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An Analysis of the War on Fossil Fuels

October 3, 2014

President Obama and the EPA insist that the United States cut its CO2 emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050, but what would that mean for Americans?

Let’s look at the supply of electricity to see what it would mean.

Figure 1 shows the installed capacity of 1,049,615 MW in 2004, which has changed only slightly since then, primarily with natural gas replacing some coal.

Figure 2 show the total CO2 emissions of 2,298 Million Metric Tons (MMT) from power generation, color coded by source, with coal being the largest source of CO2 emissions.

Figure 3 show the projected increase in new power generation of 609,258 MW required by 2050, with a 1% annual growth rate in electricity usage.

A growth rate of 1% is as forecast by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The 1% growth rate is only slightly higher than the population growth rate of 0.83%, with population in 2050 being 420 million. This growth does not include any increase in generating capacity required for EVs or PHEVs.

Generation Capacity, Today and in 2050

Generation Capacity, Today and in 2050

The next figure show the maximum amount of CO2 that can be emitted in 2050 from power generation sources, which is 361 MMT, if CO2 emissions are cut 80% from 1990 levels.

Allowable CO2 emissions from Power Generation in 2050

Allowable CO2 emissions from Power Generation in 2050

Current CO2 emissions from natural gas power plants, including the recent switch from coal to natural gas, already exceeds the amount allowed in 2050.

This means, that no new natural gas power plants can be built from this point forward, if we are to meet the 80% cut in CO2 emissions required by president Obama and the EPA.

So what can we do, or will there be a shortfall in electricity in 2050?

Figure 4, indicates that wind and solar can provide 20% of our electricity in 2050, but this assumes that the environmental organizations are correct in saying that unreliable sources, such as wind and solar, can provide 20% of the total.

Germany is already finding that this probably isn’t true.

As noted, 663,549 wind turbines or comparable solar installations will be required.

But even with wind and solar, there is a huge shortfall in generating capacity.

Americans will be without the electricity they need.

Note that the projections assume that existing coal-fired power plants will remain in place, but that they will all be outfitted with carbon capture capabilities, and that the CO2, thus captured, can be sequestered underground (CCS).

But the carbon capture installations consume about 30% of the electricity generated by coal-fired power plants. This parasitic load is required to power the pumps and compressors needed to capture, compress and then transmit liquid CO2, via pipeline, to where the CO2 is sequestered, in underground geologic formations, at approximately 2,000 psi.

This creates an additional shortfall, as depicted in Figure 4 as CCS shortfall.

Power Generation Capacity Shortfall in 2050

Power Generation Capacity Shortfall in 2050

In total, there will be at least a 24% shortfall of electricity.

But this assumes that 22 new nuclear power plants will be built, and that all existing nuclear power plants remain in operation, which is highly unlikely, because many will not receive a second extension to their operating licenses.

Environmentalists say we can be more energy efficient and cut our usage of electricity, but it seems highly unlikely that we can cut our use of electricity more than a few percentage points, especially when taking into consideration the growth in population. There is no demonstrable evidence that electricity usage can be cut by anywhere near 24%.

The facts are clear.

  • Wind and solar cannot provide 20% of our electricity. Germany, with 22% of their electricity coming from wind and solar, is already experiencing difficulties that are destroying their utilities, and requiring Germans to pay four to five times as much as we do for their electricity. Storage is supposed to alleviate this problem, but there are no proven methods of utility scale storage other than pumped storage, and all the possible storage alternatives are extremely expensive.
  • Nuclear power plants will decline in number, not increase.
  • CCS is unproven, and requires millions of tons of CO2 to be locked in geologic formations for centuries. Without CCS all coal-fired power plants would have to be shut down.
  • Natural gas power plants already exceed total allowable CO2 emissions from all sources of power generation.

This administration is setting a course for disaster.

Per capita CO2 emissions are 16.6 tons today, and would have to be reduced to 2.3 tons by 2050. The last time we had per capita emissions of 2.3 tons was in 1900, when there was no air-conditioning, refrigeration or other electrical appliances. Is that the standard of living we want for our children and grandchildren?

The above facts cannot be disproven.

If we continue down the road established by President Obama and the EPA, a disastrous shortage of electricity will be unavoidable and will harm all Americans.

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The War on Methane and Freedom

September 30, 2014

In 2012, the Sierra Club declared war on natural gas, which is methane.

Here is how the Sierra Club portrayed the issue:

“Fossil fuels have no part in America’s energy future — coal, oil and natural gas are literally poisoning us. The emergence of natural gas as a significant part of our energy mix is particularly frightening because it dangerously postpones investment in clean energy at a time when we should be doubling down on wind, solar and energy efficiency.”
—Robin Mann, Sierra Club President

This is a call to use high-cost methods to generate electricity, rather than using low-cost natural gas. It’s also a call to increase home heating bills for all Americans who use natural gas for heating.

The United States has abundant supplies of low-cost natural gas, more than enough for its domestic needs, including power generation, home heating and fleets of local trucks and busses, and which also has the potential to vastly increase the number of vehicles powered by natural gas.

With huge supplies of natural gas, the United States is on the verge of exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG). But this requires building export terminals, and the big environmental guns are now aimed at stopping their construction.

Without actually saying so, Obama’s climate action plan provides support for the war on natural gas.

He has called on federal agencies to prevent green house gas emissions, including methane, which, in over 100 years is 25 times more potent than CO2, is an easy target for federal agencies, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

FERC must approve LNG export terminals, and is presently sitting on several applications for permits to build LNG export terminals.

LNG FERC Sites Map

The most direct way to stop the export of natural gas is to stop fracking, as this will end the surplus of natural gas available for export.

Fracking has resulted in abundant supplies of natural gas which have led to an industrial revival, created millions of jobs, and which will allow the United States to end oil imports, other than from Canada and Mexico.

But preventing green house gas emissions is more important to radical environmental groups than guaranteeing an abundant supply of low-cost natural gas and having North America becoming oil independent.

Killing the goose that laid the golden egg is what these environmental groups will achieve if fracking is stopped.

It’s not necessary to outlaw fracking: Enacting enough regulations to make it uneconomic achieves the same result.

An important member of the war on fracking is the Natural Resource Defense Council, which makes a seemingly innocuous statement, but one that will stop fracking.

“NRDC opposes expanded fracking until effective safeguards are in place.”

This is essentially their position on nuclear as expressed on their web site: They don’t oppose it outright, but demand stringent regulations on the entire fuel cycle, from mining to disposal of waste.

They don’t oppose it, they just want to regulate it to death.

One method of delay is to require extensive and politically vulnerable environmental studies.

The Sierra Club and 15 other environmental organizations wrote to president Obama claiming that LNG exports would contribute to global warming, and asked him to have FERC conduct an in-depth environmental impact study on the proposed Cove Point LNG export terminal.

The organizations signing the letter to Obama included:

  • Center for Health, Environment and Justice
  • Center for Biological Diversity
  • Chesapeake Climate Action Network
  • Earthjustice
  • Earthworks
  • Energy Action Coalition
  • Environmental Action
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Food and Water Watch
  • Sierra Club
  • 350.org
  • Waterkeeper Alliance
  • Green America
  • Earth Day Network

Clearly, the strategy is the same as used in stopping the Keystone pipeline: delay, delay, delay; and FERC is in a position to delay approving these terminals.

Meanwhile, environmental groups are attacking fracking in an attempt to shut fracking down, the ultimate method for stopping LNG exports.

The motivation behind the opposition to natural gas, the Keystone pipeline and LNG export terminals is global warming and climate change.

At some point, Americans will have to decide whether global warming and climate change are sufficiently important to curtail their freedom and reduce their standard of living.

The EPA’s efforts to cut CO2, because of global warming and climate change will also hurt Americans. See Higher Costs Built Into EPA Proposal.

Freedom and living standards are what are at stake.

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Impact of Technology on Oil E & P

September 26, 2014

Technology is revolutionizing oil exploration and production.

In the 1970s, the problem was to develop the mechanical structures that could survive the rigors of the North Sea and other deep water sites.

The off-shore technology conference held in Houston in 1975 was typical of this era, where the exhibits primarily depicted the immense size of the structures and equipment used in deep water exploration and production.

Today, the emphasis is on new technologies covering the spectrum of both offshore and onshore installations.

New technologies are improving the industry’s ability to successfully locate oil and natural gas, and increase the amount of oil produced from each new well, while making every well safer and more environmentally friendly.

It’s a revolution that’s not widely understood by the public.

While some of the following was derived from GE’s public presentations, other sources have also been included.

Imagine drilling where the ocean floor is 8,000 feet below the surface, and where the drilling depths are three or four miles beneath the ocean floor.

Pressures are immense.

Moored to a buoy at these wells, a ship will be able to process the crude as it is brought from the well. The ship, a floating production, storage and offloading vessel (FPSO), is moored to a special double hulled buoy, so the ship can rotate around the buoy and always face into the wind.

The FPSO ship can be disengaged from the buoy in the event of a hurricane and the buoy can be automatically lowered to 150 feet below the surface so as not to be affected by the wave motion caused by hurricanes.

Pipes within pipes are laid on the ocean floor between the manifolds and trees. The outer pipe is 14 inches in diameter, while the inner pipe is 9 inches in diameter.

Joining these pipes requires an understanding of the differing tensile strengths and coefficients of expansion. Barriers are also welded between the inner and outer pipe, to create chambers to catch any oil that might leak from the inner pipe.

The risers are 9 inches in diameter with wall thicknesses of over an inch, containing oil and gas under high pressure, perhaps 10,000 psi. Attached to each riser is a “can” filled with nitrogen to help support the riser. These buoyancy cans are 120 feet long, which is the height of a ten-story building, and 21 feet in diameter.

The weight of the oil in the riser creates sufficient pressure at the wellhead, 8,000 feet below the surface, to slow or stop the flow of oil from the well.

To ensure the proper flow of oil up the risers and to the FPSO, electrically powered booster pumps, connected to the risers, are laid on the ocean floor to assist the natural flow of oil caused by pressure within the well.

Blow out preventers, that received ostracism when the Macondo well failed, have been vastly improved.

GE BOP from GE Presentation

GE BOP from GE Presentation

The following from GE depicts the breadth of technologies used on the ocean floor.

Equipment on Sea Floor from GE Presentation

Equipment on Sea Floor from GE Presentation

While onshore, new technologies are being applied to pipelines, drilling and fracking.
GE has announced an intelligent pipeline management system, to monitor the operation and safety of pipelines.

Flow meters, based on GE’s medical systems ultra sound and MRI technologies, can be attached to wells to continuously measures the sand, oil, water and gas mixture coming from the wells, superseding monthly, batch type analysis.

Using jet-engine materials and technology in coatings and corrosion resistance, and modern manufacturing methods, such as 3D printing, to improve reliability and performance.

Capturing natural gas that would have been flared, and then using CNG and LNG technologies to use the gas to power equipment at the well site.

While this article mentions GE, the entire industry is developing new products, technologies and procedures, such as improvements in fracking from longer horizontal wells, increased use of frack sand and increased number of fracks at each well.

A future article will focus on fracking improvements.

New technologies are making the exploration and production of oil and gas more productive, safer and more environmentally friendly.

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Another Look At Hydrogen

September 23, 2014

A book published in 2002 predicted that a hydrogen economy would redistribute power around the earth.

Its title included the headline: “When there is no more oil.”

The book, The Hydrogen Economy, was much ado about nothing.

Aside from the diatribes against big oil, etc., the book was a fantasy.

It also blundered by omitting a very important issue: How do we economically produce and distribute hydrogen?

This, together with cost, will continue to plague the introduction of fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), as the automobile industry revs up its PR machine to tout their introduction.

Toyota Demonstration FCV

Toyota Demonstration FCV

The book wasn’t alone in making dire predictions, as U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said in 2003, “Looming energy and environmental challenges demand results in the development of hydrogen-powered automotive systems in the next two decades.”

There are four problems with FCVs that use hydrogen for fuel:

  • Producing hydrogen, and then transporting it to fueling stations if produced centrally
  • The cost of building hydrogen fueling stations
  • Storing hydrogen on the vehicle
  • The cost of fuel cells

While hydrogen is abundant in the universe, it is nearly always combined with some other element, such as in the case of water (H2O) and Methane (CH4).
In the case of water, it can be separated using electricity. In the case of methane it can be produced by steam reforming.

Most hydrogen today is produced at refineries using steam reforming.

It’s technically possible to produce hydrogen with either of these process locally, but at an increased cost.

Since hydrogen can’t be transported in natural gas pipelines, as it corrodes the pipe, it must be transported by truck to the fueling station, usually a cryogenic truck, if it’s produced at a central location.

When hydrogen is produced centrally for use in an FCV refueling station, it must be cooled to form a liquid. Refrigerating hydrogen uses approximately 25% of hydrogen’s energy content, which is one of the energy losses incurred with this scenario.

Steam reforming at refineries also results in CO2 emissions.

Using electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen requires large amounts of electricity, which would require building new power generation plants if large amounts of hydrogen were to be produced using electrolysis. Power plants also emit CO2.

There are approximately 160,000 gasoline stations in the united States.

Assuming that only one-third as many hydrogen fueling stations would be required to cover the country so that FCVs weren’t range restricted, approximately 50,000 hydrogen fueling stations would need to be built across the United States.

At $500,000 per fueling station, it would cost approximately $27 billion.

According to the Department of Energy, there are currently only 12 hydrogen fueling stations in the United States, and 10 of these are in California, and probably convenient for movie stars.

Obviously, any FCVs sold or leased in the near future would be in California, and be very range constrained.

Storing hydrogen on FCVs is usually accomplished under pressure to minimize volume, using special 10,000 or 5,000 psi containers. Some prototypes have used cryogenic vessels, similar to thermos bottles, to store the hydrogen.

In either case, storage consumes considerable space and raises safety concerns in people’s minds. Thus far, there have been no safety problems, as hydrogen evaporates into the air very quickly.

Metal hydrides can also absorb hydrogen and be used for storage. The Toyota FCV uses what it terms a hydrogen absorbing alloy tank, that has the characteristics of metal hydrides. Tank size is still a problem, but weight is apparently reduced, and shape is far more flexible.

Fueling is safe and simple. I saw it operate at the hydrogen fueling station near Washington, DC.

Finally, the cost of fuel cells is still several times the cost of an internal combustion engine, and five times the cost of Lithium-ion batteries, as used in EVs. The exact cost of fuel cells remains hard to determine, but even with major progress in reducing costs, they remain very expensive.

One must wonder why there is so much emphasis being placed on FCVs.

They are being touted as zero emission vehicles, but producing the hydrogen to power them emits CO2.

Why go to the expense and trouble of reforming natural gas when it could be used directly in internal combustion engines? Reforming natural gas to produce hydrogen is very inefficient and wastes energy.

If the country is going to go to the expense of creating new fueling stations, why not build natural gas fueling stations, which would allow the use of natural gas directly?

And why the rush to replace internal combustion engines that are more efficient and less costly?

The gasoline-powered vehicle is still the most cost-effective form of transportation, with the possible exception of CNG and LNG vehicles.

It would appear that FCVs are toys for the rich, and for those who want to demonstrate their environmental credentials, even though they are misguided in that regard.

We have an abundant supply of oil and natural gas, so there is no need to stop using them for powering our vehicles.

FCVs are cool and sexy, but not very useful.

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Asia Doubles Down on Coal

September 19, 2014

While the EPA is issuing regulations that will result in fewer coal-fired power plants in the United States, Asian countries are ramping up their use of coal.

Most people are aware that China and India are building large numbers of new coal-fired power plants, many of them Ultra-supercritical plants that are far more efficient than plants built in the United States. Ultra-supercritical plants have a thermal efficiency of 45%, compared with most plants in the United Sates that have a thermal efficiency of 33% HHV.

Approximately 75% of all proposed new coal-fired power plants in the developing world are to be built in China and India, which is consistent with the size of their populations when compared with other countries:

  • China: 1,360 million
  • India: 1,240 million

For reference, U.S. population is approximately 318 million.

But what most people are not aware of is that other Asian countries are also building new coal-fired power plants. The population of some of these countries is large, and when taken together are significant.

  • Indonesia: 250 million
  • Pakistan: 185 million
  • Bangladesh: 150 million
  • Philippines: 100 million
  • Vietnam: 90 million
  • Thailand: 64 million
  • Burma: 51 million
  • Cambodia: 15 million

What these countries have in common with China and India is the need for economic growth, as each have GDP per capita comparable with that of India ($1,516) or lower than that of China ($6,070). For comparison purposes, U.S. per capita GDP is $51,163 and the EU’s is $32,507. Note: GDP data is from United Nations.

Indonesia is perhaps the most interesting of these other Asian countries.

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, but also has a large Hindu population centered in Bali. The government has pursued policies that encourage the peaceful inclusion of the Hindus on Bali, and except for the 2002 bombing in Bali by terrorists, the policies have been successful. The government pursued and killed those who were behind the bombing.

Bali, Indonesia Photo by D. Dears

Bali, Indonesia Photo by D. Dears

Indonesia plans for an additional 100,000 MW of new power generation capacity by 2035, while increasing its share of coal from 44% in 2011 to near 60% in 2035.

Indonesia also has significant reserves of natural gas, but plans not to use natural gas for power generation, preferring instead to export it as LNG, thereby improving its balance of payments.

Other countries in this grouping plan similar increases in coal-fired generation:
Thailand to add 55,000 MW by 2035, 35% of which will be coal.
Philippines to add 41,000 MW, mostly coal, which increases coal’s share to over 55% by 2035.

Vietnam to add 30,000 MW of coal-fired power plants by 2035.

For comparison, a typical nuclear power plant is rated 1,000 MW.

Overall, the IEA estimates that by 2035, half of all power generation for the ASEAN-10 will be coal-fired, compared with only one-third today. (The ASEAN-10 includes Singapore, Brunei, and Laos which are in addition to the earlier list, but does not include Pakistan or Bangladesh.)

The IEA estimates that the ASEAN-10 will increase its power generation capacity from 176,000 MW today, to 460,000 MW by 2035, of which 40% will be coal-fired. While the plans of individual countries may imply a greater increase than that projected by the IEA, the IEA has assumed some individual plans may not materialize.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues to push a wet noodle, forcing reductions in CO2 emissions by requiring the closure of coal-fired power plants in the United States.

The Obama administration and EPA’s stated goal is to cut total U.S. CO2 emissions 80% by 2050.

CO2 emissions with 80% cut

CO2 emissions with 80% cut

This requires cutting per capita emissions from around 16.6 tons today, to 2.3 tons in 2050, where 2.3 tons was the level of per capita U.S. CO2 emissions in 1900, over 100 years ago, when there were very few automobiles, no commercial airplanes, no tractors and fossil-fueled power equipment for growing the food we need, no TVs, few electric lights, or any other electric-powered equipment, such as refrigerators or air-conditioning.

It’s naive to think that the Asian nations will forego economic development, merely because President Obama, representing the richest nation on earth, says they should, so as to prevent increased CO2 emission.

The foolhardiness of this administration’s efforts to cut CO2 emissions is readily seen when the onrushing steamroller of new Asian coal-fired power generation is taken into consideration.

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Keeping an Eye on Mideast Oil

September 16, 2014

The resurgence of radical Islamist terror, as ISIS or ISIL, could represent a threat to Mideast oil. (ISIL refers to the Levant, an area encompassing Lebanon and those around it in the eastern Mediterranean.)

What are some of the factors we should be aware of?

First, what is their strategy?

Is it:

  1. To finish off Assad and secure all of Syria along with the portions of Iraq they already control, and consolidate their holdings as a Caliphate, to ensure a long-term base of operations? Where Caliph means successor to the Prophet Mohammed.
  2. To extend their control of Iraq to include Baghdad and all of the oil-rich areas in southern Iraq, thereby opening the gateway to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia?
  3. To overthrow the House of Sa’ud and become the center of the Islamic World by controlling Mecca and Medina, the holiest places of the Muslim religion, with the intent of uniting all Muslims in their cause?

Or, is it a combination of these?

Given that ISIS has already secured enough wealth to support its operations, a strategy to capture more oil fields would seem inappropriate, especially those in Kuwait and the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. This would include avoiding a frontal assault on the Kurds, who control some of the rich oil fields in northern Iraq.

The Kurds are capable fighters who can defend their territory, especially when it involves their core enclave which is in mountainous, difficult to attack terrain. But they lack the modern equipment, as well as sufficient manpower for an offensive campaign much beyond Kirkuk or Mosul.

Beneath the surface of any strategy is the undercurrent of religion. First there is the divide between Sunni and Shia that dates back centuries. Then, within the Sunnis there is the extremely conservative Wahhabi sect, that views itself as the protector of the Muslim religion, and historically was given that role by the House of Sa’ud.

A History of Saudi Arabia, The Kingdom, by Robert Lacey.

A History of Saudi Arabia, The Kingdom, by Robert Lacey.

The Wahhabi’s have given financial support to radical Islam in the past, though it’s unclear whether they will support ISIS: They could see that their interests continue to lie with supporting the House of Sa’ud.

There is also the tribal nature that still exists throughout the region, more so in the Arab world than in Iran.

Currently, Iran, which is predominantly Shia, is backing the Baghdad government which is also Shia. Iran is a formidable military power, and could probably prevent ISIS from taking control of Baghdad and southern Iraq if ISIS pursued that strategy. Iran’s direct military involvement in Baghdad and Southern Iraq would, however, be contrary to US interests.

But what about oil?

The oil fields of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are 200 and 500 miles, respectively, from ISIS controlled Iraq, and would require ISIS to first have control of the cities along the Euphrates River, south of Baghdad, in order to gain access to Kuwait or Saudi oil fields.

A thrust through the desert west of the Euphrates isn’t likely, because of the terrain and that their forces would be exposed.

While ISIS might like to overthrow the House of Sa’ud, it’s unlikely it will be part of an early strategy.

But there are opportunities for ISIS to inflict damage on Saudi Arabia’s ability to produce oil, and thereby hurt Western economies.

Saudi security forces recently rounded up 80 militants who were said to have plans for terrorist activities.

There is the long-standing friction between the Shia population, which dominates the eastern, oil rich, province of Saudi Arabia, and the Wahhabi sect: Disgruntled Shia could be a source of terrorists. Disaffected Sunnis from within Saudi Arabia might be recruited as terrorists, as might other individuals from nearby Yemen or Bahrain.

While there could be attacks on pipelines and other infrastructure, the holy grail of any attack on Saudi oil production would be a successful attack on Abqaiq.
Nearly all of Saudi oil production is processed through Abqaiq, primarily to remove hydrogen sulfide and volatiles from the oil.

A terrorist attack on Abqaiq failed in February, 2006. If it had succeeded, and severely damaged the facility, it would have cut the world’s oil supply by about 10%.

It would appear as though ISIS’ immediate strategy will be to unseat Assad, take control of all of Syria, and consolidate its gains, while using its Caliphate to attack Western interests in the Mideast, and also the European and United States homelands.

If the initial strategy is successful, ISIS could then pivot and focus on Saudi Arabia.

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Preparing For A Carrington Event

September 12, 2014

The physical security of the grid has become an important issue.

It’s also emerging as a bureaucratic football, with little action taking place.

The attack on the Metcalf substation in California was a wakeup call that homegrown terrorists could bring down the grid.

It’s been recognized for years that a nuclear device, exploded high in the atmosphere, could create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that could shut down the grid and also destroy unprotected electronic devices.

Recently, it’s been recognized that a large magnetic solar storm, similar to the 1859 Carrington solar storm, could also bring down the grid with the potential for destroying society as we know it. See Geomagnetic Storm.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held a technical conference in April, 2012 to address the issue. Experts from the government and industry explored the probable outcome of a Carrington-like event, with disagreement over how devastating a collapse of the grid might be.

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), which reports to FERC on reliability issues, said the collapse of the grid would occur in such a way that induced currents wouldn’t destroy transformers or other equipment. This was vigorously contested by most of the other participants of the technical meeting. There are 300 high voltage transformers that are in danger of a Carrington-like event.

High Voltage Transmission Lines, Photo by D. Dears

High Voltage Transmission Lines, Photo by D. Dears

NERC recently delivered to FERC a mammoth, 800-plus-page plan, providing the details of how the industry will respond to physical security threats.

Important objections to the report were made by NERC’s stakeholders. The comments of Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), seemed to indicate that NERC was proposing that everything needed to be protected … a bureaucratic, rather than a technical response.

The BPA said, “Will we need security walls constructed to be as impervious as those of a maximum security prison? The list of potential risk mitigation barriers is endless, as is the cost of building and maintaining elaborate barriers for facilities that cover acres of ground.”

This type of bureaucratic response by NERC places all Americans in danger, because little will actually get done.

The Battelle Memorial Institute, a private, nonprofit research institution in Columbus, Ohio, prepared a response that was focused on results.

It’s obvious that every installation on the grid, i.e., all the transmission lines, all the distribution lines, all the HV transformers, all the substations etc., can’t be fully protected, all the time.

A Carrington-like event will almost assuredly occur sometime in the future … perhaps next week, next year, or perhaps not for a hundred years. See End of Civilization as We Know It.

However, a physicist, Pete Riley, recently estimated that there was a 12% chance that a Carrington sized solar storm could hit the Earth in the next ten years.

This is a huge probability, given the risk.

Congress needs to step in and insist that an organized approach be taken by FERC to achieve a reasonable level of protection, especially for the most serious threats.

Given that the 300 HV transformers are common to both a Carrington-like event and to physical attack by terrorists, it would seem that protecting them, or providing back-up units, could be given the highest priority.

Prioritization is key to getting something done. See End of Civilization as We Know It Part 2  for the first step in prioritization for other than the 300 HV transformers.

There may be some other specific physical installations that require a high priority, but trying to protect everything results in nothing getting protected. Trying to protect everything is a fools errand … typical of bureaucracies with their CYA and obfuscation approach to problems.

This is not a political issue

It is an issue of survival, and is worth people writing to Congress to express their concerns about the issue. Everyone can copy or link to this article, if needed for technical support, when contacting their Senators and Representatives.

 

Note: This may be the first time that any of my articles have called for people to contact Congress. This is a near term, if not immediate, existential threat.

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