Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Hydrogen Economy – More Green Mythology

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on their new draft energy strategy and targets. The new energy strategy in general terms has four main strands:

1) A four-fold increase in renewable energy production by 2030.
2) Embracing a hydrogen economy, especially in the areas of heat and transport.
3) Employing carbon capture and storage to decarbonise CCGT power stations required to balance the grid and H2 production from methane.
4) The phasing out of nuclear power by 2030.

This post will focus on the thermodynamics, efficiency and costs of making H2 via electrolysis of water and steam methane reforming. I calculate costs of £142 / MWh for electrolysis and £100 / MWh for steam methane reforming (SMR). These compare with industrial methane prices of £15 / MWh at odds with multiple claims made by the Scottish Government that hydrogen is a low cost option. Continue reading

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Blowout Week 165

This week we feature biomass, specifically wood pellets, which are coming under fire again (pun intended). A recent report confirms what to most of us has long been obvious – that wood pellets are not a carbon-neutral energy source. In some cases they emit even more CO2 than coal. One wonders when the truth will finally dawn on the politicians who are subsidizing this environmentally-unfriendly fuel – and how it got to be subsidized in the first place.

In a bumper issue, other stories include the fall of NASA GISS, OPEC examines impact of production cuts, US LNG exports, nuclear power in the UAE and Scotland, Germany destabilises neighbours, blackouts in Australia, UK government policies lead to higher electricity prices and Swansea Bay tidal lagoon is back in the news. Continue reading

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An Independent Evaluation of the El Hierro Wind & Pumped Hydro System

In this post engineer Benjamin Jargstorf brings his hands-on experience with other island renewable energy projects to bear on Gorona del Viento. Benjamin’s conclusions are generally but not always the same as mine, but an independent assessment is always welcome, and we are indebted to Benjamin for providing it. Of particular interest to technical types will be his recommendations for improving GdV’s performance. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 39 Comments

UK Electricity 2050 Part 4: Nuclear and renewables cost comparisons

Guest post by Energy Matters’ commentator Alex Terrell. Part 4 of the series on designing a renewable or nuclear electricity supply for the UK in 2050, where parts 1 to 3 were co-authored with Andy Dawson. Here costs of the renewable and nuclear options are compared. The forecast based on BEIS’ median 2030 scenarios for renewables (wind+solar) comes in at £143 / MWh and for nuclear at £84 / MWh, for wholesale costs. Both costs will be a lot lower if the respective technologies improve as their advocates hope. Continue reading

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Blowout week 164

In this week’s blowout, Scott Pruit to lead the EPA, Tony Blairs intervention strengths the Nationalists hand, OPEC preparing to cut more, shale drillers on a roll, conventional oil discoveries dry up, coal power closure in the USA, Ukraine short of coal, Drax underperforms, China to cut coal production, Toshiba’s nuclear woes, Oroville Dam damaged by floods, hydro power more dangerous than gas, Belgium buys electric busses, BBC to track carbon instead of making decent programs, New Zealand bucks the global warming trend, Winter cold a hazard for Europeans. Continue reading

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Keeping The Lights On

It’s not very often that Energy Matters gets a mention in the “mainstream media” but last week Roger and I got a mention in UK satirical magazine Private Eye (no 1437). In his column, “Keeping the Lights On”, Old Sparky had commentary on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and says this:

“But painstaking tidal analysis by respected energy industry analysts Euan Mearns and Roger Andrews shows there is no practical combination of lagoons that could even out the bursts of electricity from this airily conjured “fleet”.”

The whole article is reproduced with consent from Private Eye below the fold. Continue reading

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New Renewable Energy Targets for Scotland

The Scottish Government recently launched a consultation on a revised energy strategy. The existing policy is to produce the equivalent of 100% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The new policy is to produce the equivalent of 50% of all energy consumed from renewable sources by 2030 – in 13 years time. Electricity currently represents 22% of energy consumption and we are now at 59% renewables, suggesting that 13% of all energy currently comes from renewable sources. The new plan calls for renewable output to increase approximately 4 fold. It is also planned that our two nuclear power stations will close in this time frame. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , | 74 Comments

The proposed US carbon tax – a recipe for disaster

A group of Republican elder statesmen have recommended that the US adopt a $40/ton carbon tax as the “most efficient and effective way of reducing CO2 emissions”. This post reviews the potential economic impacts of such a tax on the US energy sector. It concludes that the impacts on the oil and natural gas sectors would be comparatively minor but that the impacts on the coal sector would be severe. Electric utilities with a high percentage of coal in their generation mix could well be driven into bankruptcy. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , | 77 Comments

US GDP, Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions

A review of the structure of US GDP, imports and exports shows that none of these variables has contributed to the fall in US CO2 emissions post-2008 finance crash. The main contributions to reduced CO2 come from high energy prices and recession (36%), gas substitution for coal (20%) and growth in wind and solar (15%) which more or less corroborates the findings of Roger Andrew’s in his recent post on this topic. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Blowout Week 163

This week: Australian blackouts; NOAA plays fast and loose with temperature data; a US carbon tax? OPEC’s production cuts; Horse Hill resource upgraded; North Sea on road to recovery; Vattenfall loses money on nuclear; fire at Flamanville; Nord Stream 2 and Europe’s energy security; do we need Yucca Mountain? radiation from power plants; Bangladesh bets on coal; wind power growth in Europe; the UK capacity auction; Brexit to hold up Anglesey nuclear plant, Russian nuclear in Hungary; Google and renewables; UK solar industry takes dim view of energy storage; climate change to overload US grid; distressed US climate scientists welcome in France and Lord’s cricket ground goes renewable. Continue reading

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The causes of the recent decrease in US greenhouse gas emissions

Since their peak in 2007 GHG emissions in the USA have decreased more in absolute terms than in any other country. The results of this review suggest that approximately 40% of this decrease was caused by the replacement of coal with gas in generating plants, 30% by improvements in the efficiency of internal combustion engines and 30% by growth in low-carbon renewables. Another major contributor was the 2008-9 global recession, although its impact can’t reliably be quantified. Had economic growth continued at historic rates between 2007 and the present US GHG emissions would now be substantially higher than they are. Continue reading

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Oil Production Vital Statistics January 2017

January was the month that OPEC was supposed to reduce production by 1.2 Mbpd and Russia + others were supposed to cut a further 0.6 Mbpd. None of the January production data has been released yet and the only real time indicator we have is the oil price that began the month of January on $55.05 and ended the month on $54.77 (Brent) (Figure 1). The only remarkable thing is how little market response there has been to the feeble OPEC deal. Continue reading

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Blowout Week 162

We kick off with the exaggerated reporting of blackout risks in the UK and follow up with: Trump gets busy rolling back US oil & gas regulations; world oil and coal demand to peak by 2020; new UK guidelines on North Sea oil, the high cost of “new generation” nuclear plants; Toshiba to pull out of Moorside, Dong & Deutsche Bank to pull out of coal; Japan to build 45 new coal plants; China launches green certificates, Brexit’s impact on Irish gas prices, UK asked to cut biomass subsidies, Npower’s “shocking” price hikes, European solar demand falls; energy storage in California, Australia and Somerset; the world’s largest offshore wind turbine; a wind turbine that flaps like a hummingbird; Google’s 100% renewable energy claim a “gimmick” and a slight increase in global lower troposphere temperatures in January. Continue reading

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Oil and Gas Production in N America

This post provides an overview of N American oil and gas production utilising the growing mountain of charts to be found in Global Energy Graphed. These charts show the parlous state of the Mexican oil and gas industry that will be the focus of this post. Oil production is down nearly to the point where Mexico will cease oil exports. Gas production is down and Mexico has already become a serial gas importer. Drilling has virtually come to a halt. Continue reading

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Do the Netherlands’ trains really run on 100% wind power?

This question generated a number of comments in the last Blowout so I thought I would take a quick look at it. I find that the electrified portion of the Dutch railway network (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, or NS) runs on grid electricity that comes dominantly from fossil fuel generation (natural gas and coal). NS claims 100% wind power because it has a contract with various wind farms to produce enough energy to power its rail system, but this is just an accounting transaction. Only a small fraction of the power delivered to its trains actually comes from wind. Continue reading

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