Skip to content

Sensible Coal Revival

April 17, 2014

The EPA has essentially killed coal-fired power plants by ruling that coal-fired power plants must emit less than 1,100 pounds of CO2 per MWh.

But will this ruling stand?

Common sense would say that the rule must be revoked.

Revoking the rule is unlikely while this administration is in power. It is committed to cutting CO2 emissions regardless of whether the science supports anthropogenic global warming from CO2.

As it becomes increasingly clear that renewables, such as wind and solar, cannot supply the electricity needs of the United States, there will be a need for large, base load power plants.

This will become especially clear as more nuclear power plants are closed. See Nuclear Demise in the United States.

While natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants can provide base load power, pipeline constraints, and concerns for relying on an inordinate amount of power generation from a single technology, coupled with growth in electricity demand, will result in a revival of coal-fired power plants.

Pipelines in several areas were not capable of supplying sufficient natural gas to power plants this past winter, so there is a practical limit as to how many new NGCC power plants can be built.

Building new coal-fired power plants makes sense for three additional reasons:

  • Coal is cheap and abundant, and produces electricity at a cost that can be competitive with natural gas.
  • New, ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants that operate at very high temperatures and pressures are approximately 40% more efficient than coal-fired power plants built in the past. The improved efficiency also results in far fewer emissions.
  • Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants cost less than half as much per KW as do nuclear power plants.
John W. Turk, ultra-supercritical power plant. Photo courtesy of SWEPCO.

John W. Turk, ultra-supercritical power plant. Photo courtesy of SWEPCO.

The John W. Turk ultra-supercritical power plant in Arkansas is the only such plant built in the United States. China is reportedly building around 20 of these ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants.

Traditional coal-fired power plants had a thermal efficiency of around 32% HHV, while new ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants have a thermal efficiency of around 45% HHV. This advance in technology has been brought about by improvements in metallurgy.

Improvements in efficiency also translate into corresponding reductions in NOx, SOx, Hg, and other pollutants. With modern pollution control equipment, these plants deserve the sobriquet of clean-coal.

If half the nuclear power plants being shuttered this century in the United States are replaced with NGCC power plants, it will still require approximately 35 new ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants to be built between 2035 and 2100, or approximately one new coal-fired power plant being built every two years.

While this is an approximation, it’s close enough to establish what’s likely to happen with the closure of nuclear power plants.

It’s always risky forecasting the future, but the evidence, i.e., closure of nuclear power plants; growth in electricity demand; and practical limits of how many NGCC power plants can be built, and that wind and solar are too anemic to meet required output, all support such a forecast.

There’s no question that NGCC power plants are cleaner, but there are good reasons to build ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants.

 

*  *  *  *  *  *

 

These articles can be delivered directly to your mailbox. Subscribe by clicking below the photo on the right side of the article where it says email subscription, and entering your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

If you know someone who would be interested in these articles you can send him/her a link to the article and suggest he/she subscribes by clicking on the email subscription link under the picture on the right side of the page, and entering their email address.

To find earlier articles, click on the name of the preceding month below the calendar to display a list of articles published in that month. Continue clicking on the name of the preceding month to display articles published in prior months.

© Power For USA, 2010 – 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears, LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

U.S. Nuclear Demise Amid Increases Elsewhere

April 15, 2014

The United States will end the decade with 104 nuclear power plants, after four are closed1, and the four under construction are completed: Two, in Georgia, and two in South Carolina2.

These 104 plants will continue to produce about 20% of U.S. electricity … for a few more years, and then the decline begins.

Existing plants need to receive a 20-year renewal to their original 40-year operating license. Approximately 87 of the 100 existing plants have received their 20-year license renewals, and it has been widely assumed the remaining units will also receive renewals, though a few are now in question due to environmental agitation.

Importantly, all existing nuclear power plants will have to obtain a second 20-year renewal when the initial 20-year renewal expires.

The first of the units with expiring licenses will need to obtain their second 20-year renewal in the mid-2030s, about twenty years from now.

While obtaining the first 20-year renewal was sensible, a second 20-year renewal may be problematic. At the end of a second 20-year renewal these nuclear power plants will be 80 years old, and it’s logical to believe that these plants will be wearing out. Nothing lasts forever, and everything from embrittlement of the reactor containment vessel to aging piping, valves and control systems could be cause for concern.

There is every reason to believe that most of these plants will not receive a second 20-year license renewal.

Without a second 20-year renewal, existing nuclear power plants will have to begin shutting down in the mid-2030s.

Unless new nuclear power plants are built, the amount of electricity supplied from nuclear power plants in the United States will begin to rapidly decline.

Nuclear Power Gen from EIA

The cost of new nuclear plants has grown to a staggering $6,000 / KW.

With low natural gas prices, and the possibility that new ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants can be built at less than half the cost of nuclear power plants, the economics mitigate against building new nuclear plants in the United States.

With Yucca Mountain storage seemingly going nowhere, and with the public emotionally opposed to nuclear power, it would seem that nuclear will be in terminal decline in the United States.

There’s a very strong possibility that nuclear will supply less than 5% of our electricity by 2100.

Even small modular nuclear power plants cost $6,000 / KW, so they may also be too expensive when compared with alternatives.

Meanwhile the situation elsewhere in the world is different.

A total of 64,000 MW of nuclear power plants are being built elsewhere in the world, which translates into approximately 64 new nuclear power plants if their average size is 1,000 MW.

China is the largest builder of new nuclear power plants, with approximately 28 under construction.

Russia has about 4 plants under construction.

Interestingly, Russia’s Rosatom, is building 15 plants in other countries, including Turkey, Vietnam, Belarus, and a few others.

India is building 4 or 5 units.

S. Korea is building 5 units.

It’s highly probable that nuclear power in The United States will begin its long-term decline in about 20 years.

 

 

  1. Plants being closed:
  • Crystal River Nuclear Plant
  • Kewaunee Power Station
  • San Onofre Nuclear power Station
  • Vermont Yankee

 

  1. This does not include the unfinished TVA plant that may yet be finished.

 

 

*  *  *  *  *  *

 

These articles can be delivered directly to your mailbox. Subscribe by clicking below the photo on the right side of the article where it says email subscription, and entering your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

If you know someone who would be interested in these articles you can send him/her a link to the article and suggest he/she subscribes by clicking on the email subscription link under the picture on the right side of the page, and entering their email address.

To find earlier articles, click on the name of the preceding month below the calendar to display a list of articles published in that month. Continue clicking on the name of the preceding month to display articles published in prior months.

© Power For USA, 2010 – 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears, LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Exporting Natural Gas Update

April 11, 2014

Earlier articles in this series include:

In general, these articles established that the United States had ample supplies of natural gas for export, as well as for all the other power generation and manufacturing needs that have been envisioned, and that the future advent of natural gas from methane hydrates would virtually ensure an abundance of natural gas in the future, not only for the United States, but for many other nations around the world.

Natural gas can be the wonder fuel for the next century or two.

The immediate concern is how rapidly the export terminals can be placed into operation in the United States.

LNG FERC Sites Map

This list shows 19 proposed LNG export terminals, but since this list was published, five more have been added to the list, including expansions.

Of these, only one has been approved by FERC, so that construction can begin.

Here is a status report on approvals.

 

Company Location Vola

bcf/d

FTAb, c Non-FTAb FERC Start-up
Sabine Pass-Cheniere Cameron Parish LA 2.76 Approved 9/7/10 Approved 8/7/12 Approved 4/16/12 6/2015
Freeport LNG Freeport TX 1.8 Approved 2/17/11 Approved 5/17/13 Pending 2018
Lake Charles Lake Charles LA 2.0 Approved 7/22/11 Approved 8/7/13 Pending 2018
Dominion Cove Cove Pt MD 1.77 Approved 10/7/11 Approved 9/11/13 Pending 6/2017
Jordan Cove Coos Bay OR 2.0 Approved 12/7/11 Pending Pending 2018
Cameron LNG Hackberry LA 1.7 Approved 1/17/12 Approved 2/11/14 Pending 2017
a. Combines FTA and non-FTA volumes.

b. Dept of Energy (DOE) must, in a two step process, approve projects with exports to countries having Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with U.S., and countries that do not have FTA with the U.S.

c.  DOE has approved most of the other projects, including expansions, that have FTA with U.S.

It’s obvious that at this rate it will be too late for the United States to have an important influence on events in Europe. Much of the output from the above list of LNG export facilities has already been committed for export to Asia.

FERC is the major road block to obtaining approvals, though other political issues could have a bearing on approvals, primarily to non-FTA countries.

It’s important to recognize that we are not alone in developing LNG export facilities, and that the longer we delay building LNG export facilities the more likely that other countries, such as Australia and Canada, will capture the lion share of the business.

The second negative consequence of delay is that the cost of building export facilities is increasing. According to a report in Turbo Machinery International, the cost has essentially doubled between, before 2010 and today. The average cost between 2000 and 2010 was $500/ton per annum (tpa), while today, the average cost is $1,200 /tpa.

The cost of building LNG export facilities is huge. A train, the basic refrigeration and compression unit, with a capacity of 3 to 5 million tpa, which is equal to 0.4 to 0.6 bcf/d, will cost $4 to $6 billion. For example, a facility comparable to the Cameron LNG facility (see above table) would cost nearly $15 billion.

For the United States to compete, and to have an effect on events in Europe, FERC must move more rapidly to approve projects.

There is also the possibility that negotiating free trade agreements will take precedence over exporting natural gas. The thinking is that we should use natural gas as negotiating leverage in free trade negotiations to improve our export of other goods.

Our ability to affect Europe’s reliance on Russia for natural gas could be held hostage to using natural gas as a negotiating ploy in free trade negotiations.

As demonstrated in the earlier articles, there is sufficient natural gas for export, as well as for power generation; increased manufacturing that relies on natural gas; and for heating, without increasing the domestic price of natural gas. There will always be periods when supply and demand get out of balance, such as was the case this past severe winter, but short term demand/supply issues should not override the basic fact that the United States has enough natural gas to meet all its strategic objectives.

 

*  *  *  *  *  *

 

These articles can be delivered directly to your mailbox. Subscribe by clicking below the photo on the right side of the article where it says email subscription, and entering your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

If you know someone who would be interested in these articles you can send him/her a link to the article and suggest he/she subscribes by clicking on the email subscription link under the picture on the right side of the page, and entering their email address.

To find earlier articles, click on the name of the preceding month below the calendar to display a list of articles published in that month. Continue clicking on the name of the preceding month to display articles published in prior months.

© Power For USA, 2010 – 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears, LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

How CO2 Distorts the Energy Equation

April 8, 2014

There is no question that electricity from PV Solar and Concentrating Solar costs more than from natural gas or coal, yet radical environmentalists have devised a way to say the opposite.

Again, we live in an Orwellian world, where words mean the opposite of what they have traditionally meant.

In Minnesota, they have determined that PV Solar costs less than electricity from natural gas or coal-fired power plants.

How did they achieve this legerdemain?

In the middle ages people proposed Alchemy as a means for turning ordinary metals into gold. We now have the modern Orwellian version as established by the EPA and adopted in Minnesota.

Add the Social Cost of Carbon to the cost of electricity generated by natural gas and coal to establish that PV Solar is less costly.

The Emerald Tablet, a key text of Western Alchemy, in a 17th-century edition, from Wikipedia

The Emerald Tablet, a key text of Western Alchemy, in a 17th-century edition, from Wikipedia

Minnesota selected $37 per ton for the social cost of carbon, as currently established by the EPA, though the social cost of carbon ranges between $12 per ton and $116 per ton in 2015, rising to $28 per ton and $235 per ton in 2050.

These costs were established under President Obama’s Executive Order 12866, by the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon1.

These estimated social costs of carbon are largely based on computer models that have been discredited because they can’t replicate actual temperatures. But the working group assumed that the threats from climate change, based on these computer programs, should be the basis for establishing the social cost of carbon.

Minnesota has established a “value of solar” formula that has been affirmed by the state’s Public Utility Commission.

So a price has been set on carbon, and used to make decisions that affect the public.

The cost of PV Solar is still higher than the cost of generating electricity from natural gas or coal-fired power plants, but by a stroke of the pen, PV Solar has been deemed less costly.

We should look at what’s happening in Germany to see how this line of thinking is destroying Germany’s electric utility companies. In 2012 only 22% of Germany’s electricity came from renewables, and their energy revolution, Energiewende, calls for 80% by 2050, yet the system is already crumbling under the rules that work against fossil fuels.

Minnesota is falling into the same trap by placing a price on carbon.

 

  1. Technical Support Document: Revised November 2013:http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/inforeg/technical-update-social-cost-of-carbon-for-regulator-impact-analysis.pdf

 

*  *  *  *  *  *

 

These articles can be delivered directly to your mailbox. Subscribe by clicking below the photo on the right side of the article where it says email subscription, and entering your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

If you know someone who would be interested in these articles you can send him/her a link to the article and suggest he/she subscribes by clicking on the email subscription link under the picture on the right side of the page, and entering their email address.

To find earlier articles, click on the name of the preceding month below the calendar to display a list of articles published in that month. Continue clicking on the name of the preceding month to display articles published in prior months.

© Power For USA, 2010 – 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears, LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Watching Germany’s Endangered Utilities

April 4, 2014

Earlier articles have described the effect that Energiewende is having on Germany, with its effort to have 80% of electricity from renewables by 2050, and how, at only 22%, the power generation and delivery system is already being stressed to the limits.

Energiewende has rewarded, with large subsidies, the building of wind and PV solar installations, while giving priority to renewables when dispatching electricity from all available sources.

My first article was last October, Germany as the Canary. The next was on January 7, Germany: Canary for Renewables.

This article will ask the question: Can utilities survive under Energiewende, in Germany … or any other country adopting similar policies?

And if utilities cannot survive, what other industries will be affected?

And how will that affect private investment in the stock market?

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. Photo by D. Dears

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. Photo by D. Dears

The first major crack in the German utility industry came last week when E.ON, the largest utility in Germany, announced it would shutter 13,000 MW of power generation capacity, which is more than 25% of its conventional power generation capacity.

The company announced a 14% reduction in earnings for 2013, compared with 2012, attributing the decline to “the market situation in fossil fueled-power generation.”

Johannes Teyssen, E.ON’s CEO, went on to say, “In particular, the ramifications of policy decisions in Germany and the related insufficient market prices for conventional energy continue to have an adverse impact on our generation portfolio, which has long been a mainstay of our business.”

Previously, in August of 2013, Germany’s second largest utility said it would shutter 3,100 MW of conventional generation across Europe on similar profit woes. RWE said that subsidized renewables were the reason for shuttering such a large portion of its power generation capacity.

Interestingly, little of this was reported in the media in the United States, which continued to lionize Obama’s war on climate change.

In Germany, it’s becoming increasingly clear that, unless Energiewende is stopped, there are only two possible outcomes for the utility industry, including the grid.

  • The government allows utilities to charge customers a capital fee as part of their rates, to cover the cost of power generation, transmission and distribution investments. This is unlikely to be greeted favorably by consumers, who already pay as much as five times more for their electricity than do Americans.
  • Private utilities go bankrupt, with all power generation, transmission and grid assets taken over by the German government, i.e., are nationalized.

The ramifications of either alternative are appalling, first because of their effect on the stock market, second because of all the other businesses that will be affected. For example, Siemens, Germany’s largest manufacturer of electrical equipment, has 20% of its sales in the sector.  For comparison, General Electric Company has 22% of its sales in power generation. There are literally hundreds of companies, and thousands of jobs, that depend on the power generation, transmission and distribution businesses.

It should be noted that policies in the United States supporting wind and solar, are having the same insidious effects as is Energiewende in Germany.

We are fortunate to be able to watch the effects that such policies are having on another country, providing we have the common sense to change our policies accordingly.

 

*  *  *  *  *  *

 

These articles can be delivered directly to your mailbox. Subscribe by clicking below the photo on the right side of the article where it says email subscription, and entering your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

If you know someone who would be interested in these articles you can send him/her a link to the article and suggest he/she subscribes by clicking on the email subscription link under the picture on the right side of the page, and entering their email address.

To find earlier articles, click on the name of the preceding month below the calendar to display a list of articles published in that month. Continue clicking on the name of the preceding month to display articles published in prior months.

© Power For USA, 2010 – 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears, LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Opportunities Lost

April 1, 2014

Richard Kauffman, New York State chairman of energy and finance, wants to stimulate markets by using subsidies since many clean energy projects are inherently uneconomic.

He also wants to use psychology to get consumers to take actions they probably would not take, without a psychological push.

He said, “Too many of us in the clean energy area – and those of us involved in smart buildings – don’t think enough about the emotions that are involved in a decision.”

To get consumers to act, he said, “It often means playing to the herd mentality of consumers.”

He suggests playing to the herd mentality is needed to get consumers to adopt uneconomic clean energy projects: If, for example, they see a neighbor installing clean energy, they are more likely to follow suit.

Niagara Falls, with Maid of Mist. Photo by D. Dears

Niagara Falls, with Maid of Mist. Photo by D. Dears

His comments were made in Buffalo NY, near Niagara Falls.

He readily acknowledges that getting consumers to act on clean energy projects is a tough sell because of the high upfront costs and long payback periods of clean energy projects.

Contrary to his views, it’s certainly hoped that most consumers are capable of making good decisions without following the herd.

He says that because of clean energy projects being inherently uneconomic, it requires government to subsidize them.

He cited a big role for government agencies, such as NYSERDA, and the $210 million NY Green Bank initiative helping finance clean energy projects.

“The New York Power Authority, for example, spent $280 million last year on energy efficiency projects and expects to spend between $250 million and $300 million annually on similar initiatives through 2020.”

He makes no mention, however how these large funds could have been put to better use by investing in opportunities having a more favorable economic impact.

By definition, he admits these projects are uneconomic … with long payback periods.

There are opportunities lost when money is spent on uneconomic projects.

 

*  *  *  *  *  *

 

These articles can be delivered directly to your mailbox. Subscribe by clicking below the photo on the right side of the article where it says email subscription, and entering your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

If you know someone who would be interested in these articles you can send him/her a link to the article and suggest he/she subscribes by clicking on the email subscription link under the picture on the right side of the page, and entering their email address.

To find earlier articles, click on the name of the preceding month below the calendar to display a list of articles published in that month. Continue clicking on the name of the preceding month to display articles published in prior months.

© Power For USA, 2010 – 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears, LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Radicals Against Natural Gas

March 28, 2014

For years, radical environmentalists have been against the Keystone pipeline, because it would transport oil from Canadian, Tar Sands where, they claim, more CO2 is emitted during the production of oil than from traditional methods.

They have been against fracking, which has produced more jobs than any other segment of the economy over the past few years, and which has provided some stimulus to an otherwise very sluggish economy.

Again, they oppose fracking, and natural gas in general, because it is a so-called, green house gas.

Fracking has created an opportunity for the United States to counter Russian aggression, yet these same environmentalists oppose building LNG export terminals.

It seems that at every turn, radical environmentalists take actions that are detrimental to America.

A group of 16 radical environmental leaders have signed a letter to Obama saying that the Cove Point, LNG export terminal should be delayed, while extensive, time consuming new environmental impact statements are prepared … essentially the same tactic being used against the Keystone pipeline1.

We have just witnessed a ham-handed takeover of the Crimea by Russia.

We should have learned during the last century that appeasement induces more heavy handed actions by dictators.

Obviously, there is no desire to put boots on the ground in Eastern Europe, especially when the EU itself is squeamish about taking action against Russia. Remember, the EU couldn’t even take action in Yugoslavia, and it required the United States, under the guise of NATO, to take forceful action in Kosovo and Sarajevo.

But the United States has a powerful economic weapon, that can help defuse Russian aggression … its LNG from fracking.

Look at the hapless Baltic States, long sufferers under the Soviet Union, who now receive 100% of their natural gas from Russia.

Imagine what it would mean to them if an LNG import terminal was built in Riga, Latvia, essentially the midpoint between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Fracked natural gas from the United States would upend the Russian monopoly, along with the practice of fixing the price of natural gas to the price of oil … Russia’s method for extracting an extra pound of flesh from its export of Russian natural gas.

On my trip to the Baltic States a few years ago, we heard government officials tell of their travails under the heel of the Russian boot. Repeatedly I heard them say, the Germans were terrible, but the Russians were worse.

Photo of Lech Walesa and Donn Dears, Gdansk, Poland, July 2, 2008

Photo of Lech Walesa and Donn Dears, Gdansk, Poland, July 2, 2008

We also heard from Lech Walesa in Gdansk , Poland about his struggles against Russian tanks and the Polish communist government.

Now we have the three Baltic States, and also Poland, and other Eastern European countries, recoiling against new Russian aggression.

Our best strategy is to use economic pressure, not boots on the ground, and natural gas is a powerful economic weapon.

 

  1. List of 16 organizations signing letter to Obama:
  • Bill McKibben, 350.org co-founder and President
  • Marc Yaggi, Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director
  • Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune
  • William Snape, senior counsel, Center for Biological Diversity
  • Lois Marie Gibbs, executive director, Center for Health, Environment and Justice
  • Mike Tidwell, executive director, Chesapeake Climate Action Network
  • Becky Bond, political director, CREDO Mobile
  • Kathleen Rogers, director, Earth Day Network
  • Deborah Goldberg, managing attorney, Earthjustice
  • Jennifer Krill, executive director, Earthworks
  • Maura Cowley, director, Energy Action Coalition
  • Jesse Bacon, field organizer, Environmental Action
  • Margie Alt, executive director, Environment America
  • Wenonah Hauter, executive director, Food and Water Watch
  • Erich Pica, president, Friends of the Earth
  • Fran Teplitz, policy director, Green America

 

 *  *  *  *  *  *

 

These articles can be delivered directly to your mailbox. Subscribe by clicking below the photo on the right side of the article where it says email subscription, and entering your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

If you know someone who would be interested in these articles you can send him/her a link to the article and suggest he/she subscribes by clicking on the email subscription link under the picture on the right side of the page, and entering their email address.

To find earlier articles, click on the name of the preceding month below the calendar to display a list of articles published in that month. Continue clicking on the name of the preceding month to display articles published in prior months.

© Power For USA, 2010 – 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears, LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 209 other followers