to provide very economical high temperature process heat for multiple high value purposes, beginning in the early to middle 2020s.

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How to Lie With Price Comparison Charts

The chart below comes from RealClearEnergy, a broad spectrum energy news and commentary website. It is a comparison of "levelised costs" between various types of energy sources -- including wind "power" with and without the US federal PTC price support.
Real Clear Energy

The article containing the graph claims that "wind underprices the competition, but . . ." And that is a very big "but" indeed. Here is more on how the editors of Real Clear Energy compiled their chart:
The graph shows the levelized costs of electricity in 2010 dollars per megawatt hour for the main forms of generating electricity. Levelized costs are defined as follows: investment and installation costs, operations and maintenance costs, fuel costs, life of the generating unit, and energy generated by the unit. The horizontal axis breaks out the major forms of generation: wind , natural gas, coal and nuclear. Wind (represented in green) is represented both with and without the production tax credit, which awards a tax reduction per megawatt. _RCE
The article admits that wind is only "competitive" when it operates a maximum capacity, and that wind "cannot always operate at maximum capacity." The authors of the editorial deserve a "comic of the year award" for stating the above with a straight face. Wind is unpredictable, and rarely operates at maximum capacity, and when it does it is usually at a time when the grid does not need the "power," forcing the grid to buy unneeded energy and dump it (waste it) at significant expense.

That is a key point. The unpredictable intermittency of the wind destroys any price advantage it may present on a constructed chart -- with or without a PTC. Modern industrial infrastructure is designed around affordable, reliable, high quality electrical power. Big wind energy is the enemy of affordability, reliability, and quality of power.

More from William Tucker:
At best, windmills generate electricity only one-third of the time. That means to get the real costs you have to combine the $90.25 or $68.25 figure with something else. The choice today is peaking natural gas generators, since only they can be ramped up and down to match wind’s variations. But when you combine the weighted costs of natural gas peakers and wind without the production tax credit you get $148.22, far more expensive than coal or nuclear. Even with the production tax credit, the cost remains at $104.50, slightly higher than nuclear. Now General Electric is now marketing a combined-cycle plant that it says can be ramped up and down to partner for wind. But if combined cycle is already $15 cheaper than wind without the production tax credit, then what’s the sense of adding windmills? Even with the PTC, the differential is only $6, which is hardly worth the effort.

So the fuel of choice these days is definitely natural gas – which explains why everybody is building natural gas plants and nobody is building coal or nuclear. But can we count on these low prices lasting forever or even ten years? _William Tucker
The wind industry in the US and elsewhere in the modern world, cannot survive without massive government subsidies -- which invariably go to wealthy investors and developers. Most of these investors and developers are closely connected to ruling interests inside of government, for some odd reason.

The above chart gives one an idea of how dependent big wind is upon big government tax loopholes to wealthy and well-connected lobbyists, developers, and financial interests.

The Case Against Wind (PDF) by J. Lesser October 2012

It is time to stop lying and obscuring the brutal truth about intermittent unreliable forms of energy. Wind power is an ancient source of energy, but it has not adapted well to modern industrial power needs, and it never will. The attempt to square the circle in this situation is the result of a blind adherence to a faux environmental, pseudoscientific quasi-religion known as catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. We at the Al Fin Institutes refer to this superstitious belief as "carbon hysteria."

Until the irrational fear of carbon is eradicated from media, government, academia, and faux environmental factions, these groups will continue to promote irrational, counter-productive, unreliable, and non-economic forms of energy to replace a current system which is in need of far more rational upgrades, for the money that will be spent.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

In the US, Natural Gas is King; Everywhere Else It's Coal

The US is set to become the world's most prolific producer of natural gas within the next 2 years, and the largest producer of oil by 2017 -- according to the International Energy Agency.

The US is already benefiting from its rapid growth in affordable natural gas supplies. And famed Harvard historian and author, Niall Ferguson, says that as long as President Obama avoids killing the golden gas goose, the US is in for a big economic boost ahead.

Already the US has begun to move away from the use of coal to generate electricity -- helping the country to "reduce its CO2 emissions" at a time when virtually every other region of the world is increasing coal use and CO2 output.

How fast is coal use increasing outside of North America?

More than 1,000 new coal plants are planned worldwide.
...after a slight dip during the economic troubles of 2008, the global coal trade has rebounded and rose by 13 percent in 2010.

...Most new coal-fired plants will be built by Chinese or Indian companies....

...However, Germany, the UK and France remain in the top 10 importers, and coal use rose 4 percent in 2011 in Europe as prices fell and plants due to close under clean air rules use up their allotted running hours. Indonesia and Australia are the largest coal exporters, with the latter planning to triple its mine and port capacity to almost 1 billion tonnes a year.

Many developing countries, such as Guatemala, Cambodia, Morocco, Namibia, Senegal and Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan, are planning new coal-fired plants even when they produce almost no coal at all.... _1000 New Coal Plants
There are many ways of mining, shipping, processing, and burning coal cleanly and responsibly. The US coal industry would already be using many of these clean coal methods, if not for the Obama EPA's blatant and counter-productive energy starvationism and faux environmental anti-economic biases.

Nevertheless, the rest of the world is building a huge demand for coal from the US, Australia, and wherever else coal can be found in plentiful quantities.

Eventually, with the aid of high temperature gas cooled nuclear reactors (HTGRs) and other important breakthroughs, the use of coal for conversion to chemicals, fuels, fertilisers, and other necessaries, will attract no more comment from responsible regulators and environmentalists than "a good day to you sir, madam."

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

132nd Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival at Fukushima Accident Report

The 132nd Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is hosted at Fukushima Accident Updates.
Here is a short excerpt:
Everyday Explosions – There have been several gas explosions over the past couple weeks, here in Massachusetts and nationwide. More people have been killed in a few weeks due to gas explosions than in a half century of U.S. nuclear power due to radiation. Yet there are no calls to shutdown gas plants or stall gas construction in the U.S. or worldwide. Why the irrational fear of nuclear power?

From ANS Nuclear Cafe (2) -
Vermont Yankee supporters at Public Service Board hearing - Howard Shaffer reports from a Vermont Public Service Board hearing concerning the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant -- where Vermont Yankee supporters mounted a very successful appearance, outnumbering opponents 3 to 1 (and)
Post-election outlook for nuclear energy - Jim Hopf with an in-depth analysis and discussion of the impacts of the recent US national elections on the prospects for US nuclear energy

Oak Ridge is preparing an application to the US NRC to put 4 SMRs at the Clinch River Breeder Reactor site

One person's view on why shutting down nuclear power plants is madness

Another look at Germany's dysfunctional decision to retreat from nuclear power

Holtec is undeterred at being passed over by the DOE for first round SMR finance - matching


Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Best Place to Look for New Oil Is In an Old Oil Well

About 80% of the conventional oil being produced today comes from fields discovered before 1973.... Yet 65% of the original-oil-in-place remains trapped. _OilVoice
How would you go about getting the remaining 2/3 of crude oil out of old oil wells? Sometimes you can't, but in many cases it is more economical to squeeze more oil out of exiting well -- using enhanced recovery methods -- than to find and drill new wells, or to convert other feedstocks into crude oil.
According to the chart above, different methods of enhanced oil recovery vary wildly in terms of cost per oil recovered. They also vary widely in terms of average oil recovered, and the potential for further oil recovery after the technique has been utilised.
Techniques of Enhanced Oil Recovery

Potential Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery Processes A Critical

Microbial oil recovery is one of the least utilised, but promising, techniques. Here is more on the "Titan Process," listed in the topmost chart above as the most economical method of recovery of those listed.
More than 20,000 wells are abandoned every year in the U.S. as they become non-commercial. Approximately 285,000 shut-in wells in the U.S. are potential targets for MEOR revival. Internationally there are about 800,000 more shut-in wells, a significant percentage of which may benefit from the Titan Process.

...The Titan Process is unique because it does not require the microbes to excrete anything. The microbes are induced to become interactive with trapped oil causing it to break into smaller droplets with reduced interfacial tension (“frictional” effects between oil and water), so that oil can flow more freely through the rock formation. The oil characteristics do not change, but the flow characteristics and relative permeability to oil are significantly improved. _OilVoice

As you can see, microbial oil recovery has a lot of room to grow, compared to other EOR techniques. The same is true for other up and coming EOR approaches -- such as nanotechnology EOR.

The many different possible ways to produce crude oil and crude oil substitutes offer many potential investments for energy observers. Oil field service companies that provide services such as fracking and EOR are particularly attractive at this time -- as long as Obama and other energy starvationists do not shut them down.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Russia Speeds Development of 300 MWe Fast Reactors

Russia appears to be speeding development of its BREST 300 lead-cooled fast reactor design, rated at 300 MWe. State nuclear company Rosatom has moved up development plans for the reactor by 10 years -- up to 2020 for full operation, rather than 2030. A more rapid development of the new reactor will require a correspondingly larger investment in funding, personnel, and infrastructure. This is in keeping with PM Medvedev's ambitious plans to modernise Russia's industrial and technological sectors.
The head of Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, told the meeting that plans foresee the figure for research and development reaching RUB42 billion ($1.3 billion) in 2020. This is about ten times its value in 2007 when the country began consolidating its nuclear activities within Rosatom.

...Kiriyenko said the federal target program up to 2020 had been intended to demonstrate incoming fast reactor technology and associated fuel-cycle infrastructure by that date so that it can come into use by 2030. Now, he said, the goal is to have 'not individual elements' being demonstrated, 'but a full range' in operation by 2020.

Two months ago Rosatom confirmed a plan to install the pilot BREST-300 lead-cooled fast reactor at the Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) at Seversk in the Tomsk region. This would also mean the construction of the first plant to make the reactor's dense nitride fuel elements. Plans would see the construction of this 300 MWe reactor start in 2016 so that it could generate power from 2020. It would be the forerunner of a nationwide series of 1200 MWe versions.

...Rosatom's long-term strategy up to 2050 involves moving to inherently safe nuclear plants using fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle and MOX fuel. The country's federal target program envisages nuclear providing 45-50% at that time, with the share rising to 70-80% by the end of the century. _WNN_via_NBF
Along with the SVBR 100 SMR, the 300 MWe lead cooled fast reactor may be Russia's best design yet. A Gen IV reactor, it can produce electricity or hydrogen, and could be scaled to suit different tasks.

Both China and Russia appear to be moving toward an acceleration of their nuclear power development. This is in sharp contrast to the US Obama administration's NRC record of foot-dragging and obstructionism. And compared to much of Europe's anti-nuclear hysteria, Russia and China appear to be taking their energy futures very seriously.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

China's Great Green Bubble of Overbuilt Unreliables

One-quarter of China’s wind farms are not connected to a power grid—a reflection of poor planning, insufficient transmission lines, and technical concerns by regional utilities that the intermittency of wind power can be disruptive to normal operations. Wind-related power failures have caused blackouts in three provinces, while exploding equipment has been blamed in the deaths of several workers, according to local press accounts. _BW

Responding to a perceived market for green energy in Europe and North America, China engaged in a massive production build-up of wind turbines and photovoltaic panels. China was successful in building a vast production capacity of green energy generation. And now, China must face the consequences of its great success.
China’s $30 billion solar power industry is overbuilt and heavily in debt. Analysts say even billions of dollars in new government loans may not be able to pull it out of the hole.... Suntech Power Holdings (STP), the world’s largest solar panel maker, announced in September it would cut or reassign 1,500 workers at its photovoltaic cell factory in Wuxi. Suntech is counting on a $32 million loan from local authorities to avoid more job losses. To stay solvent, LDK Solar (LDK), China’s second-largest maker of solar wafers, was forced to sell a 20 percent stake to a renewable energy investor part-owned by the city of Xinyu, where LDK is headquartered. The support comes as the companies prepare to report combined 2012 losses of $987 million... Regional governments are loath to let their local solar panel makers fail.

... Help from local governments may be the biggest hurdle to making China’s solar industry competitive, says Shyam Mehta, solar analyst at the Boston consulting company GTM Research: “Until they stop supporting the uncompetitive manufacturers, this won’t go away.”

...LDK and Suntech both have balance sheets “so egregious” they would be “imminent bankruptcy candidates if they were American or European,” says Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates. The companies didn’t respond to requests for comment. Molchanov believes infusions of government money won’t stop the losses until China grapples with its massive overcapacity—the same glut of panels that cut global prices by half in the last two years and drove U.S. solar panel makers such as Solyndra out of business. “Every province, every city, every bank is going to try to protect their vested interest as best they can,” he says. “That’s why kicking the can down the road has been the dynamic so far.” Aaron Chew, an analyst at Maxim Group in New York, concurs: “The government’s subsidy plan is better than nothing, but I don’t think it will save the industry as it’s still not profitable.”

The nation’s investments in wind power are faring no better. One-quarter of China’s wind farms are not connected to a power grid—a reflection of poor planning, insufficient transmission lines, and technical concerns by regional utilities that the intermittency of wind power can be disruptive to normal operations. Wind-related power failures have caused blackouts in three provinces, while exploding equipment has been blamed in the deaths of several workers, according to local press accounts. China Datang Corporation Renewable Power, a state-owned wind energy developer, saw first-half 2012 profits plunge 76 percent, in part because regional utilities simply don’t have the capacity to accept all the energy it produces.

China’s wind turbine manufacturers, responsible for 40 percent of the world’s output, are suffering a double squeeze, as demand has stalled both at home and abroad. Sinovel Wind Group, the world’s largest wind turbine maker by market value, posted a $45 million third-quarter loss this year on an 82 percent drop in sales—its largest loss since its initial public offering in January 2011. _Businessweek
China's green energy woes should have been expected, given the experience of other nations that followed a similar slippery downhill path.

Epic Failure of Spain's Grand Green Energy Gesture

Obama's Legacy of Corrupt Green Failures

Germany pays the price for its green foolishness

Modern industrial power grids cannot tolerate the huge moment-to-moment energy fluctuations of intermittent unreliable energy sources such as big wind and big solar. Whenever attempting a large scale conversion to "green power," initial economic costs are exorbitant. The cost of the power plants themselves, the cost of new power grid infrastructure, and the huge cost of maintaining spinning backup power sources. And then there is the cost to society as lower and middle income customers strain to pay skyrocketing power bills.

But the real costs of such an ideologically driven, top-down attempt to transform a national power grid and power supply, begin to emerge as the unreliables approach 20% or more of total power capacity to the grid. The violent and unpredictable intermittency of big wind power in particular, leads to power failures -- blackouts, brownouts, selective shutdowns of power customers, etc.

Industries begin to bail out of an economy that is unable to provide reliable electrical power. A trickle becomes a flood, and before you know it a former continental powerhouse such as Germany begins to resemble a national ruin such as Greece. A world powerhouse such as the US -- if not for its shale fracking, coal, and remaining old-style nuclear power generation -- becomes an international ruin like Zimbabwe.

Russia and Saudi Arabia would love nothing better than to see the US and Germany bet their futures on intermittent unreliable green energy. Dictators love the fools that guarantee their job security into the indefinite future.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

US DOE to Promote Small Modular Reactor Development

The US Department of Energy has chosen an early recipient of funding for small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) development. The consortium consisting of Babcock & Wilcox, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and Bechtel Intl., will receive a dollar for dollar cost match in funding to develop a prototype SMR.

Largely in the background, both the US DOE and the US Defense Department are promoting development of more scalable nuclear reactor designs. Now, if only the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission would move away from the stonewalling posture toward new nuclear plants it has adopted during the Obama administration, the US nuclear power industry might be able to begin building a long term and highly scalable versatile infrastructure of nuclear power & heat.
The idea behind small reactors is that they could be built in a factory that would allow for lower costs through serial production, if not actual mass production. Factory fabrication would also make quality control easier. The reactor would be shipped by barge or rail car, and modules could be added as demand grew.

Small reactors could be easier to cool if an accident occurred. And some analysts say that they could make good export products for use in countries with weak grids that would be destabilized by huge reactors.

A major hurdle for new models is obtaining a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and that presents a chicken-and-egg problem for would-be manufacturers. They would find it hard to sell a new model before it is licensed but would be reluctant to spend the tens of millions of dollars necessary to get a license before orders have been placed. One of the purposes of the Energy Department aid is to make the licensing process less onerous. _NYT
More from the DOE news announcement:
Small modular reactors - which are approximately one-third the size of current nuclear power plants - have compact, scalable designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, construction and economic benefits. Small modular reactors can also be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to “plug and play” upon arrival, reducing both capital costs and construction times. The smaller size also makes these reactors ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors, offering utilities the flexibility to scale production as demand changes.

As this nascent industry continues to grow, the Energy Department is committed to supporting research and development that will advance efficient, safe and cost-effective small modular reactor technologies. The Department plans to issue a new funding opportunity announcement to address this goal and support continued design development and certification of innovative SMR technologies. _USDOE
The ability to scale the power plant to meet particular needs, is an important advantage of modular reactors. Smaller required investments and more rapid installations will also be of benefit to buyers.

The Energy Department investment will help B&W obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing and achieve commercial operations by 2022—helping to provide US utilities with low carbon energy options as well as create important export opportunities for the United States. The project will be based in Tennessee and will support additional suppliers and operations in Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. _GCC


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Siemens, Bosch, and Spain: Just Say No to Desertec

The ambitious plan to build huge solar power plants in North Africa to feed into the European power grid, has suffered some significant setbacks recently. Industrial giants Siemens and Bosch, as well as the government of Spain, are indicating that they are no longer interested in the expensive boondoggle.
An ambitious plan to provide 15% of Europe's power needs from solar plants in North Africa has run into trouble.

The Desertec initiative hoped to deliver electricity from a network of renewable energy sources to Europe via cables under the sea.

But in recent weeks, two big industrial backers have pulled out. And the Spanish government has baulked at signing an agreement to build solar power plants in Morocco.

...According to Dr Daniel Ayuk Mbi Egbe, a professor at the University of Linz in Austria and an expert on African solar resources, this is not good news.

"Siemens and Bosch are very big companies," he told BBC News, "if they don't want to support this initiative it is going to be difficult for Desertec.

...Prof Peter Droege is the head of Eurosolar, the European association for renewable energy: ... "I think it is struggling to find a reason to continue - It is clear it's lost its original purpose, it is looking for a new direction," he commented..._BBC
Grand and exorbitant schemes of this type do hold a certain appeal -- until one begins to look more closely at the details. Eventually it will dawn on almost everyone that such schemes are impractical, "feel-good" scams, run for the benefit of developers and administrators of the projects themselves. In the end, taxpayers always lose when forced to pay for intermittent unreliable sources of energy.

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Girls of Rice: Shining a Light on Nano-Distillation

Rice University researchers have exposed an extraordinary route to light-driven distillation, using nano-particles. The applications of this new technology have barely been imagined.
People in developing countries will be among the first to see the benefits of solar steam. Rice engineering undergraduates have already created a solar steam-powered autoclave that’s capable of sterilizing medical and dental instruments at clinics that lack electricity. Halas also won a Grand Challenges grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create an ultra-small-scale system for treating human waste in areas without sewer systems or electricity.

“Solar steam is remarkable because of its efficiency,” said Neumann, the lead co-author on the paper. “It does not require acres of mirrors or solar panels. In fact, the footprint can be very small. For example, the light window in our demonstration autoclave was just a few square centimeters.”

Another potential use could be in powering hybrid air-conditioning and heating systems that run off of sunlight during the day and electricity at night. Halas, Neumann and colleagues have also conducted distillation experiments and found that solar steam is about two-and-a-half times more efficient than existing distillation columns. _Rice University_via_New Energy & Fuel
Solar illumination of broadly absorbing metal or carbon nanoparticles dispersed in a liquid produces vapor without the requirement of heating the fluid volume. When particles are dispersed in water at ambient temperature, energy is directed primarily to vaporization of water into steam, with a much smaller fraction resulting in heating of the fluid. Sunlight-illuminated particles can also drive H2O-ethanol distillation, yielding fractions significantly richer in ethanol content than simple thermal distillation. These phenomena can also enable important compact solar applications such as sterilization of waste and surgical instruments in resource-poor locations. _ACS_via_Brian Westenhaus
Girls of Rice: Neuman & Halas

Using sunlight to distill water (or ethanol etc.) at the nano-scale illustrates the counter-intuitive potential of nano-particles. Human science has barely tapped the potential of nano-particles for chemical, biomedical, and physical purposes. And nano-particles are the most primitive type of nanotechnology. Imagine the disruptive influence of true nano-machines and nano-assemblers.
The key in the research is the technology has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent. Photovoltaic solar panels, by comparison, typically have an overall energy efficiency around 15 percent. Bear in mind that about half of the solar energy arriving to earth’s surface is in the infrared range. Halas’ team set out to design a particle that would interact with the widest possible spectrum of sunlight energy. Their new nanoparticles are activated by both visible sunlight and shorter wavelengths that humans cannot see.

...The efficiency of the solar steam technology is due to the light-capturing nanoparticles that convert sunlight into heat. When submerged in water and exposed to sunlight, the particles heat up so quickly they instantly vaporize water and create steam. The nanoparticles are so effective they can even produce steam from icy cold water. Halas said the solar steam’s overall energy efficiency can probably be increased as the technology is refined.

The technology is going to be on a very different scale. Halas explains, “We’re going from heating water on the macro scale to heating it at the nanoscale. Our particles are very small – even smaller than a wavelength of light – which means they have an extremely small surface area to dissipate heat. This intense heating allows us to generate steam locally, right at the surface of the particle, and the idea of generating steam locally is really counter intuitive.” _New Energy & Fuel
More on this story from Brian Wang

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Apres le Deluge: This May be the Best We Can Do

To produce and refine hydrocarbons, a certain level of intelligence and technological sophistication is required in the host society -- either that, or the technological talent is imported from the outside. Safe nuclear power requires an even higher level of technological sophistication, due to the more complex science that underlies nuclear reactions. In primitive societies, hydrocarbon pipelines are sabotaged and destroyed in attempts to steal fuel. Chemical and hydrocarbon refineries too often erupt in huge explosions -- something much more likely when tended by primitive and unsophisticated workers. And imagine an advanced nuclear power plant being watched over by primitive tribesmen of the third world.

The conversion of biomass to energy and liquid fuels is less efficient than the use of hydrocarbons and nuclear power. But fields of biomass can only burn, they will not explode violently, or melt-down leaving thousands of years of radiative contaminants.

Here at the Al Fin Institutes of Advanced Energy, we not only look at energy technologies -- we also look at long term societal trends. And the long term trend for societal sophistication -- on a global scale -- is downward. Humans are becoming less intelligent and less sophisticated, on average, as a result of long term demographic trends that are unlikely to be reversed for at least several decades.

This means that biofuels and bioenergy -- the use of biomass to generate power and to produced liquid fuels -- may be the best that the humans of the future will be able to do.

Here is one of the best approaches to the production of biofuels from biomass:
Researchers at Auburn University and North Carolina State University have shown that using a simple pretreatment process—torrefaction—improves the quality of bio-oil produced via catalytic fast pyrolysis.

In a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they reported that the combination of the torrefaction pre-treatment and shape-selective catalyst (H+ZSM-5) resulted in highly deoxygenated liquid product that was favorable for aromatic hydrocarbons. The total carbon yield from catalytic pyrolysis of torrefied biomass was 1.45 times the total carbon yield from catalytic pyrolysis of untreated pine.
Recently, a simple thermal pretreatment process, torrefaction, has been applied to improve the properties of biomass. Torrefaction is a thermochemical process that occurs around 200−300 °C in the absence of oxygen. During torrefaction, biomass undergoes partial decomposition with the release of volatiles, which results in overall mass loss. Furthermore, the fibrous structure of the biomass is lost as a result of torrefaction mainly because of the decomposition of hemicellulose and depolymerization of cellulose. In addition, torrefaction results in a significant loss of oxygen from the biomass, which in turn reduces the oxygen content, increasing the calorific value of pretreated biomass while decreasing the energy required for grinding. The grinding energy for untreated pine chips and forest residues could be as high as 237 kWh/t compared to 23 kWh/t for similar biomass when torrefied. ...
Aromatic hydrocarbons were significantly produced as a result of torrefaction, and temperature and catalyst enhanced their production. Among the findings were that torrefaction resulted in more of lignin derivatives—guaiacols, phenols—and less of holocellulose derivatives. The presence of catalyst resulted in the formation of naphthalenes due to its size selectivity. _GCC

While torrefaction + catalytic pyrolysis of biomass cannot compete with cheap natural gas, it one removes hydrocarbons and nuclear power from the equation, the new and advanced bioenergy and biofuels approaches begin to make sense.

Which means that biomass to biofuels and bioenergy will begin to make sense for the primitive third world -- and for isolated locations within the biozone -- before too many decades pass.

And if you take a look at the Fourmilab projections of global IQ from 1950 thru 2050, you may begin to understand why bioenergy and biofuels may be the best we will be able to do -- apres le deluge.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Advanced Materials and Design Tools for NextGen Nuclear Reactors

Nuclear reactors take a lot of punishment in the way of heat and sub-atomic particles. More durable materials would allow reactors to have longer lifetimes -- reducing overall costs and increasing profits.

Nano-engineered materials have the potential to resist damage from heat and irradiation for longer periods of time than conventional materials currently used.
In order to build the next generation of nuclear reactors, materials scientists are trying to unlock the secrets of certain materials that are radiation-damage tolerant. Now researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have brought new understanding to one of those secrets—how the interfaces between two carefully selected metals can absorb, or heal, radiation damage.

... During nuclear irradiation, energetic particles like neutrons and ions displace atoms from their regular lattice sites within the metals that make up a reactor, setting off cascades of collisions that ultimately damage materials such as steel. One of the byproducts of this process is the formation of helium bubbles. Since helium does not dissolve within solid materials, it forms pressurized gas bubbles that can coalesce, making the material porous, brittle, and therefore susceptible to breakage.

Some nano-engineered materials are able to resist such damage and may, for example, prevent helium bubbles from coalescing into larger voids. For instance, some metallic nanolaminates—materials made up of extremely thin alternating layers of different metals—are able to absorb various types of radiation-induced defects at the interfaces between the layers because of the mismatch that exists between their crystal structures.

... in a metallic nanolaminate material, small helium bubbles are able to migrate to an interface, which is never more than a few tens of nanometers away, essentially healing the material. "What we're showing is that it doesn't matter if the bubble is within the interface or uniformly distributed—the pillars don't ever fail in a catastrophic, abrupt fashion," Greer says.

She notes that the implanted helium bubbles—which are described in the Advanced Functional Materials paper—were one to two nanometers in diameter; in future studies, the group will repeat the experiment with larger bubbles at higher temperatures in order to represent additional conditions related to radiation damage.

In the Small paper, the researchers showed that even nanopillars made entirely of copper, with no layering of metals, exhibited irradiation-induced hardening. _R&D Mag
Advanced computational design tools provide another way in which future generations of nuclear reactors can be made safer and more durable:
... many of the highly complex physical phenomena that affect reactor performance and safety remained somewhat of a mystery. It wasn't possible to "see" what was taking place inside this very harsh environment—until now.

Researchers are using some of the world's most powerful computers at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility to take a leap forward in nuclear reactor design, analysis and engineering. Their efforts could shave millions of dollars off the cost of reactor design, development, preparation for licensing, and construction.

Researchers have developed a suite of computer tools, called the Simulation-based High-efficiency Advanced Reactor Prototyping (SHARP) Reactor Performance and Safety Simulation Suite, that numerically mimic and allow researchers to "see" the physical processes that occur in a nuclear reactor core. SHARP users can build complex virtual reactor models, which can run the reactor through a variety of operational or accident scenarios that would be impractical or impossible in the real world. _PO
US national energy labs utilise some of the most advanced hardware and software computer tools in the world -- including the ORNL Titan supercomputer, the world's most advanced. As mentioned here previously, the Titan will be used to design better nuclear reactors, along with a few other energy related tasks.


US Power Grid at Risk from Sabotage

This article was first published on Al Fin

Terrorists could black out large segments of the United States for weeks or months by attacking the power grid and damaging hard-to-replace components that are crucial to making it work, the National Academy of Sciences said in a report released Wednesday.

While the report is the most authoritative yet on the subject, the grid’s vulnerability has long been obvious to independent engineers and to the electric industry itself, which has intermittently tried, in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security, to rehearse responses.

Of particular concern are giant custom-built transformers that increase the voltage of electricity to levels suited for bulk transmission and then reduce voltage for distribution to customers. Very few of those transformers are manufactured in the United States, and replacing them can take many months.

... Newt Gingrich [recommends] a novel that imagines the crippling of the nation and the starvation of millions by unidentified enemies using high-tech methods to fry components of the grid with an electromagnetic pulse. The report does not discuss that possibility, but the appendix does include “electromagnetic pulse” among other technical terms.

The National Academy of Sciences report mainly refers to less sophisticated attacks but also warns of cyberattacks or infiltration of the grid’s transmission operators. “Even a few pernicious people in the wrong place are a potential source of vulnerability,” it said.

The report was completed in 2007, and after reviewing it, the Department of Homeland Security decided to classify its contents. The version released on Wednesday is redacted to avoid handing terrorists a “cookbook” on how to disrupt the grid, the report said. _NYT
As we have seen after Hurricane Sandy and any number of other natural disasters, when the power grid goes down in a modern multicultural society, all manner of mayhem is apt to break out.

Most people are unaware of how easily modern power grids can be brought down.

One of the many ironies of this fragile situation, is that one of the solutions most often proposed by greens and leftists -- the "smart grid" -- would actually make power grids more vulnerable to cyberattack and catastrophic failure.

The recently declassified and redacted document suggests ways in which societies can make their power grids less vulnerable and more resilient. But the NAS is not only a scientific body, it is also a politicised body which maintains a very politically correct posture. Many of the solutions are apt to be non-solutions, and many of the true solutions were certainly omitted or redacted.

The best approach for individuals, families, and small cooperative groups, is to maintain your own backups and lifelines.

At the blog, Al Fin, the Next Level, educational and developmental theorists are creating a new approach to the raising of resilient children, dubbed "The Dangerous Child Method." But it is never too late to have a dangerous childhood. Think about it.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst.


A Shifting Geopolitics Comes With New Discoveries

This article was first published on Al Fin

Every modern industrial nation requires affordable energy to run its industry, commerce, and to keep its citizens comfortable within their homes. For the last few decades, energy consumers in the western world have lived under the threat of having their energy supplies cut off, by belligerent suppliers in OPEC, Russia, and other bullying dictatorships.
Preliminary Map of Global Shale Gas -- Much More to Come

With the coming of new energy technologies that are unlocking vast supplies of previously inaccessible oil & gas, Russia's and OPEC's stranglehold over more civilised and cultured parts of the world appears to be weakening.
The Gulf is not the only area where the established oil powers are in danger of crumbling. The biggest single loser of all will most likely be Vladimir Putin's Russia, a regime largely dependent on high energy prices and a captive market with no real alternative plan.

..."Russia has just seen its aspiration market disappear. The US is already a bigger gas producer than Russia," Redman said. _Guardian
As US energy production continues to shift away from OPEC toward domestic producers, US industries can once again plan their production schedules based upon a more reliable energy supply. So that as US and Canadian industries re-build based upon more reliable and cheaper supplies of fuels and energy, other countries that depend upon more expensive and less reliable forms of energy -- such as Germany -- will increasingly lose out to North America.
Thanks to new applications of drilling technology to unlock natural gas trapped in shale rock, the nation’s output has surged and energy experts almost unanimously forecast that prices will remain low or moderate for a generation.

...“It has become clear to me that the responsible development of our nation’s extensive recoverable oil and natural gas resources has the potential to be the once-in-a-lifetime economic engine that coal was nearly 200 years ago,” U.S. Steel Chairman John Surma said in a speech this year.

Industrial companies are betting that the surge in the domestic production of natural gas is much more than a blip. Cheap and plentiful supplies of natural gas are flooding the U.S. market, and prices in the United States are as low as a quarter of what they are in Europe or Asia.

“For the foreseeable future, thanks to the recovery of vast U.S. underground gas deposits of shale, natural gas is likely to remain 50 to 70 percent cheaper in the U.S. than in Europe and Japan,” said a recent report by the Boston Consulting Group. _WaPo
Whether these new technologies ultimately create a new "economic renaissance" depends upon whether government agencies are able to keep their corrupt and ideology-stained paws off the private enterprise boom.

A sudden surplus of previously rare high quality energy is likely to have unforeseen effects on several parts of the world.
"In the past, when OPEC was cutting production by half a million barrels, everyone was jumping up and down. Today no one cares as we have a real surplus of oil," said the head of Azeri state oil firm Socar's trading arm, Valery Golovushkin.

"There is already plenty of oil in the Mediterranean. We at Socar are relying on long-term supply contract to Asia. But quite honestly we don't feel any particular joy from taking it to Asia and wasting money on freight," said Golovushkin, a veteran of the Soviet oil export industry. _Reuters
The North American shale boom caught a lot of global oil market suppliers flat-footed.

As North American shale oil & gas continues to rise in production -- and as other shale producers in Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, and elsewhere come on line -- the problems for OPEC and Russia will only be compounded further.

It is likely that a number of regional wars will be fought over oil resources, as individual oil dictatorships find that their own production is not able to pay for their ambitions and their need to pacify their people. Many of these wars will be supported and encouraged by Russia -- in an attempt to ramp up the risk premium for oil, and overall oil & gas prices.

The consequences of these rapid shifts in new oil & gas supplies have only begun to shake out. Watch carefully, and be very cautious.

Brian Wang has followed the ramp up of North American hydrocarbon production very closely

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Heat Storage Discovery 20X Better than EPA Goals

Brian Westenhaus points to an intriguing breakthrough in heat storage at the University of Arkansas.
The new system is a structured thermocline system which can be bodies of water, such as oceans and lakes, for example, but also smaller units that contain fluids or gas – with distinct boundaries separating layers that have different temperatures.

The plates are made from a special mixture of concrete developed by Micah Hale, associate professor of civil engineering. The mixture has survived temperatures of up to 600º Celsius, or 1,112º Fahrenheit. The storage process takes heat, collected in solar panels, and then transfers the heat through steel pipes into the concrete, which absorbs the heat and stores it until it can be transferred to a generator.

...Modeling results showed the concrete plates conducted heat with an efficiency of 93.9 percent, which is higher than the Department of Energy’s goal and only slightly less than the efficiency of the problematic packed rock bed method. Tests also confirmed that the concrete layers conducted heat without causing damage to materials used for storage. In addition, storage using the concrete method cost only $0.78 per kilowatt-hour, far below the Department of Energy’s goal of achieving thermal energy storage at a cost of $15 per kilowatt-hour. _NewEnergyandFuel
An order of magnitude improvement in heat storage should have an impact for isolated solar thermal installations, which are inaccessible to cheap shipping or large power grids.

Whether such a development will lead to improvements in grid-scale solar thermal power plants remains to be seen. The full construction and long-term operating costs of large scale solar thermal plants have not been well clarified at this early stage in their development.

But cheap and efficient thermal storage is nothing to scoff at.

Of course, once scalable modular HTGRs are available, the options for heat production in a wide range of locations will expand enormously. It is conceivable that portable HTGRs might even travel from one heat storage depot to another, topping off heat storage as it goes -- in areas that lack viable power grids, such as networks or coops of seasteads in the open ocean, or groups of small to medium colonies in space which are not wealthy enough individually to afford their own HTGR.


HTGRs: One Revolutionary Key to an Abundant Energy Future

The importance of cheap, plentiful, high quality industrial process heat cannot be overstated . . .

Here is a short link list of some things that you can do with cheap, virtually unlimited high quality process heat:

  1. Unlock the trillions of barrels oil equivalent in oil sands (PDF)
  2. Unlock the trillions of barrels oil equivalent in coal to liquids and gas to liquids (PDF)
  3. Unlock the trillions of barrels oil equivalent in shale oil kerogens 
  4. Provide abundant industrial process heat for production of fertilisers, refining fuels, making plastics, etc 
  5. Split CO2 into CO to use as a hydrogen carrier 
  6. Overturn conventional fears of EROEI and Peak Oil 
Those things, and many more -- including biomass to liquids and gas hydrates to liquids -- will be accomplished by next generation gas-cooled high temperature nuclear reactors.
A group of far-sighted companies, including AREVA, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, Entergy, Graftech International Ltd., Mersen, Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada, SGL Group, Technology Insights, Toyo Tanso Co. Ltd., and Westinghouse are pursuing the development of a true next-generation nuclear technology referred to as the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) for the past few years. Without too much technical detail, HTGRs are helium-cooled, graphite-moderated reactors with robust ceramic-coated fuel that operate at temperatures at or above 750 Degrees Celsius (1400 Fahrenheit) where conventional light water reactors operate at temperatures less than half that. In short:

The design is intrinsically safe. It requires neither active or passive systems nor operator interventions to remain safe, thereby allowing co-location near major industrial facilities.
High temperature output that allow direct substitution for fossil fuel use in industrial process heat applications.
Much higher efficiency leading to lower energy cost, making it competitive with natural gas in many places of the world today without any price for carbon. _NGNPAlliance_via_NBF
NGNPAlliance Home Page

4 Page PDF HTGR Description w/ Images

The image above matches different industrial processes with the level of heat required. Since HTGRs can provide abundant heat up to 850 C or 900 C, all of the lucrative processes listed in the image suddenly come within economical reach -- once HTGRs are perfected, licensed, and mass produced in factory-built modular units.

The image above provides thumbnail images of different processes that will become more profitable with the abundant availability of high temperature, high quality process heat.

Why do we at Al Fin Energy continue to emphasise the importance of HTGRs? Because if the US government had devoted half as much attention to developing and perfecting the mass production of safe, relatively inexpensive, and reliable HTGR modules -- instead of wasting hundreds of $billions on intermittent unreliable forms of energy -- the "energy crisis" would have been solved by now.

The fact that this has not been done, reveals for a certainty that government is not serious about providing inexpensive, clean, abundant energy for industry and society at large. Government energy policy is instead based upon more corrupt and ideological motivations, which delay the era of energy abundance unnecessarily.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

In Germany, Idiot Greens are the Problem

Below are excerpts from a Der Spiegel Online interview with Stephan Kohler, head of the German Energy Agency. Herr Kohler is incredibly kind and courteous to two very poorly prepared journalists, who clearly have no idea of how their electrical power grid works. (Go here for full interview)
In Germany, 75 percent of electricity goes to industry, for which a secure supply -- that is, at every second, and with constant voltage -- is indispensable. Neither solar nor wind power are suitable for that purpose today. Both fluctuate and provide either no secure supply or only a small fraction of a secure supply. _Spiegel
Kohler is patiently explaining to the uninformed journalists how sensitive German industry is to large intermittent fluctuations in their power supply. In fact, Germany is losing industries at an increasing rate due to its inability to guarantee reliable, high quality power at reasonable rates -- thanks to dysfunctional green government mandates and the imbecilic shutting down of nuclear power plants.

Kohler continues discussing some of the problems with intermittency:
... a surplus and fluctuations lead to very unpleasant systemic effects. We have voltage fluctuations within the grid that create problems for industry. Or we overload the grids in neighboring countries. Poland is in the process of installing technical equipment to protect its grids by keeping out surplus German electricity.

...Today anyone can build a solar power system wherever he wants. And anyone who owns one of these systems also has the right to be connected to the grid operator. Just take a drive through Bavaria, and you'll see entire fields full of solar power plants, even though there is zero consumption there and there is no grid. Solar systems should be expanded only in places where the electricity is needed and there are grids that can absorb it...

... Nowadays wind energy is mostly generated where it isn't needed, that is, in the north. But the power lines that are supposed to carry this electricity to the south only exist on paper at the moment. I would propose that we permit the construction of more wind farms only once the power lines have actually been built...

...So far the expansion of power lines has often been blocked by objections from the environmental movement, that is, the people who staunchly promote the development of renewal energy. When things go wrong, they give themselves an environmental halo and blame the grid operators....

... Every new solar or wind energy system that we cannot integrate in a way that makes sense has a negative impact on the system, both economically and technically.

... _Spiegel
Unfortunately, there is no clean way of integrating large scale wind and solar energy into a modern industrial power grid. The longer German greens persist in their idiotic Energiewende, the more ruinously expensive it will be for Germany to dig its way out of the deep green hole.

And since Germany is at the centre of the European power grid (and the European economy), when Germany suffers, all of Europe will suffer.

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The Oil Curse: Over-dependence On Petroleum Revenues In a Volatile Age

In one sense, the price of oil has been very volatile -- boom & bust -- ever since the beginning of the oil age in the late 1800s. The price of oil in US dollars has been particularly volatile. But even when measured against the price of gold, the price of oil has seen some significant peaks and troughs over the years.

Severe oil price swings make it very difficult for countries that are overly dependent upon oil & gas revenues to balance their budgets. Countries such as the MENA oil states, Venezuela, Russia, etc. are finding themselves in a difficult pickle with regard to mounting obligations toward the future.

A new report suggests that Saudi Arabia will need an oil price of $320 a barrel by 2030 in order to balance its swelling government budget.

Russia's fiscal breakeven number varies between about $130 a barrel and $150 a barrel, depending upon who you are asking. Regardless of the exact figure, the number is likely to skyrocket in the future, and Russia is already having trouble making ends meet. What of the future?
Gustafson said that many in Russia's government realize that trouble lies ahead but that consensus is lacking on how to move forward. A reduction in oil revenues could devolve into a power struggle between interest groups over shrinking oil rents... A decline in oil revenues could usher in a major crisis, forcing cutbacks to major spending programs such as pensions and subsidies that underpin the stability of the Putin regime. In such a crisis the state would be forced to confront the difficult choice it has avoided for so long--whether or not to lessen the tax burden on the oil industry and enable it to invest in the next generation of fields and technology. _If Oil Declines, Russia Declines
Putin's agenda of bread and circuses will only suffice to cover up Russia's ruinous corruption and cronyocracy for so long, in the face of stable or falling oil prices.

The chart above reveals that the actual cost of production of oil for these countries is quite low -- in comparison with their fiscal breakeven oil price. The difficulty balancing their budgets in the light of their already huge production profits, points out the depth of oil dependency and corruption so prevalent in these countries.

In the meantime, US oil production continues to grow -- despite the Obama / Salazar agenda of energy over-regulation. The vast deposits of Canadian oil sands are also waiting to be developed, and shipped to market. A rapidly accelerating oil production from the huge Iraqi deposits of oil await a suitable environment of stability. And large oil & gas deposits in Iran, Africa, Central Asia, the Arctic, and offshore deposits around the world, await the proper geopolitical and global economic milieu for development.

Vast amounts of global energy await the proper conditions for development and distribution. Advanced nuclear energy from unranium and thorium, clean coal technologies of IGCC and liquefaction, efficient and scalable GTL technologies, development of vast deposits of bitumens in Canada, Venezuela, and elsewhere, huge deposits of kerogens, and huge quantities of gas hydrates.

Advanced nuclear energy could supply abundant energy for tens of thousands of years. But until such technologies are developed, fossil fuels can bridge the gap in time.

As for carbon hysteria and climate change? Only a clear and dispassionate knowledge of the global carbon cycle of the land and sea can eradicate those phantom fears. For humans to acquire clear knowledge and wisdom on that and many other crucial issues -- a better leadership and a more honest information media will be needed.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Global Coal Industry Booms: India and China Alone Adding 200 New Coal Plants

In the US, natural gas is replacing coal in new electricity generating power plants. As a result, CO2 emissions in the US have declined. In Europe, on the other hand, six times more coal units than natural gas units will be installed by 2015. You can imagine what that will do to Europe's carbon emissions.

But the true champions of coal are China and India, where 200 large new coal power plants will be built over the next few years. All of this while green faux environmentalists in western governments are working to institute ruinous carbon regulations on Europe, North America, and Oceania -- in the name of reducing global carbon emissions!

But another problem stood out. India relies on coal for 55 percent of its electric power and struggles to keep enough on hand.

Coal remains a critical component of the world’s energy supply despite its bad image. In China, demand for coal in 2010 resulted in a traffic jam 75 miles long caused by more than 10,000 trucks carrying supplies from Inner Mongolia. India is increasing coal imports.

So is Europe, as it takes advantage of lower coal prices in the United States. Higher-priced natural gas on the Continent is creating demand for more coal imports from the United States, where coal is taking a drubbing from less expensive natural gas.

...Coal is not subject to the vagaries of windless or sunless days, and can easily meet base-load demands of electricity consumers without interruption. So can nuclear power, but the nuclear industry is still reeling from the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan. Countries like Germany have turned away from nuclear reactors.

Global demand for coal is expected to grow to 8.9 billion tons by 2016 from 7.9 billion tons this year, with the bulk of new demand — about 700 million tons — coming from China, according to a Peabody Energy study. China is expected to add 240 gigawatts, the equivalent of adding about 160 new coal-fired plants to the 620 operating now, within four years. During that period, India will add an additional 70 gigawatts through more than 46 plants.

“If you poke your head outside of the U.S., coal-fired plants are being built left and right,” said William L. Burns, an energy analyst with Johnson Rice in New Orleans. “Coal is still the cheapest fuel source.” _NYT_via_GWPF
While the leadership of Europe, North America, and Oceania are suffering from carbon insanity, the leaders of China and India are not so deluded. They understand the critical importance of electrical power that does not turn off when the sun goes down or when the wind stops blowing. Modern industrial nations cannot run on the intermittent unreliable energy sources which Obama, Merkel, Gillard, and the others of similar mental turpitude tend to favour.

And please take note of the hypocrisy of the European governments that are willing to mortgage their economic and industrial futures on the backs of big wind and big solar for the sake of carbon reductions -- while at the same time building huge new coal power plants.

Modern societies cannot afford such stupid leaders as these, if they are to survive to reach the next level of abundance. But it seems that we may have reached a point of diminishing returns as far as democracy is concerned. When democracy becomes a rule of the mob which simply votes itself favours and sinecures, it is time for the more productive and competent to consider how to trim the fat and the dead weight.

As governments commit energy and industrial suicide via intermittent unreliables, and fall victim to carbon hysteria, their productive base tends to diminish. This increases instability in the overall system, and leads to chaotic shifts in foci of power and control.

Keep a close watch as things develop.

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3 Trillion Barrels of Oil Equivalent from Green River Kerogens: What Does It Mean?

More Oil Than OPEC

There's no question, says Rusco, that the oil is there, all 3 trillion barrels of it...

...Both the GAO and private industry estimate the amount of oil recoverable to be 3 trillion barrels.

"In the past 100 years — in all of human history -- we have consumed 1 trillion barrels of oil. There are several times that much here," said Roger Day, vice president for operations for American Shale Oil (AMSO). _ABCnews

Will Advanced Kerogen Production Put a Ceiling on Global Oil Prices?

Enefit, an oil producer headquartered in Estonia, has been producing oil from oil shale in Europe for more than 30 years, according to the CEO of its Utah subsidiary, Enefit American Oil. Rikki Hrenko says Enefit brings the shale to the surface, then heats it in retorts.

"It's more labor intensive to have to mine the shale," Hrenko said. "But the economics are still quite feasible." She puts the break-even price at about $65 a barrel. The cost of producing in Utah, she thinks, will be only slightly higher than in Estonia. _ABCNews
But in reality, in situ production would be cheaper in the Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming than mining in Estonia -- if producers used a cheap enough source of abundant, high quality heat. In fact, being able to produce a resource of 3 trillion boe, at a price of between $60 and $70 a barrel, might seem to place a price ceiling on global oil.

The only problem is that it will probably take 20 years before the technology and cheap process heat are ready to meet the government regulations and prevailing prices for oil.

Yes, it will probably also be 20 years before modular high temperature gas cooled nuclear reactors are approved in the US and produced in high enough numbers to be placed at Green River well heads.

But even when the technology, the cheap heat, the environmental approvals, and the market prices all come together, there is still the problem of getting the oil to global markets. The big price gap between WTI and Brent points out the problem nicely. Adding refined oil shale kerogens to the North American mix would not help the problem of lack of access to ports.

Getting the product to market is a serious problem, in a political environment where the US Democratic Party has stonewalled the exportation of abundant shale gas, and obstructed construction of LNG terminals in US ports. When you have agendas of political energy starvation afoot, the cost of doing energy business shoots up accordingly.

The truth is, US demand for oil has been on a downward slope. US shale oil production has grown exponentially, and looks to continue doing that for another 10 years or so before plateauing. US demand for oil shale kerogens at this time is minimal. Everything will depend upon global prices, government environmental regulations, and government policies that support the export of petroleum products from the US.

Until those matters are settled, the possibility that 3 trillion boe's of Green River kerogens will put a price ceiling on global oil, will have to remain a distant possibility.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How Long Will the North American Shale Boom Last?

The North American shale boom has shaken the global energy industry. From Russia to the Middle East to South America and Oceania, the unexpected burst of production of oil & gas from North American tight rocks has had an explosive effect. And the NA shale boom continues to grow and expand. The question remains, "For how long?"

Normally, the question of the extent of any given set of petroleum reserves would be left to geologists and engineers. But these days it seems that everyone from investors to pundits to politicians to doomers to faux environmentalists to climate catastrophists to corrupt journolists, are all weighing in on the question -- each in his own manner of personal bias and set of weighted assumptions.

Among the naysayers, we have geological consultants such as Arthur Berman, and investment oriented authors such as Bill Powers. Powers depends heavily on Berman's analysis, and predicts that the North American shale boom will collapse within 10 years.

Of course, analysts and consultants have been predicting the collapse of the North American petroleum enterprise -- "any time now" -- for the past 150 years, so one must take these dour predictions for what they are worth.

OPEC, Russia, and other interested parties have been active in spreading propaganda about the "safety" of fracking and the long term lack of viability of shale resources -- all the while preparing to develop their own shale resources in a semi-secretive manner. Take what they say about the issue with a tonne of salt.

Other pessimistic looks at the North American shale oil & gas phenomenon appear to be largely journolistic smokescreens for coming energy starvationist regulations from the US Obama administration. In other words, the public drone minds must be prepared for what their overlords tell them is best.

Still other predictions of the collapse of shale come from hard core peak oil and faux environmental / carbon hysteria sites. In those cases, the predictions are little more than a quasi-authoritative form of "wishful thinking."

There are also any number of cornucopian predictions, such as the EIA's prediction that the US will surpass Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest energy producer. ... More.

Al Fin analysts typically occupy the high middle ground. The consensus at Al Fin is that for the next ten years North American tight oil & gas is likely to continue to expand -- as long as Obama keeps his hands off. If Obama's green energy starvationists are let off their leashes to do their worst, all bets are off.

Still assuming the greedy, corrupt politicians keep their hands off: the second decade is seen as a plateau, where price and production achieve equilibrium. The third decade is likely to see a decline in North American shale production due as much to falling demand as to a more rapid depletion in a growing number of wells.

Source rock production can be seen as scraping the bottom of the barrel. Or it can be seen as what it is -- an opportunistic and innovative way of turning waste into wealth. And there is much more out there that has not yet been found -- both onshore and offshore. Think three dimensionally -- it will help you to break out of a flatland mindset.

As readers of Al Fin Energy understand, methane, ethane, and other short chain hydrocarbons are constantly being produced both in marine sediments and in the deep lithosphere. Understanding where hydrocarbons originate biologically and abiologically -- and why they are so abundant on other planets and within interstellar clouds -- may help us to find vaster quantities of the stuff. In a way it will be like tripping over our own feet -- much as the current shale boom has been.

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