Blowout Week 101

Roger is having a week off and so this is my first Blowout for many months. The focus this week is on OPEC and the lack of action there until at least June and on COP21 talks in Paris. Astronauts on the Space Station have warned of dire consequences of climate change and deforestation visible from space while the EU approves a £1 billion subsidy to convert Lynemouth coal power station to burn wood pellets imported from North America.

The Hindu:  International Space Station sends urgent climate message to CoP21

As images of the earth from space rolled on giant screens, members of the International Space Station crew, Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren, made a passionate appeal to the CoP21 Climate Conference to adopt a strong agreement that will stop the destruction of the earth.

Joined by several astronauts and cosmonauts, the two visitors on the ISS said the destruction of earth visible from space in the form of deforestation, wild fires and pollution only underlines the urgent necessity to have a climate deal/

/So dire is the world’s situation, said Johan Rockstrom, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, that the crisis in Syria was triggered by drought during 2007-10.

The Telegraph:  Coal plant gets green light to burn American wood pellets

One of Britain’s dozen remaining coal-fired power plants is to be converted to burn wood pellets shipped in from North America, after the European Commission approved a £1bn subsidy contract for the project.

RWE’s Lynemouth power station in Northumberland is due to close by the end of this year under environmental rules, but will now be resurrected as a biomass plant following EU state aid approval for the consumer-funded subsidies.

The 420 megawatt plant, which produces enough electricity to power 450,000 homes, could be up and running again within 18 months, subject to a final investment decision early next year, RWE said.

Forbes:  Wood Pellets Are Big Business (And For Some, a Big Worry)

It’s a good time to be in the American wood pellet business. Dozens of manufacturers, increasingly concentrated in the Southeast, are now approaching production of 10 million annual short tons of wood pellets — ostensibly made from the leftovers at lumber mills or from the branches, slash and other woody material found on the forest floor. Another 6 million short tons of capacity is now planned or under construction, according to industry data, making the U.S. the single largest wood pellet producer in the world.

The EIA:  UK’s renewable energy targets drive increases in U.S. wood pellet exports

In 2014, almost three-quarters of all U.S. wood pellet exports were delivered to the United Kingdom (UK), mainly for the purpose of generating electricity. Overall, U.S. wood pellet exports increased by nearly 40% between 2013 and 2014, from 3.2 million short tons to 4.4 million short tons, as the United States continues to be the largest wood pellet exporter in the world.

Environment 360:  Wood Pellets: Green Energy or New Source of CO2 Emissions?

Burning wood pellets to produce electricity is on the rise in Europe, where the pellets are classified as a form of renewable energy. But in the U.S., where pellet facilities are rapidly being built, concerns are growing about logging and the carbon released by the combustion of wood biomass.

Clear cut wetland forest – heading for a UK power station?

The Telegraph:  COP-21 climate deal in Paris spells end of the fossil era

A far-reaching deal on climate change in Paris over coming days promises to unleash a $30 trillion blitz of investment on new technology and renewable energy by 2040, creating vast riches for those in the vanguard and potentially lifting the global economy out of its slow-growth trap.

Economists at Barclays estimate that greenhouse gas pledges made by the US, the EU, China, India, and others for the COP-21 climate summit amount to an epic change in the allocation of capital and resources, with financial winners and losers to match.

They said the fossil fuel industry of coal, gas, and oil could forfeit $34 trillion in revenues over the next quarter century – a quarter of their income – if the Paris accord is followed by a series of tougher reviews every five years to force down the trajectory of CO2 emissions, as proposed by the United Nations and French officials hosting the talks.

The Telegraph:  Emission impossible as EU fails to police main anti-pollution scheme

The EU’s main scheme for reducing CO2 emissions is almost never enforced, according to an official report by Brussels’ own spending watchdog.

Only one EU country inspected – Britain – makes on-the-spot visits to factories to check whether they are staying within their carbon limits under the scheme, the EU Court of Auditors found. Even the UK only checks 1 per cent of sites, down from 5 per cent before.

BBC:  COP21: Progress reported on key issue of loss and damage

Negotiators are edging towards a compromise on one of the most divisive issues between countries at the COP21 climate change talks in Paris.

“Loss and damage” is the idea that compensation should be paid to vulnerable states for climate-related events that they cannot adapt to.

The issue has provoked heated arguments and walkouts at previous conferences.
But here in Paris, negotiators from the US and small island states are said to be “closer” to an agreement.

For small island states and some of the least developed countries, the question of loss and damage has become one of the most important aspects of the climate negotiations in recent years.

The Telegraph:  Paris climate summit: Which EU countries are using the most renewable energy?

Countries will be encouraged to reach an agreement on climate at the UN Climate Change Conference in France in December.

But many European nations are far from reaching their current targets on renewable energy consumption, according to figures published by Eurostat.

Based on the growth between 2010 and 2013, 11 out of 29 European countries will miss their 2020 targets – including the UK, Ireland, Spain, France and Germany. However, radical changes in energy policies may impact these trends.

BBC:  COP21: City mayors discuss green solutions

Cities could use water from rivers and the sea to stay cool as the climate heats, city mayors have been told.

Carbon emissions from air-conditioning are expected to soar as temperatures climb and people become richer.

But at a global mayors summit, Paris is showcasing a simple technology using water piped from the Seine to cool apartments near the Champs Elysees.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said he wanted London to follow suit by cooling buildings using water from the Thames.

The world’s largest solar boat is currently moored on the Seine. Picture from the BBC.

The Cutty Sark, a 19th century wind powered boat is now moored on The Thames.

CNBC:  US oil ends 2.7% lower on OPEC decision

Oil prices settled lower on Friday after OPEC announced it had agreed to roll over its policy of maintaining crude production in order to retain market share.

Also on Friday, oilfield services firm Baker Hughes reported its weekly count of U.S. oil rigs fell by 10 to a total of 545, compared with 1,030 a year ago. This is the third consecutive week of declines.

Internationally traded Brent was down 80 cents, or 1.8 percent, at $43.05 at 2:33 p.m. EDT, having fallen earlier this week to a low of $42.43, within cents of August’s 6-½ year trough.

U.S. crude settled 2.7 percent lower at $39.97 a barrel.

Business Insider:  Oil rig count falls for 3rd straight week

The US oil rig count fell by 10 to 545 last week, for a third period in a row, according to oil driller Baker Hughes.

That’s the lowest tally since the week of June 4, 2010.

The gas rig count rose by 3 to 292.

Utility Week:  Centrica’s Conn warns government on gas supply

In his first major interview since taking the top spot at the UK gas giant, Ian Conn told the Daily Mail that the UK’s reliance on gas imports means that the country could face problems if pipeline faults occur.

Compared to other high gas using countries the UK has relatively little storage capacity at 4.3 billion cubic meters, of which Centrica is responsible for 70 per cent through a subsidiary business.

Utility Week:  UK coal-fired power falls 40 per cent

Electricity analysts at Platts Powervision said that coal contributed 5.5 TWh of power generation in November, almost half the 9.26 TWh of coal-fired power seen in November last year.

The analysts said the dramatic slump is due to lower weather-led demand this year because of the milder start to winter, as well as surging wind power output of almost 50 per cent more than last year at 2.6 TWh.

The Guardian:  Uruguay makes dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy

As the world gathers in Paris for the daunting task of switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy, one small country on the other side of the Atlantic is making that transition look childishly simple and affordable.

In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs, according to the country’s head of climate change policy, Ramón Méndez.

In fact, he says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts.

Bishop Hill:  Solving the Uruguay mystery

If you add up all but the red slice (Eolica, in orange, is wind power; the others should be decipherable), you seem to get pretty much the correct figure.

And next door to this graph was the one that explains this dramatic transformation in the energy landscape in Uruguay. Yes folks, it had rained a lot, so they were able to replace thermal generation with extra hydro.

The Guardian:  Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change

James Hansen et al: To solve the climate problem, policy must be based on facts and not prejudice. Alongside renewables, Nuclear will make the difference between the world missing crucial climate targets or achieving them

The Guardian:  Low fossil fuel prices hindering climate change fight, says IMF

The International Monetary Fund has issued a warning before a meeting of the Opec oil cartel that permanently low fossil fuels are choking off investment in renewable sources of energy and hindering the fight against climate change.

Oil prices rallied slightly amid reports – later denied – that Saudi Arabia plans to announce a 1m barrels a day production cut at the talks in Vienna on Friday. The price of Brent crude was up more than 2% at just under $43.50 in early trading on Thursday.

But an assesment of the energy market from the IMF, co-authored by its chief economist Maurice Obstfeld, said a global carbon price was needed to reflect the true cost of burning fossil fuels and to provide resources for investment in green technologies.

The Guardian:  Elon Musk says robust carbon tax would speed global clean energy transition

Elon Musk, the renowned innovator, believes the widespread introduction of a carbon price could halve the time it takes the world to transition to clean energy and make a huge difference to the impact of climate change.

Addressing students at the Sorbonne University on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit, the electric car, Powerwall battery and space tycoon said the obvious solution to runaway global warming was to remove the effective subsidy of not pricing the damage done by carbon pollution, urging the students to campaign and lobby governments to implement the policy.

The Guardian:  Zuckerberg, Gates and other tech titans form clean energy investment coalition

Billionaires Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and other high-profile entrepreneurs have pledged to spark a “new economic revolution” based around clean energy after launching a new investment drive for renewables.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, made up of more than 25 investors from 10 countries, launched in Paris on Monday as part of the UN talks where nations are thrashing out an agreement to finally confront the issue of runaway climate change.

The Guardian:  India unveils global solar alliance of 120 countries at Paris climate summit

India’s prime minister has launched an international solar alliance of over 120 countries with the French president, François Hollande, at the Paris COP21 climate summit.

Narendra Modi told a press conference that as fossil fuels put the planet in peril, hopes for future prosperity in the developing world now rest on bold initiatives.

“Solar technology is evolving, costs are coming down and grid connectivity is improving,” he said. “The dream of universal access to clean energy is becoming more real. This will be the foundation of the new economy of the new century.”

Modi described the solar alliance as “the sunrise of new hope, not just for clean energy but for villages and homes still in darkness, for mornings and evening filled with a clear view of the glory of the sun”.

Roy Spencer:  UAH V6 Global Temperature Update for November 2015: +0.33 deg. C

BBC:  Forth Road Bridge to be closed until new year

The Forth Road Bridge is to be closed until the new year because of structural faults, Transport Minister Derek Mackay has said.

The bridge has been closed since midnight with initial guidance saying it would be shut for at least 24 hours.

The minister has now said it would need at least three weeks to repair the bridge and safety was “paramount”.

He said a full travel plan was being prepared, including extra trains and buses and possibly a ferry.

Early on Friday morning, 11-mile tailbacks were reported approaching the Kincardine Bridge, the alternative route across the Forth from Fife to Edinburgh.

I have concluded with this story on the Forth Road Bridge, partly because I crossed it on Thursday, hours before it was closed. And partly because this is symbolic of the crumbling state of much of our infrastructure. This is one of the main transport arteries in Scotland and its closure will cause chaos on the roads and for businesses in Edinburgh. A replacement bridge is under construction, due to be completed in a year.

This entry was posted in Blowout and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Blowout Week 101

  1. David Richardson says:

    Astronaut says – “I can see that extra 1 molecule of CO2 in every 10,000 molecules of air from here”.

    Deforestation and air pollution are serious problems and deserve serious application of research and money but it will never happen while money and effort is wasted on the CO2 religion.

    COP21 – How can anyone think this is still all about climate, when it is just obviously about money – while at the same time demonising fossil fuels condemns the third world to no hope for the future.

    Thanks Euan and Roger for another great series of articles recently.

    • oldfossil says:

      There was a time when to be an astronaut/cosmonaut you had to be a prime physical and mental specimen. Now that standards have dropped even I may get my chance.

  2. Euan Mearns says:

    Drax: Biomass FAQs

    Healthy demand for wood stimulates supply and ensures forests remain as forests.

    Pretty much the same as whales then?

  3. peter connor says:

    Elon Musk, renowned….government subsidy attracting scam artist…wants more of your money!

  4. garethbeer says:

    And that’s what all this is about a gamed (rules & regs, inside deals) that will enable billionaires to become trillionaires whilst the rest are serf’d!

    Co2 (as well all know here) is a trace inert gas, but is involved in all life on Earth – controlling it enables the politicians puppet & their minions to become involved in all aspects of our life!

    Musk is smelly!

    A mate of mine was persuaded (via a subsidy-bung) to get a biomass boiler instead of oil – now one year later, the pellets have doubled in price to £4.10/bag, he uses 3-4 bags a day, easily double the cost of oil, and to add insult to injury he has to pick the bags up from the supplier in his estate car burning more co2’s…

    The West is captured by the insane!

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I agree with all of this apart from “CO2 is an inert gas”. I’m nit picking here, bbbut:

      CO2 + 2 H2O + photons → CH2O + O2
      carbon dioxide + water + light energy → carbohydrate + oxygen

      CO2 is largely chemically inert but not biologically inert. But I digress…..

      What do you suggest we (I) do about this? It increasingly looks like a gigantic scam to transfer the billions once earned by FF companies that in the OECD sat in pension funds delivering income to little old ladies, to instead, as you point out, fleece the public, especially the poor, to line the pockets of trillionaires.

      All these climate scientists and renewables enthusiasts cannot possibly be as insanely stupid as they now appear to be on paper.

      I might add that academics with their snouts in the trough, sucking the poor dry, are particularly culpable.

      Dunno. I may regret writing this, but how do you rationalise astronauts observing deforestation from space with the EU subsidising deforestation in the name of saving the planet from climate change? It is insane!

  5. Syndroma says:

    Crimea receives the first 200 MW of power from the mainland via an undersea cable. The transmission capacity will be increased to 400 MW by mid-December, and to 800 MW by the spring.

    The first hydroelectric unit of Ust-Khantaiskaya power station was successfully replaced with a new one.
    500 MW Ust-Khantaiskaya station is unique in a certain way – it is located at 68N, above the Arctic Circle. The station belongs to Norilsk Nickel and powers its mining operations and Norilsk city.

    BN-800 fast breeder reactor is running at 15% and testing its turbine. Grid connection in the next few weeks.

  6. I’m totally in agreement with everyone who says that it is a calamity that US hardwood forests are being clear cut to provide Drax with woodpellets. But in a 100% renewable scenario, might woodpellet powerstations make sense if they were seen purely as a backup energy storage system that was only called upon on those rare times when the whole of the UK was windless? I suppose the crudest scenario would be where we had a regulated utility with a fleet of on shore and off shore windturbines that provided 30GW and that utility was compelled to also keep on standby 30GW of Drax style woodchip powerstations that were never used because from henceforth it was always windy. The Drax style power stations have a capital cost per kW that is in the same ball park as the windturbines. So that standby capacity would simply double the cost of energy supply (leaving aside the storage cost for the woodpellets). That would be competitive with Nuclear (given as $4646/kW in…/assumptions/pdf/table_8.2.pdf).
    The woodchips could come from coppice grown in the UK on what is currently sheep grazing and just as with sheep grazing it would be paid for as a support for rural communities and landowners (sheep make no sense in any other respect). Wood pellets have 4.9 kWh/kg and 650kg/m^3 so 3.2MWh/m^3. It would be 2.6 million cubic metres of storage space to store 10TWh to provide the UK 30GW electricity supply for two weeks. It’s the size of the O2 arena in London…/List_of_largest_buildings_in_the…. I haven’t found any pointers as to how much it costs to store wood pellets. They have to be kept safe from fire and from rotting. The current system is to import them continuously but the real need is for vast amounts at immediate notice once every year or so. I don’t know whether it is at all comparable but the Tescos Ireland warehouse cost 70m euros and has 1.55 million m^3…/List_of_largest_buildings_in_the…. Going by that, storage space for 10TWh of woodpellets might only cost £100m and so not dent the overall capital cost for the energy storage challenge.
    (good links on FT about woodpellets needs googling for “energy forest fuels by Guy Chazan” and “wood pellets add fuel to fire in Liverpool port expansion” to get around pay wall.)
    Really sorry if this is all stuff that has been debunked in previous stuff that I’ve missed.

    • Willem Post says:



      A 2013 study, published in Environmental Research Letters, analyzed the CO2 equivalent emissions of exporting wood pellets from the US Southeast to the UK.

      A breakdown of the biomass lifecycle, according to GHG emissions, is as follows:
      See Table 4, which shows 5 of the 7 CO2 emissions components.

      – Pellet production accounts for about 48%
      – Shipping the pellets across the Atlantic Ocean accounts for about 31%
      – Burning the pellets accounts for about 10%*

      * Emissions due to combustion are about 1.8 kg of CO2/kg of pellets, or 1.8 lb CO2/lb of pellets.

      That means the A to Z process of getting wood from the forest, turning it into pellets, transporting the pellets from the US to power plants in the UK, and burning the pellets, would release about 1.8/0.1 = 18 kg of CO2/kg of pellets.

      If the power production is at an efficiency of 30%, then 7,750 Btu/lb of pellets x 2.2 lb/kg x 0.30/(3,413 Btu/kWh) = 1.5 kWh/kg of pellets would be produced, or 18/1.5 = 12 kg of CO2/kWh for the A to Z process, if CO2 sequestering by regrowth would be ignored.

      EVENTUALLY, 100% sequestering would, at the very most, offset about 2 of the 12 kg!!! Such an environmentally harmful way of having the UK, Germany, etc., meet their EU CO2 obligations should not even be allowed to exist by EU rules, and the US should not be aiding and abetting. However, some folks are making money.

      This is a far worse boondoggle than the US corn-to-ethanol program, which, on an A to Z basis, is about CO2-emission neutral, but is derided by the EU.

      The US Southeast exported to Europe about 1,650,000 ton and 3,250,000 ton of wood pellets in 2012 and 2013, respectively; likely 5.7 million ton in 2015.

      See URL, with photos, regarding the unsustainable clear cutting of US Southeast forests to enable Germany, UK, etc., to meet the EU CO2 emissions standards, because the EU declared biomass emissions to be CO2-free!! Germany, the UK, etc., are co-firing the pellets in their coal-fired power plants!!

      In the US Southeast many forests are managed. It takes about 20 – 25 years from harvest to harvest; in Maine about 35 – 40 years. One may wonder how long it would take to deplete the soil to significantly affect crop yields. If 3,250,000 ton were exported in 2013 (a lot more was harvested but not exported), that would be 1,300,000 cords/yr of wood being cut from a given area, and a same area being planted that has just been cut, etc. That means about 20 – 25 such areas are in various growth phases at any point in time; more area if more tonnage is exported.

    • Graeme No.3 says:

      Stone Elworthy:

      The problem with your ‘solution’ is that coal fired power stations take about 3 days to start up from cold. That means backup wood fired stations would have to be running at a low level of output, boiler hot, generator running at 3000rpm etc. The emissions would be substantial, especially as wood firing releases more CO2 per MWh than black coal firing.
      A better choice would be gas fired plants, which give less emissions, but from past behaviour expect the wind farms to install diesel generators as lower capital cost, faster response etc. The higher emissions won’t matter as the UK Government has already approved thousands (at an attractive subsidy).

      • willow post says:

        Any power systems engineer knows your statement is nonsense.

        COLD start time of a coal power plant is about 8 hours, on average. It was that number of hours in the 1960s.

        • A C Osborn says:

          You seem to have missed the part on failed start ups on Cold equipment, we are talking long term downtimes here not the odd hours or day or two.
          “Approximately 20% of the startup events examined in this study failed to successfully generate electricity following the start of fossil fuel combustion.” And these are planned outages, not basically “mothballed plants”
          Note this comment “The average time offline before such failed starts is approximately 360 hours.”.
          So if the downtime is over 15 days you can almost guarantee it won’t start up on the first attempt and it takes up to 10 hours to find out it is not working as required.
          These plants could be offline for months at a time, so that suggests that the plant needs to be kept running if you need it to produce electricity fairly quickly.
          Even 8 hours is a long time to have to wait when balancing the grid.

    • garethbeer says:

      How about burning co2 sequestering forests from a couple of thousand years ago, yep you’ve guessed it, COAL???

      30GW of Pellet power stations, just imagine the forests going up in smoke and disappearing with them, not to mention the black-starts, ramping up & down to follow demand, the soot, from burning damp wood, the mountains of pellets everywhere transportation? A horrific and stupid scenario, no doubt will become Govt policy soon!

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Stone, I have delayed responding in hope others would chip in which they have done. You are writing from an academic position which we should all hope is one of the Science high ground. One of impeccable knowledge and understanding and yet you are seeking truth on a blog that is as good as totally unfunded. On one side billions and billions of pounds of research funding and on the other side this. It’s really quite a depressing situation for me and a dangerous situation for society. Did you ever learn to count to ten?

      On wood pellets in power generation and CO2 reduction the following needs to be taken into account:

      1) Diesel burnt planting trees
      2) Diesel burnt harvesting trees or coppice
      3) Diesel burnt transporting said bio mass to processing plant that may include a trans – atlantic crossing
      4) Diesel or electricity burned converting wood to pellets
      5) Efficiency of electricity production

      You can throw in stresses on water, soil and food for free. It is basically bonkers practice. In the 19th Century when our energy needs were a mere fraction of what they are now, Europe was deforested. You need to be a total moron to not understand that biomass today in electricity has no future. It will destroy the planet. I don’t mean to be insulting, but if you are an academic and can’t wok this out then it is a serious indictment of how our eduction system has failed totally.

      Its all a part of the Wet Green Dream.

      • garethbeer says:

        And (some) then wake up..
        Euan, it’s a religion, academia are the new (naturally well rewarded in any religious system) High preists, teachers the Vicars, the flock the army of zealots…

    • robertok06 says:

      THanks for your data and links… but one could have summed it up with just ONE datum… burning biomass/wood from forests corresponds to generating 0.5 W/m2 of actual power (electricity, with Carnot efficiency included)… i.e. in order to replace a constant 1 GWe power station one needs to burn 228 km2 of forest every year.
      Now… I understand that the US is a sub-continent and there are many times 228 km2 parcels available… but the limit tolerated by local people will be reached soon… it is just a matter of time… this craze of pellet burning will not last long, guaranteed.


  7. Rob says:

    Is the rig count collapsing a good indication of shale gas suffering or are they becoming more efficient doing more with less. Also has OPEC shown any indication of an endgame of what level it wishes to reduce US shale gas by before they cut production

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I will have my Oil Vital Statistics for November completed soon and posted before midnight. The US rig count as it stands is just about enough to cancel declines. And yes, with US LTO, better wells drilled in sweet spots is keeping “the party” going. I see 3 Mbpd over-supply, the IEA sees 1.5 Mbpd. This hasn’t really begun to contract. I see <$20 within months.

  8. Peter Lang says:

    Roger Andrews,

    Question: How much energy storage and wind capacity is needed to enable wind power to provide constant power?

    On “The Difficulties Of Powering The Modern World With Renewables” you mentioned:

    At only moderate levels of solar & wind penetration the UK would need several terawatt-hours of storage

    On “Estimating Storage Requirements At High Levels of Wind Penetration” you estimated, to supply 25 GW constant power from UK wind power in February 2013 would require 150 GW wind capacity and 1200 GWh of storage or 200 GW wind capacity and 700 GWh of energy storage. However, these are for one month and with no reserve margin. I am wondering if you could estimate how much energy storage capacity per W of wind power capacity would be required to provide reliable power throughout worst-case years. I recognise you can’t analyse many years to find the worst case so I recognise any analysis you can do plus your engineering judgement would be valuable.

    I also recognise the amounts of energy storage capacity per W capacity would change as penetration increases. Perhaps you could make a chart showing Wh storage per W capacity versus penetration and do this for different ratios of wind power capacity needed to supply constant a constant W of power.

    If all electricity had to come from storage, then 8760 Wh of storage would be required per W of wind capacity for a year. This is the upper limit for the worst case year.

    If we need 50% of the energy to come from storage, then 4380 Wh of storage would be required per W of wind capacity for a year.

    I hope my question is clear and you can answer it for me. I’ve been referencing your energy storage posts quite a bit. But this question has been cropping up. How much energy storage and wind capacity is needed to enable wind power to provide constant power?

Comments are closed.