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Growing Role of Gas Turbines in Power Generation

August 26, 2014

GE developed the first jet engine in the United States in 1942, based on the Whittle jet engine that had been developed in Great Britain. Jet engines are a form of gas turbines, and it was only logical that an industrial, heavy-duty version would be developed.

The role of gas turbines has changed significantly since GE shipped its first industrial gas turbines in 1950; however, at the time, GE’s big financial bet was on Appliance Park, in Louisville, Kentucky, opening in 1951.

The Gas Turbine Department was established in the early 1950s as Ralph Cordiner, GE’s president, implemented his decentralization policy, eventually creating over 100 departments.

Each department was responsible for its business, with the Department General Manager acting as president of his business. While most decisions were made by the Department General Manager, it was necessary for him to obtain financing for major capital expenditures from the company’s board.

General Electric had always been conservative when making investments, insisting that investments were fully utilized.

For example, when the refrigerator department was moved from Erie, Pennsylvania, to Appliance Park, the DC Motor department moved from Lynn, Massachusetts, to occupy the space vacated by the refrigerator department.

The space in Lynn, formally occupied by DC Motors, was taken over by the Small Jet Engine department.

My first job as a manufacturing engineer after returning from active duty in the Navy, was to complete the installation of the shaft-line, that made shafts on which armature windings and commutators were mounted, for the new Kinematic, DC motor line.

GE’s conservative financial strategy contributed to the Gas Turbine Department’s strategy of licensing foreign manufacturers to build GE gas turbines.

The gas turbines of the ‘60s and early ‘70s were used around the world, primarily for driving pumps and compressors, and for local generation of electricity. Their role as an important method for generating electricity by utilities came later, though even during the ‘60s they provided about a quarter of America’s electricity.

Gas turbines even played a brief role powering Union Pacific locomotives for about fifteen years during the 1950s and 1960s.

A good example of how these early gas turbines were utilized was Aluminum Bahrain (ALBA). These Frame 3 and 5 units generated electricity for the aluminum plant, where bauxite is converted to aluminum using large amounts of electricity.

ARAMCO, in Saudi Arabia was a big user of these early gas turbine designs for driving pumps and compressors and generating electricity.

GE established its first physical plant in the Mideast when it established Middle East Engineering Limited, in Bahrain, in 1973. Bahrain was a new country and hadn’t yet establish its Companies Act, so it was necessary for me to meet with the Amir, Shaikh Isa bin Salman al Khalifa, to obtain a charter from him to establish MEEL.

MEEL Plant, Under Construction 1973, Photo By D. Dears

MEEL Plant, Under Construction 1973, Photo By D. Dears

In around the mid-1960s, GE licensed John Brown Engineering, Clydebank Scotland, and Nuovo Pignne, Florence, Italy, to make gas turbines of GE design, primarily for export to countries other than the US.

The gas turbine department was able to obtain royalties for the units sold by these foreign manufacturers, while increasing its capacity for building GE gas turbines without having to make large capital investments in the United States. The foreign manufacturers also increased GE’s ability to capture additional business where they had a presence that GE lacked.

The strategy was very effective, and increased GE’s worldwide market share.

While single cycle, or simple cycle, gas turbines began to be largely used for peaking purposes, and some base load generation by utilities in the 1960s, the first GE combined cycle 21 MW unit was installed at the Wolverine Cooperative in 1968.

A single cycle unit has a single gas turbine, driving a generator.

In its basic configuration, a natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) unit consist of a gas turbine driving a generator, with the exhaust gas from the gas turbine used to generate steam for powering a steam turbine that drives another generator. These units have efficiencies of around 65%.

This marked the true beginning of using gas turbines as a major base load source for generating electricity.

Around the same time, aero-derivative designs, based on jet engines, were introduced. These units were used for peaking purposes and for marine installations. Today, an aero-derivative design used by a utility, can be brought on-line in around fifteen minutes, which has become essential for backing up unreliable wind power.

Due to government regulations, natural gas wasn’t widely available for use for power generation until around the 1990s. Then around 2005, the price of natural gas skyrocketed, briefly making NGCC units a costly proposition, though the percentage of total electricity output from natural gas increased as new NGCC units built prior to the spike in natural gas prices came on-line.

But with the advent of fracking, the price of natural gas has come down dramatically, making NGCC units extremely cost effective.

History of Electricity Generation by Fuel Type, from EIA

History of Electricity Generation by Fuel Type, from EIA

Meanwhile, NGCC units were becoming larger. From the initial 21 MW, NGCC Wolverine unit in 1968, size increased steadily to around 100 MW by 1980, and 428 MW today. For comparison, a typical nuclear power plant is rated around 1,000 MW.

While this history has focused on GE, other players have also been involved. Siemens, that developed its gas turbine line in Europe, and then acquired the Westinghouse gas turbine business, is a major worldwide competitor. Mitsubishi is also a strong competitor for utility applications.

Other gas turbine manufactures, such as Solar, make somewhat smaller units for distributed power generation, and for driving pumps and compressors.

The gas turbine has been a terrific success story.

Today, however, there are areas in the United States where natural gas pipelines lack sufficient capacity to ensure that NGCC power plants will always be available.

Natural gas is used for home heating, and regulations dictate that homes get priority when there are inadequate supplies of natural gas due to a lack of pipeline capacity.

It’s entirely possible that NGCC power plants will have to be shut down if there is an unusually cold winter, especially in the Northeast. The closure of coal-fired power plants is exacerbating this problem.

Gas turbines still emit CO2, and it is only a matter of time before governments take actions curtailing their use.

For example, Europe has already tried to impose fees on airplanes powered by jet engines, due to their CO2 emissions.

The Sierra Club has declared war on natural gas.

While governments haven’t yet imposed penalties on natural gas power generation, because they are needed to replace coal-fired power plants that are being shut down, it’s inevitable, so long as governments believe CO2 cause global warming, for governments to impose regulations affecting gas turbine power plants.

 

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Knowledge

August 22, 2014

“Ignorance is knowing what’s not true.”

Will Rogers, an American classic, was one of several who offered this comment as a way to remind people to keep an open mind.

Today we could use Will Rogers, with his iconic American humor, to gently jostle people into realizing that some of the things they believe aren’t true.

The National Science Foundation conducted a survey in 2012 that found 25% of Americans believing that the Sun rotated around the Earth. How this could be true today is hard to imagine, but such a finding demonstrates that ignorance does exist.

Ignorance is a terrible state of affairs, when science, the rule-of-law and our political system depends on people having command of the facts, so they can make informed decisions.

Ignorance allows unscrupulous politicians to benefit from making hurtful, untruthful claims about their opponents. It also allows unscrupulous organizations to smear those they dislike.

Ignorance hurts science when people can be sold a bill of goods because they don’t have command of the facts. A smattering of truth, mixed with an abundance of nonsense, is the stock-in-trade of snake-oil salesmen.

What might Will Rogers have said about global warming? ”Rumors about CO2 travel faster, but don’t stay put as long as truth.”

Here are a few areas where ignorance prevails today. People believe:

  • Global warming is increasing the number of severe storms: Hurricanes, tornados, blizzards and Derechos.
  • Droughts are caused by global warming.
  • Forest fires are worse because of global warming.
  • Sea levels are rapidly rising.
  • CO2 can be cut by 80%.

But are these beliefs supported by the facts?

Probably not.

Sensational Cover Showing Statue Of Liberty Being Submerged by the Sea

Sensational Cover Showing Statue Of Liberty Being Submerged by the Sea

People are accepting what they are being told without questioning the media, or determining the facts.

Too many people are saying they are too busy doing their jobs or looking after their families to do the research to get the facts.

And the media, that’s supposed to provide the facts, caters to ignorance by promoting fear, based on the old newspaper axiom, “If it bleeds it leads.”

If this is true, our country cannot survive, because we depend on an informed public.

While some might say politicians are dirty, so it makes no difference how they vote in Presidential and Congressional elections, their voices can be still be heard at the local level where decisions are made on building codes, schools and ordinances, such as for wind farms and PV roof top solar installations.

Today, it is especially important to have an informed public, because many of the issues that affect our future, especially the issue of climate change, which is really an issue about energy, depend on science.

Any single article is too short to fully answer the issues described earlier about storms etc, but here are some links that can help provide an introduction to the science surrounding these issues.

On storms :http://climateconferences.heartland.org/stanley-goldenberg-iccc9-panel-14

On CO2 levels and temperatures: http://climateconferences.heartland.org/howard-hayden-iccc9-panel-10-2

On Cutting CO2 emissions 80%: http://bit.ly/PXf7ZD-fb

On Arctic ice extant: http://climateconferences.heartland.org/fred-goldberg-iccc9-panel-10
And: http://wattsupwiththat.com/reference-pages/sea-ice-page/

On Sea Levels: http://www.co2science.org/articles/V17/N20/C1.php

On wild fires: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/08/05/u-s-forest-fires-versus-climate-model-predictions/#more-114107

On warming: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2014/08/07/global-warming-pause-puts-crisis-in-perspective/

These are a few Links that may help introduce the science behind various climate and global warming issues.

Other interesting articles about how the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation affect droughts and rain fall are available at various web sites, one of which is: http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2013/10/new-study-finds-natural-pacific-decadal.html

The fact is, the media has been feeding the public a great deal of unscientific nonsense, fostering the ignorance of voters, as well as their representatives.

The science is available, what’s needed is the motivation to seek the truth, which is what Will Rogers could do with his homespun humor.

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Fear: The Strategy of Activists

August 19, 2014

Here are quotations from several sources designed to scare people.

  • “Rapid development of fossil-fuel resources has the potential to transform landscapes and biological communities before the resulting impacts are fully understood.”
  • “The biological impacts of shale energy development are numerous, and include water scarcity, habitat loss, and various forms of pollution that can cross terrestrial and aquatic boundaries, extend beyond the immediate footprint of the operation, and may interact to affect ecosystems in unexpected ways, making cumulative impacts assessment imperative.”
  • “The most rapidly growing source of natural gas in the U.S. [the Marcellus Shale] underlies one of the country’s highest diversity areas for amphibians and freshwater fish.”
  • “The AP found that Pennsylvania received 398 complaints in 2013 alleging that oil or natural gas drilling polluted or otherwise affected private water wells, compared with 499 in 2012.”
  • “Just hearing the total number of complaints shocked Heather McMicken, an eastern Pennsylvania homeowner.”
  • “Natural gas producers have been running roughshod over communities across the country with their extraction and production activities for too long, resulting in contaminated water supplies, dangerous air pollution, destroyed streams, and devastated landscapes.”

This is what you read in the media.

The above quotations are from: a Blog, USA Today, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the same NGO that helped kill nuclear power.

Of course, few, if any, of these scare scenarios have any substance in fact. They are open ended and designed to scare the reader who is otherwise uninformed about fracking, or for that matter, about most energy issues, including global warming.

But, why don’t they have any substance in fact?

It’s essential to understand that in virtually all cases, fracking takes place several thousand feet beneath the water table, with layers of rock between the shale and the water table.

It’s virtually impossible for fracking to contaminate wells and water supplies, or harm biologic communities and fish. It just physically can’t happen when the fracking operation takes place thousands of feet below any lake, river, steam or water source.

There are a few instances where the shale formation is closer to the water table, such as in Arkansas, where it’s only a thousand feet below the water table, and in Wyoming, where the geology is unique.

The scare movies about fracking have shown people lighting water coming from their water faucets, supposedly proof that fracking contaminated wells.

The attached picture was published in the National Geographic Magazine in 1980, long before fracking was common.

Photo from August, 1980 issue of National Geographic Magazine

Photo from August, 1980 issue of National Geographic Magazine

It shows a man in Minnesota lighting the water coming from his well, because naturally occurring methane gas had seeped, naturally, into his well.

This was also the case in Pavilion Wyoming, a widely publicized case where wells had supposedly been contaminated by methane. The EPA couldn’t prove the drillers had contaminated the wells, after two attempts to do so. See, Good News About Fracking  and Fracking Indictment.

Even today, researchers from Stanford University, as reported on August 14, by McClatchy News, are studying Wyoming for evidence that fracking has contaminated water supplies, and they admit they haven’t been able to do so.

This doesn’t mean there can’t be problems associated with drilling.

Note that the complaints from Pennsylvania haven’t been categorized, but merely try to blame fracking.

About 40% of the water used in the fracking operation flows back from the well, and this water is contaminated and should be properly disposed of.

The industry is addressing this issue.

It’s estimated that within five years, 50% of the waste water from Eagle Ford shale operations will be recycled. Marathon, for example, is also developing methods for recycling water In the Bakken.

Have accidents occurred where contaminated water has spilled onto property, or been improperly disposed of? Probably, but the incidents have been rare. The industry is working hard to make certain accidents don’t happen, because the industry knows it can be castigated for any such occurrence.

The NRDC claims there is dangerous air pollution, but that’s because the NRDC believes that all fossil fuels cause global warming. Natural gas is methane, and methane is worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.

While some natural gas has leaked into the atmosphere, with no real cause for concern, the real problem has been that drillers have flared excess natural gas that flows with oil from the well, because they had no way of transporting the natural gas from the well site.

Even this problem is being addressed with the advent of equipment to compress or liquify the natural gas at the well site, for use as a fuel for powering engines.

Then, there is the claim of water scarcity in the scare stories.

In many areas there are abundant supplies of water and there is no scarcity. In Texas, where there could be scarcities, only one percent of potable water usage is for fracking.

But even here, the industry is taking steps to limit the use of potable water, such as by reclaiming waste water.

With respect to water usage, more than 50% of the water Marathon uses in the Eagle Ford is considered unsuitable for drinking, agriculture, or livestock. Marathon said, “We’re using water that otherwise wouldn’t be used anywhere else.”

The media, of course, is complicit in the efforts to scare people. Again, as the saying goes, “If it Bleeds, it Leads.”

At best, the media industry is merely trying to sell newspapers, magazines and TV shows … at worst, it’s perpetuating ignorance that harms America.

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Have We Lost Our Way?

August 15, 2014

The United States has had the lowest cost, most reliable electricity in the world. Why would we undo what has worked to our benefit for nearly a century?

That is a question worth asking, as we forge ahead imposing policies that are rapidly tearing apart the grid and increasing the cost of electricity for people and industry.

Any increase in the cost of electricity ripples across the entire economy, raising the cost of food, clothing, housing and nearly everything else we use.

Table I compares the cost of producing, not transmitting or distributing, electricity.
Note that these are different from those shown on the EIA web site. For a discussion of LCOEs, see Meaningless LCEOs.

The bottom line, no matter which LCOE is used, wind and solar are more expensive than electricity from coal or natural gas. Also, note that LCOEs do not include the cost of running natural gas power plants 24/7, as backup for when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.

Increasing the percentage of electricity generated by wind and solar from the paltry 4% today, which is nearly all from wind, to just 20%, will require adding huge amounts of large scale storage that doesn’t exist. This doesn’t include PV roof-top solar installations for which comparable data is not available, but which are also creating problems. See Save The Grid.

The real goal is to have 80% from wind and solar, the same as Germany’s goal.

TABLE I

Cost of Electricity

kWh

Coal-fired $0.06
Natural gas combined cycle $0.05
Wind $0.11
Solar $0.15 – $0.27

Why would we promote less efficient methods for generating electricity when higher costs to consumers and industry would hurt families and kill jobs?

The reason put forth by the EPA is to improve air quality, but haven’t we reached the limits of how much air quality can be improved?

Would eliminating coal-fired power plants improve air quality or have health benefits?

Air Quality compared with GDP and Population Growth

Air Quality compared with GDP and Population Growth

The above chart shows how air quality has improved while GDP and population have increased between 1979 and 2002.

The following chart shows ozone levels. It should be noted that higher levels are not correlated with coal-fired power plants, but probably are more closely associated with automobile exhaust. Note the area around four-corners where two large coal-fired power plants continue to operate. (The four-corners are formed by New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.)

Ozone Levels in United States 2005 - 2009

Ozone Levels in United States 2005 – 2009

A complete view of air quality from 1980 through 2013 is available from the EPA at: http://www.epa.gov/airdata/ad_rep_aqi.html

Coal-fired power plants are supposedly the culprit when it comes to poor air quality, but they have reduced pollutant emissions to such a low level that closing large numbers of coal-fired power plants will have little if any effect on improving air quality or mitigating health concerns.

In fact, building new ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants, that are 36% more efficient than existing coal-fired power plants, would have little, if any, negative effect on air quality … especially if they replace the older, less efficient plants.

Mercury emissions have also been reduced to minimal levels, where natural emissions far outweigh any impact from coal-fired power plants.

The report, Regulatory Analysis of EPA’s Proposed Rule to Reduce Mercury Emissions from Utility Boilers, shows that EPA rules will have virtually no effect on health(1).

If closing coal-fired power plants won’t have any significant effect on air quality or health, why is this administration forcing the country to adopt high cost alternatives for generating electricity?

There is only one answer, and that’s to cut CO2 emissions. See, There is No Denying Global Warming.

Cutting CO2 emissions is the reason why the United States is being subjected to regulations that harm Americans.

It’s impossible for the United States to cut CO2 emissions enough to have any effect on global warming, even if CO2 emissions are the cause of global warming … which they probably aren’t.

China and India will continue to emit many tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, even if we hobble our economy by trying to cut CO2 emissions.

CO2 atmospheric levels will increase worldwide, even if we cut CO2 emissions 80%, which is the goal of this administration and the EPA.

This administration is subjecting Americans to a fools errand, that hurts American consumers and American industry.
Notes:
Report at http://www.researchgate.net/publication/46454327_A_Regulatory_Analysis_of_EPA’s_Proposed_Rule_to_Reduce_Mercury_Emissions_from_Utility_Boilers

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Why Wind Energy is a Bad Idea

August 12, 2014

In a casual conversation, I was asked why wind energy is a bad idea. Once again, I realized that a one or two-word answer could not convey a readily understandable and accurate picture of wind energy.

This article will try to provide such an answer in a few hundred words, where one or two won’t suffice.

There are essentially four reasons why wind energy is a bad idea.

  • It is unreliable
  • It is very, very expensive
  • It produces electricity when it isn’t needed
  • It has environmental issues
Wind farm in New York State. 2013

Wind farm in New York State. 2013

Wind can only produce electricity when the wind is blowing at between 6 mph and 55 mph. Above 6 mph, it gradually increases its output until it reaches a maximum output at around 35 mph. Above 55 mph, the wind turbine is shut down to prevent damage to the turbine.

The wind can stop blowing abruptly, so backup power generation must be immediately available to replace the wind generated electricity, or the grid could collapse causing blackouts.

Typically, gas turbine generators are kept running 24/7 so they are available to be rapidly brought online.

A sufficient number of gas turbine generators must kept running at all times to be ready for when the wind stops blowing. This varies by region and on the reliability of day-ahead weather forecasts.

The electricity generated by wind has an intrinsic cost, based on leveled cost of electricity (LCOE) of around 11 cents per kWh. This compares with around 5 cents per kWh for natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants and around 6 cents for coal-fired power plants.

But there are other costs for wind energy that are seldom taken into consideration, and not included in LCOE calculations.

First, there is the cost of back-up power. It costs money to keep gas turbine generators running for no other purpose than to be ready to come on line when the wind stops blowing, or the sun stops shining in the case of solar generation.

It also costs money to build transmission lines which are used solely, or nearly so, to carry electricity from wind farms to where it can be used.

The best winds are in Montana and along the face of the Rocky Mountains, and these can be a thousand miles from where the wind generated electricity can be used. Transmission lines must be built if this electricity is to be brought to where it can be used. Though involving shorter distances, many other wind farms also need dedicated transmission lines to connect them to the grid.

Wind farms also produce electricity at night, when it isn’t needed.

This has resulted in the bizarre situation where the owners of wind farms have sold electricity at a loss, for example, actually paid the regional transmission organization (RTO) 1 cent per kWh, in order to collect the 2.2 cents per kWh subsidy.

More importantly, the nameplate ratings of wind turbines overstate the amount of electricity they can produce. Wind turbines in the United States have had a capacity factor of around 32%, or lower during the recent past.

Capacity factor is the amount of electricity a wind turbine, or any other power generation method, produces over a year, compared with how much it could produce using its nameplate rating.

Coal-powered and NGCC power plants typically have a capacity factor of around 85%, while nuclear power plants have a capacity factor of 90% or higher.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is constantly bragging about how many Megawatts (MW) are being installed, when wind turbine’s true ability to produce electricity is only one-third the amount claimed by the nameplate rating.

Essentially, wind turbines produce small amounts of electricity compared with the other methods. This becomes important when hot summer days result in peak periods of usage. Not only do wind farms produce very little electricity during hot summer afternoons, but people are lulled into thinking there are large amounts of capacity available because of the substantial amount of Megawatts (MW) of wind power being installed.

As the New York Times noted:
“Peak supply is also becoming a vexing problem because so much of the generating capacity added around the country [US] lately is wind power, which is almost useless on the hot, still days when air-conditioning drives up demand.”

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas says that less than 10% of total wind capacity is “available” during peak summer days.

And finally, there are environmental issues associated with wind turbines.

Wind turbines kill thousands of birds every year, including Bald Eagles, a protected species. They also kill thousands of bats.

Wind turbines produce noise pollution that affects people living near them. Some people complain about the visual pollution of huge towers along the skyline in what are supposed to be pristine, scenic areas.

Wind turbines also use rare earths, where mining has caused serious environmental damage.

Whether these are better or worse than environmental issues caused by gas turbines or coal-fired power plants can be debated, but the point is, wind farms are not free of environmental problems.

Tax payers are paying huge amounts of money for subsidies for wind turbines, which would otherwise be uneconomic. Whether subsidies for wind turbines will be maintained is still being debated in Congress.

Unreliable, very expensive electricity that’s not available when its needed, is not worth the tax payer subsidies used to build wind turbines, when there are less expensive, more reliable sources of electricity available.

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Sequestration’s Nightmare

August 8, 2014

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) has been the darling of radical environmentalists for disposing of CO2 from power plants.

Carbon Sequestration Atlas of the United States and Canada

Carbon Sequestration Atlas of the United States and Canada

They have used CCS as the reason why their efforts to cut CO2 emissions won’t destroy the coal industry, or the use of coal for power generation, or why natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants, that also emit CO2, can still be used.

CCS was to be the ultimate method for disposing of CO2 without harming economies.

Some, including the coal industry, have promoted clean-coal, which is the use of Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plants, where coal is cooked to form gasses, from which the CO2 can be easily captured and disposed of by injecting it into geologic formations, for eternity … or, so they hope.

Now, the nightmare scenario for CCS has emerged … earthquakes.

Several years ago, radical environmentalists were touting hot-rocks (enhanced geothermal) for generating electricity.

Hot-rocks required two wells to be drilled deep into the earth, perhaps as deep as 14,000 feet. Water was to be injected down one well until it reached the rocks that were at very high temperatures, at which point the water would be turned into steam. The steam would then rise up the second well, to the surface, where it would be used to generate electricity.

Test wells in Australia were a failure.

What happened next was the coup de grâce for hot-rocks. An attempt was made near Basel, Switzerland, to drill wells for hot-rocks, but there was an earthquake and the process was abandoned.

It was clear that injecting water into the hot-rock wells might cause earthquakes.

Recently we have seen that injecting waste water into wells for disposal may also cause moderately sized earthquakes. Oklahoma has been the center of these recent earthquakes, potentially, from waste water disposal.

Some have claimed that fracking might cause tiny earthquakes, not noticeable by people.

However, CO2 has been used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) by injecting CO2 into oil wells to improve their flow, without any reported earthquakes.

In addition, sequestration has been used at three locations, Norway, Algeria and Canada, without any earthquakes being reported.

It’s entirely possible that earthquake causation, by injection of fluids into geologic formations, may depend on the quantities, pressures, time-frame and nature of the geologic formation involved.

None of these factors have received sufficient research to say with certainty whether earthquakes are induced by injection of fluids into various geologic formations, under varying conditions.

Now radical environmentalists are confronted with a quandary.

If injecting fluids into geologic formations can cause earthquakes, won’t injecting liquid CO2 at high pressures, approximately 2,000 psi, also cause earthquakes?

This is still a hypothetical question, but it clearly indicates that sequestration of huge quantities of liquid CO2, not small amounts such as with waste water disposal, but millions of tons per year, year after year, for as far into the future as one can see, might cause earthquakes.

This is CCS’s nightmare. It could put an end to any possibility of sequestering CO2 in geologic formations, which was supposed to be how CO2 could be disposed of forever.

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Destruction of America’s Nuclear Industry

August 5, 2014

There was a time, not too long ago, that America’s nuclear industry was probably the most important, and viable, in the world.

Today, it’s a dying industry, but why?

In the mid 1960s, GE bet the company by making huge investments in three strategic businesses: mainframe computers, jet engines and nuclear power. GE believed, rightfully so at the time, that nuclear power would be a large growth business.

By the late 1980s, GE was the second largest nuclear power company in the world.

In 1979 the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island was followed, in 1986, by the Chernobyl disaster.

These two accidents, though Chernobyl could hardly be called an accident because it resulted from unauthorized testing at low power levels, gave those opposed to nuclear power the upper hand in the PR war.

The China Syndrome epitomized the inaccurate picture of the dangers of nuclear power, and Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas brought star power to the anti-nuclear campaign.

The organizations opposing nuclear power now had a rallying cry: Radiation kills, and a meltdown would result in radiation exposure to millions.

The premiss of the movie, The China Syndrome, was that a reactor meltdown would result in tons of molten radioactive material burrowing through the bottom of the reactor building, and exploding into a radioactive cloud, which, as Fonda’s character says, “could render an area the size of Pennsylvania permanently uninhabitable.”

All of which was pure nonsense.

While totally inaccurate, these groups were able to instill fear of radiation into the minds of many Americans.

Though this fear was irrational, and completely unwarranted by the facts, it was a powerful force in the anti-nuclear campaign.

Several excellent books show that radiation is nothing to be feared, but the constant drum beat by anti-nuclear groups, that continues today, prevents a rational discussion on radiation.

Radiation and Reason, by Wade Allison, is one of several excellent books on the subject.

But who were these people that opposed nuclear power?

To name a few:

  • Greenpeace
  • National Resources Defense Council
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Sierra Club

But there were many, many others.

Radiation Symbol

Radiation Symbol

President Carter’s decision to not allow reprocessing was very detrimental to the industry, and meant that a repository had to be found for large quantities of spent nuclear fuel. France largely avoided this problem by reprocessing spent fuel so that only a small amount, one-fifth of spent fuel, remained as high level wastes having to be stored.

America’s nuclear power companies in the 1980s included:

  • General Electric
  • Westinghouse Electric
  • Babcock & Wilcox

Today, only one of these exists as a pure American company, Babcock-Wilcox, and it went through bankruptcy before being reorganized.

Today, GE is GE-Hitachi, and Westinghouse is Toshiba-Westinghouse LLC, a Toshiba subsidiary.

Today, in the United States, there are only 4 new nuclear power plants under construction, all by Toshiba -Westinghouse LLC. (One other plant, Watts Bar 2, whose construction was held up for several years, is being completed by TVA.)

In reality, the antinuclear groups have caused a great deal of harm to the United States.

All 100 existing United Sates nuclear power plants will probably be retired and dismantled, beginning in the mid-2030s. See U.S. Nuclear Demise.

No longer is the United Sates a leader in the nuclear industry.

Nuclear power is not dead elsewhere in the world. China and India, as well as several smaller countries are building new nuclear power plants.

But America is not involved, and American jobs and orders for equipment are lost to others by default.

For example:

  • South Korea is building four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • The Russian company, Rosatom, is building power plants in Turkey, Belarus, Vietnam and elsewhere.
  • The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is scheduled to build over twenty nuclear power plants.

If CO2 is the problem some believe it to be, nuclear power is the only large source of base load power that doesn’t emit CO2.

Because of anti-nuclear activists, the United States has ceded the opportunities, and ability to lead, to others, and will see its nuclear power plants dismantled.

Anti-nuclear groups have done a great disservice to the United States.

 

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© 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.

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