Blowout Week 144

This week’s Blowout features a blackout, specifically the long-anticipated outage that plunged South Australia into darkness last week. But it was caused by strong winds that took down transmission lines, not by too much wind power on the grid. Or was it?

Stuff:  Storm knocks out power to entire state of South Australia

Much of South Australia is still without power after the entire state was knocked off the grid by an extreme weather system that severed much of its power supply.

A mass blackout began on Wednesday afternoon, after a storm took down three transmission lines and nine towers in the Port Augusta region, forcing the electricity connection between South Australia and Victoria – known as an “interconnector” – to be shut down. Wind turbines, which make up an estimated 40 per cent of the state’s power generation, were unable to operate as winds were too high, leaving much of the state in the dark. Crews worked overnight to try to get the state back on the grid, but three of the four transmission lines moving power between Adelaide and the state’s north, and 23 towers across the network, were damaged, network operators ElectraNet said early on Thursday. By 12.10am local time transmission had been restored to the city’s central business district and most of the Adelaide metropolitan area. Power transmission would be progressively restored throughout the rest of the state “as it is safe to do so”, and SA Power Networks would gradually restore the power supply to homes and businesses. Work would begin on Thursday morning to assess the extent of the damage to the network. There was significant damage in the north and east of Port Pirie, north of Adelaide, and the Eyre Peninsula, in the state’s west. However, more gale force winds were forecast for Thursday, and could delay restoration efforts or cause further damage, ElectraNet warned.

Associated Press: After storm causes power outage, Australia debates clean energy

A rush by Australia’s state governments to switch to clean electricity sources could undermine the country’s energy security, the federal government warned Thursday after all of South Australia state lost power. The state’s power operator, however, said the outage was unavoidable regardless of electricity sources, and the opposition accused the ruling party of using the crisis to score political points. South Australia state lost power on Wednesday as it was lashed by two tornados, thunder storms and fierce winds that caused traffic chaos, stranded people in elevators and prompted police to warn residents to stay inside. Lightning struck a power plant and at least 22 transmission towers were toppled by high winds, officials said. The conservative federal government said the blackout was caused by extreme weather, but questioned whether South Australia’s heavy reliance on solar and wind-generated power made its network less resilient. “There is no doubt that a heavy reliance on intermittent, renewables … does place very different strains and pressures on a grid than reliance on traditional baseload power,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters. (State Premier) Weatherill said power surges triggered by the weather caused the state’s coal-fired generators and links to the national grid to shut down to protect themselves, resulting in the statewide blackout. “This was a weather event, this was not a renewable energy event,” he told reporters.

Guardian:  South Australia’s blackout explained (and no, renewables aren’t to blame)

Just before the blackout occurred, windfarms were producing about half the state’s electricity demand – they were not shut down as a result of the high winds. And ElectraNet, the owner of the downed high-voltage lines, made clear the blackout was caused by the storm damage to their network. If the recently closed Port Augusta coal power station was still operating, it would have been cut off by the downed distribution lines too. And that would have likely made the disruption worse, since it would have created an even bigger sudden change to the network. But that didn’t stop politicians and most media outlets reporting the false information. The deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, said on Sydney radio station 2GB this morning: “Obviously we know that South Australia has had a strong desire to become basically all renewable energy and the question has to be asked does this make them more vulnerable to an issue such as what happened last night.” South Australian senator Nick Xenophon, who has often expressed anti-wind sentiments, also jumped on the bandwagon. “We have relied too much on wind rather than baseload renewables, rather than baseload power, including gas which is a fossil fuel but it is 50% cleaner than coal and a good transitional fuel,” he said. The irony is that if anything, more wind energy might have actually made the system more robust against this sort of rare event. If there was more generation distributed around the state, it might have limited the impact of the loss of the transmission lines.

Economic Calendar:  EIA Is Still Calling for Massive Nuclear Power Growth

Uranium prices have languished with the commodity hovering around an 11-year low amid dull near-term demand for the commodity. However, over the longer-term things are still supposed to improve with the Energy Information Administration in its “Today in Energy” report on Wednesday issuing its bullish expectations for the uranium market. According to the EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2016, the total global nuclear generation will increase by 73% through 2040, from 2.6 trillion kilowatt hours in 2015 to 4.5 trillion kilowatt hours. Countries that are not a part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development will account for 86% of the increase, with China alone making up more than 54% of total growth. In 2015, China had 34 operating nuclear reactors, with a total capacity of 27 gigawatts (GW), and by 2040 the country is expected to produce 1.2 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity from nuclear power. This expansion is going to require a great deal of uranium. This planned expansion is not just a rumor; it is currently underway. China has a long-term strategy for nuclear power development. Right now, China is constructing 20 nuclear reactors, and is aiming to bring one reactor online about every five months. By 2032, China is expected to be the largest global user of nuclear power.

Dawn:  UN trims nuclear power growth forecasts

The UN atomic agency predicted Friday continued growth in nuclear power in the coming 15 years but trimmed its projections because of low fossil fuel prices and competition from renewables. “Nuclear energy, in the long run, will continue to play an important role in the world’s energy mix,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a new report. The low end of its forecast sees worldwide nuclear power generating capacity expanding 1.9 per cent by 2030 to 390.2 gigawatts (GW) – a gigawatt is one billion watts of electrical power – from 2015. The upper end foresees an expansion of 56 percent to 598.2 GW. Previously the IAEA’s projections were higher, estimating growth of between 2.4pc and 68pc. The low case assumes a continuation of current market, technology and resource trends with few changes to policies affecting nuclear power, the IAEA said. The high case assumes current rates of economic and electricity demand growth, particularly in Asia, plus countries turning more to nuclear to meet their commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

National Review:  Hillary Takes the Nuclear-Energy Option

In a candidate questionnaire published in the September 13 issue of Scientific American, she said that addressing climate change is “too important to limit the tools available in this fight. Nuclear power . . . is one of those tools.” She went on, pledging to make sure that the “climate benefits” of existing plants are “appropriately valued,” adding that she will “increase investment in the research, development and deployment of advanced nuclear power.” When it comes to energy issues, the former secretary of state has been downright Clintonesque. As a U.S. senator, she was an ardent opponent of corn ethanol. But in 2007, during her first run for the presidency, she switched her position and began praising ethanol, particularly during campaign stops in Iowa. She has also straddled the fence on nuclear. In 2007, she said nuclear “has to be part of our energy solution.” A few months later, she said she was “agnostic” about nuclear energy. Then, in early 2008, during a Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas, she touted her “energy plan that does not rely on nuclear power.” Nevertheless, Clinton has now come out in favor of nuclear. By doing so, she has broken with the orthodoxy of the anti-nuclear Left, a group that includes the New York Times editorial board, as well as the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council,, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and many others. Furthermore, Clinton is contradicting her own party. For four decades, the Democratic party has either ignored nuclear energy or stated outright opposition to it.

Globe and Mail:  OPEC proved it still matters by ending the market-share battle

Proving pundits wrong and overcoming skepticism, two days of round-the-clock deliberations in Algiers brought about a landmark agreement in which the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to slash output. The decision marks the end of the battle for market share. “This is the end of the ‘production war’ – OPEC claims victory,” Phil Flynn, analyst at Chicago-based brokerage Price Futures Group, told Reuters. “The cartel proved that it still matters, even in the age of shale.” Output will be slashed to 32.5 million barrels a day. In August, OPEC averaged 33.24 million barrels a day. “We have decided to decrease the production around 700,000 [barrels a day],” Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh told reporters after the meeting. “OPEC made an exceptional decision today. … After 2 1/2 years, OPEC reached consensus to manage the market,” he emphasized. Apparently a sense of urgency had crept into OPEC ranks as officials sat down in Algiers for the marathon talks. “Our expectations about the rebalancing process have shifted,” OPEC president Mohammed Bin Saleh al-Sada said in his inaugural address, before the closed-door session.“It is evident that there is now a greater degree of urgency to ensure the market returns to balance as quickly as possible,” he said. With many predicting the cartel’s end, OPEC needed to act – a fact both realized and conceded.

Wall Street Journal:   Oil Wavers as Doubts Grow Over OPEC Deal

Crude oil futures flipped between gains and losses Friday as market participants continued to weigh a tentative agreement to cut production among members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and as investors cashed in recent gains. West Texas Intermediate crude for November delivery rose seven cents, or 0.15%, to $47.90 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the international benchmark, fell one cent, or 0.02%, to $49.80 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures Exchange. Crude has surged this week since OPEC members caught the market off-guard by reaching a preliminary agreement to slash the group’s output to between 32.5 million and 33 million barrels a day, from 33.2 million barrels a day in August. A more definitive policy, including production caps for individual members, will be discussed and possibly ratified at OPEC’s next meeting on Nov. 30 in Vienna. “By and large, I view the OPEC deal as short-term bullish and capable of lifting WTI to about the $50 mark,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates. “It gives OPEC a chance to buy some more time for a couple of months and hopefully boost sentiment.” But pushing past the $50 threshold could prove difficult, Mr. Ritterbusch and other analysts have said, because of pervasive doubts about whether the deal between members that have often been at odds in recent years will come together. Iraq has already said that it doesn’t trust the production numbers OPEC typically relies on.

Reuters:  Iraq’s OPEC revolt shows Saudi-Iran oil deal fragility

For years, debates in the OPEC conference room were dominated by clashes between top producer Saudi Arabia and arch-rival Iran. But as the two managed to find a rare compromise on Wednesday – with Riyadh softening its stance towards Tehran – a third OPEC superpower emerged. Iraq overtook Iran as the group’s second-largest producer several years ago but kept its OPEC agenda fairly low-profile. On Wednesday, Baghdad finally made its presence felt. Iraq’s new oil minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi …. told the meeting the new ceiling was no good for Baghdad as OPEC had underestimated Iraq’s production, which has soared in recent years. “These figures do not represent our actual production,” he told reporters. If by November estimates do not change, “then we say we cannot accept this, and we will ask for alternatives”. Luaibi went even further and asked a reporter from Argus Media – whose data OPEC uses among other sources to compile estimates of countries’ production – to disclose from where Argus’ estimates were coming. Iraq has seen spectacular gains in output in recent years and is asking oil majors to expand production further to above 5 million bpd from the current 4.7 million. “The deal is a bit of a farce,” one OPEC source said.

Oil Price: More Oil And Gas Bankruptcies Yet To Come

The more than two-year oil bust has led to a shakeout in the oil industry, with high-cost and inefficient drillers forced out of the market. About 100 bankruptcies have been recorded in the North American energy industry, and stronger companies are damaged but leaner than they were before the collapse started in 2014. Nevertheless, the market may only be half way there – the industry could see another 100 bankruptcies before all is said and done, according to debt restructuring specialists. “I think we’ve got easily another 12 to 18 months, and we could see as many filed bankruptcies from here on out as have (already) filed in the upstream sector,” Bill Rhea, a consultant with J.W. Rhea & Associates, told CNBC. In 2015, a lot of companies survived because they had hedged their output at much higher oil prices from the year before. But now, with fewer and fewer companies protected from lucrative hedging, the entire industry is more or less exposed to $50 oil and below. Moreover, a large number of indebted oil companies have been limping along, kept alive by creditors eager to avoid getting burned by a default. Creditors piled on more debt to keep drillers operating, hoping for a rebound in oil prices. But that cannot continue forever, and at some point lenders and investors may decide to pull the plug. “If there’s not a complete 100 percent agreement, the only way you can solve those problems is through the bankruptcy process,” Patrick Hughes, a partner at Haynes and Boone, told CNBC. “There’s going to have to be more filings just because there’s no price out there that’s foreseeable that’s going to bail these companies out,” he added.

Climate Change News:  China cuts pollution at home, builds coal plants abroad

Chinese companies and banks are continuing to drive global coal expansion, as state owned companies, backed by state loans, build coal-fired power plants across the world. This is despite commitments from China’s top leaders to deliver clean energy and low carbon infrastructure for developing countries. The world’s largest carbon emitter aims to reposition itself as a global green power. In a joint US-China statement at the White House in September 2015, President Xi Jinping agreed to strictly control public investment for overseas projects with high pollution and carbon emissions. However, these efforts are being undercut by Chinese backed coal power plants planned and under construction from Indonesia to Pakistan, Turkey to the Balkans –as well as in Africa and Latin America. These could boost global emissions and lock developing countries into fossil fuel intensive energy systems for decades. New data collected by chinadialogue and the CEE Bankwatch Network shows that since 2015 many new Chinese coal plant project deals have been announced and are under development. “The majority of these projects are under loan consideration by China’s policy-driven financing, and supplied by equipment from the country’s largest power generation manufacturers,” said Wawa Wang, public finance policy officer at CEE Bankwatch Network. Chinese banks and companies are currently involved in at least 79 coal fired generation projects, with a total capacity of over 52 GW, more than the 46 GW of planned coal closures in the US by 2020.

Star:  Ontario government scraps plan for $3.8 billion in renewable energy projects

Ontario is blowing off plans for more wind and solar power as it feels the heat over high electricity bills less than two years before a provincial election. In its latest effort to curb prices, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government is axing plans to sign another $3.8 billion in renewable energy contracts, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said Tuesday. The move — which the Progressive Conservatives have demanded for years — will prevent $2.45 from being added to the average homeowner’s monthly hydro bill in the coming years. Thibeault called it a “common sense” decision after the province’s electricity planning agency recently advised there is no “urgent need” for additional supply given Ontario’s surplus of generating capacity. “I’ve been tasked to find ways to bring bills down,” said Thibeault, who was appointed minister last June. “When our experts said we didn’t need it, that’s when I acted.” There may be more measures to come, Thibeault hinted in a speech prepared for the Ontario Energy Association on Tuesday night. He pledged to “take a prudent look at every policy decision that has been made and determine if there is work we can do to reduce costs to Ontarians.”

Cleantechnica:  Lowest-Ever Solar Price Bid (2.42¢/kWh) In Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Electricity and Water Authority received a total of 6 bids for the proposed 350 MW solar PV project planned to be built in the town of Swaihan, Abu Dhabi. Out of 6 bids, the lowest ever bid of 2.42¢/kWh has been submitted by the JinkoSolar–Marubeni consortium. The results of the tender are not out yet, as authorities will now evaluate the proposals for technical and economic viability. The current bid of 2.42¢/kWh is the lowest so far globally, and by quite a bit — it is shockingly low. This bid is 20% lower than the previous record bid of 2.91¢/kWh submitted at an auction in Chile last month. The second-lowest bid in the Abu Dhabi tender was reportedly not much higher, at 2.53¢/kWh, and was submitted by a local firm. These bids also beat the 2.99¢/kWh bid) submitted by a Masdar-led consortium for an 800 MW solar PV project in Dubai. The Abu Dhabi solar park was initially planned for 350 MW. However, media reports state a possible increase in project size, as bidders were allowed to bid for larger capacities. The final capacity of the solar power park may well increase to 1 GW. In recent months, large solar power parks around the globe have received bids less than 4.00¢/kWh — in India, Chile, the UAE, and elsewhere. Many large developers — including Italy’s Enel, TSK, ACWA, Abdul Latif Jameel, and Engie reportedly pulled out of the Abu Dhabi tender due to expected high competition and concern over a drastic drop in prices.

Science Alert:   Typhoon-powered wind turbines could power Japan for 50 years straight

Engineer Atsushi Shimizu says an array of his generators could power Japan for up to 50 years from a single typhoon – and considering six such storms have hit the country this year, we’re talking about a lot of potential energy. “Japan actually has a lot more wind power than it does solar power – it’s just not utilised,” Shimizu told Junko Ogura and Jenni Marsh at CNN. “Japan has the potential to be a superpower of wind.” While the technology has yet to face an actual typhoon, it’s designed to cope with unpredictable and violent wind patterns, thanks to its omnidirectional axis, and its adjustable blade speeds ensure that it don’t spin out of control. Key to the invention is the principle of the Magnus effect – the way air curves around anything that rotates (like a basketball), and applies pressure on it at the same time. In the company’s simulated tests, the turbine achieved a 30 percent efficiency level. That’s lower than the normal 40 percent, but then again, normal turbines can’t operate in typhoons. And the reduced power efficiency might not be such a big deal, anyway, given the massive amount of energy we’re talking about here. In one go, typhoons can produce a level of kinetic energy that’s half the entire electrical generating capacity of our planet. The only issue is being able to physically trap it. But there are certainly challenges ahead. Even if Shimizu and his team figure out how to catch all the energy from a typhoon, current battery technology might not even be capable of storing it.

The typhoon turbine

Bloomberg:  EU Reaches Deal for Fast-Track Approval of Paris Climate Accord

European Union nations agreed to a fast-track ratification by the 28-member bloc of the Paris climate agreement, a step that could enable the most sweeping accord to combat global warming to come into force next month. The European Parliament, whose consent is needed to finalize the fast approval procedure, is scheduled to hold a plenary vote on Oct. 4 in Strasbourg, France. Slovakia, the holder of the rotating presidency of the EU in the second half of this year, aims for the bloc to finalize the union-level approval by Oct. 7, a date that matters because the climate deal will be enacted 30 days after its ratification requirements have been met. If the approval criteria — ratification by at least 55 parties accounting for 55 percent of global emissions — are reached at the beginning of next month, the first meeting of the parties to the agreement could take place during the next annual United Nations climate conference, scheduled to start on Nov. 7. So far 61 parties responsible for almost 48 percent of pollution have approved the accord. EU members account for 12 percent of pollution. The EU, which wants to lead the global fight against climate change, has come under increasing pressure to formally join the deal after U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping ratified it on Sept. 3. India plans to approve the agreement on Oct. 2.

Wind Power Monthly:  Energy transition is “no walk in the park”

Europe is no longer the number one in renewable energies said WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson in Hamburg, reflecting a soberly thoughtful atmosphere that pervaded the exhibition and conference. German delegates certainly had plenty to be thoughtful about. The Energiewende — the transition from fossil fuels and nuclear to renewables — has so far involved picking the low-hanging fruit, but it is now causing disruptions, said Andre Poschmann, Germany’s economy ministry expert on EU electricity issues and market integration. At the root of this is a grid crisis. German transmission system operator Tennet has heralded an 80% increase in grid charges for 2017 entirely due to higher costs for network stabilisation. And roughly half the costs are committed to compensation for wind curtailment due to transmission bottlenecks, mainly in northern Germany. In 2015, wind curtailment by Tennet cost €350 million, conventional power station redispatch measures amounted to €200 million and the network reserve, kicking in after redispatch measures, a further €150 million. Two important transmission projects from north to south Germany are about three years behind schedule, according to Tennet. The 80% increase on expected higher, but not yet specified, network stabilisation costs in 2016, “has triggered a huge discussion”, said Hans-Dieter Kettwig, managing director of German turbine maker Enercon.

PV Magazine:  EVs to require 150GW of new capacity in Europe by 2050

For electric vehicles to account for 10% of all traffic on Europe’s roads by 2050, the continent needs to allocate approximately 25 GW of solar PV capacity to support this transition, according to a new study commissioned on behalf of the European Environment Agency (EEA). Conducted by Germany’s Öko-Institut and Transport & Mobility Leuven, the study finds that for electric vehicles in Europe to reach a tipping point, their share in passenger road transport needs to increase 80% by 2050. To achieve this, the sector would require an additional 150 GW of new energy generation capacity. However, if the positive emission reduction effects of these extra cars on the road are to be felt, half of that 150 GW generation capacity needs to be sourced from renewables, with wind accounting for 47 GW and solar 25 GW. If Europe can increase the share of electric vehicles on its roads to 10% by that date, and with renewables supporting half of that growth, the continent could see its Co2 emissions reduced by 84% against 2010 levels. An alternative, non-renewables scenario was posited in the study and found that CO2 emissions would increase by 18 million tons in 2030 and 30 million tons in 2050 if conventional fossil fuels were employed to generate the extra terawatt hours of electricity required.

Yahoo:  More German Coal Plants Face Early Retirement as Profit Dwindles

A quarter of hard coal-fired generation capacity in Europe’s largest economy may shut ahead of schedule if plant operators forgo spending on upgrades to keep aging stations open, according to Nena AS, an Oslo-based energy consulting firm. Steag GmbH, the nation’s fifth-biggest power producer, is considering shuttering at least five of its 13 German coal stations before plan, Juergen Froehlich, a spokesman for the utility, said by e-mail. As German coal plant profitability lingers near its lowest levels in at least five years, other utilities may follow Steag, helping ease a surplus of generating capacity exacerbated by the rise of renewable energy, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. While utilities have shut about 18 percent of Germany’s current hard coal-fired capacity since 2011, only 9 percent more is slated to close through 2019, according to consultants Pira Energy. “You have a lot of old hard-coal plants in Germany and you need to take investment decisions now if you want to continue operating them,” Bengt Longva, a senior analyst at Nena, said by phone.

Guardian:  Hinkley Point gets go-ahead

The UK has signed its £18bn contract with France and China to build the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, giving the final go-ahead for construction at the site in Somerset. The deal was finalised at a low-key ceremony in London, just two months after Theresa May alarmed her French and Chinese counterparts by putting the entire project under review. EDF, the French nuclear contractor, and its Chinese partners had to cancel their previous plans for a signing ceremony at the last minute when the review was announced in July. The project finally got approval this month, after Greg Clark, the business secretary, announced there would be some new restrictions on future investments in critical infrastructure if there were national security concerns. Clark attended the signing ceremony on behalf of the UK, alongside Jean-Bernard Lévy, the chairman of EDF, and He Yu, chair of China General Nuclear. The event was also attended by Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French foreign minister, and Nur Bekri, a senior official at the National Energy Administration of China.

Bloomberg:  China to Submit Homegrown Nuclear Reactor Design for U.K. Review

China will submit its homegrown Hualong One nuclear reactor design for U.K. review as it moves toward building a pair of reactors in southern England and seeks to expand exports to other nations. State-owned China General Nuclear Power Corp. will send the design of the reactor to U.K. regulators for approval, which the company aims to complete in five years, it said in a statement Thursday after signing an atomic energy accord in London. The regulator must clear the reactor design before construction can begin. CGN plans to build two Hualong One reactors, each with output capacity of 1.15 gigawatts, at the proposed Bradwell B project in southern England, where CGN will hold a 66.5 percent interest. The reactors are part of a broader nuclear development deal first announced in October between CGN, France’s Electricite de France SA and the U.K. government, which also includes two other atomic projects known as Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C. CGN has a 33.5 percent stake in the Hinkley venture. “It’s a landmark event for CGN and for China’s homemade Hualong One technology,” Yan Shi, a Shanghai-based analyst at UOB-Kay Hian Holdings Ltd., said by phone. “The U.K. has one of the most rigid, if not the most rigid, nuclear power technology review regimes in the world, and passing that could pave the way for CGN to export Hualong One to almost any market.”

Telegraph:  UK coal power falls to record low

Coal accounted for just under 6pc of electricity generation in the three months to June, down from more than 20pc in the same period of 2015, the latest Government figures show. Gas increased from just under 30pc to more than 45pc in the same period, representing “a large switch in generation from coal to gas, which will have reduced carbon dioxide emissions”, according to the latest statistical bulletin. The figures highlight the dramatic decline of the fuel that was the dominant source of electricity in the UK as recently as 2013. The combination of European environmental rules, the UK carbon tax and the fall in gas prices have together seen coal rapidly fall from the generation mix as some plants close and others are not profitable to run for large parts of the year. “Coal fired generation fell by 71pc from 15.9 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2015 Q2 to 4.6 TWh in 2016 Q2, due to reduced capacity caused by the closure of Ferrybridge C and Longannet and the conversion of a unit at Drax from coal to biomass during the previous year,” the Government said. The share of coal generation seen in the second quarter was by far the lowest since the records began in 1998, and likely for far longer. In May, Britain experienced its first periods of zero coal generation since the era of centralised electricity generation began in the 19th century.

BBC:   North Sea oil: Falling off the cycle?

The global oil and gas industry will recover. That’s for sure. The speed at which it does so partly depends on the informal meeting of the OPEC cartel in Algeria this week. What is less clear is whether the UK’s offshore oil industry will recover to anything like its previous position. The latest assessment from the industry makes for some good news. Production is up for a second year. It has adapted to the downturn by slashing the unit cost of producing the average barrel of oil from British waters, down from $29 to $16. That’s expected to level out at $14 or $15. That decline has come at a high price in terms of jobs, and the pay and conditions of those still in work. But in the boom and bust cycle of this industry, cost-cutting was essential if capital funds were to continue to flow. However, they aren’t flowing fast enough to maintain the momentum the industry needs. Among many startling figures in the Oil and Gas UK economic report, one stand-out is the decline in committed investment from £4.3 billion last year to £100m this year. Companies have been re-classifying their reserves, removing billions of barrels from recoverable status. So, remember the Scottish independence referendum campaign claim of 24 billion barrels of oil? That was the oft-cited figure for what remained to be extracted from the waters around an independent Scotland. Well, where does that stand now?

Herald Scotland:  Ineos chief reacts after SNP ministers snub landmark shale gas arrival

Billionaire Ineos chief Jim Ratcliffe has challenged Nicola Sturgeon to cross the Atlantic to witness the benefits of fracking as the first ever shipment of US shale gas arrived in Scotland. The chairman and founder of the chemicals giant, which owns the Grangemouth industrial complex, also suggested the SNP is pandering to a “vocal minority” by refusing to back his plans to begin fracking in the central belt and expressed “disappointment” at SNP ministers for snubbing his celebration of a project he said would secure 10,000 jobs. The first of what will become weekly shipments of shale gas, extracted in Pennsylvania, arrived in the Firth of Forth yesterday and the industrialist insisted fracking had prevented Grangemouth, which is vital to the Scottish economy and infrastructure, from closing down. The Scottish Government faced criticism refusing to send a minister to represent it at the event to mark the new shale gas supply line, despite its agency Scottish Enterprise handing Ineos £9 million to help it with its plans. The Government has blamed “previous diary commitments” but it is understood several SNP ministers were invited around three weeks ago. The Scottish Tories said the failure of ministers to turn up following Ineos’s £1.5 billion investment was “infantile” and “insulting”. Asked why his message about the economic benefits of fracking weren’t getting through to the Government, Mr Ratcliffe said “I don’t know”. He then added: “I think it’s all about the vocal minority, and there’s no science behind the arguments the vocal minority are making.”

Guardian:  Brexit could trigger UK departure from Euratom

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU could also force it to exit the Euratom Treaty on nuclear energy, ENDS has learned. The Euratom Treaty, which applies to all EU member states, seeks to promote nuclear safety standards, investment and research within the bloc. Although it is governed by EU institutions, it has retained a separate legal identity since its adoption in 1957. Brian Curtis, a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), told ENDS that his Committee had recently consulted the European Commission on whether Brexit would automatically lead to a UK exit of Euratom. Curtis said the Commission had responded affirmatively, arguing that the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) applies to the Euratom Treaty under article 106 of the latter agreement. This would mean, it said, that the reference to ‘Union’ in TEU’s article 50 – which needs to be invoked by member states wishing to quit the bloc – would apply not only to the EU itself but to Euratom membership as well. According to EESC, a Euratom withdrawal by the UK – which recently approved the controversial £18bn Hinkley C project – could have major strategic implications for the EU nuclear sector. “But anticipating specific outcomes at this stage is problematic,” the Committee added.

Mashable:  Exxon’s climate change-related legal woes are mounting by the day

In addition to investigations by several state attorneys general and a separate inquiry on the part of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a new lawsuit filed in federal court on Thursday by a Massachusetts-based environmental group alleges the oil and gas giant has failed to take climate science research (including its own data) into account in operating an oil facility in the Boston area. The suit, filed by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), is significant because it is the first to allege that a private company is violating the Clean Water Act and hazardous waste laws by failing to adequately prepare for climate change impacts such as sea level rise and stormwater runoff from increased instances of heavy rainfall events. This case could also open the floodgates for more litigation against Exxon and the many other oil and gas companies that operate low-lying coastal facilities. According to the suit — filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts — the Exxon facility in Everett, Massachusetts, just to the northwest of Boston, has a stormwater drainage system that is easily overrun during extreme precipitation events, which are becoming more frequent due to climate change. The suit contends that climate change-fed heavy rainfall is flooding the facility, which emits harmful contaminants into a tributary of the Mystic River in violation of the facility’s permit.

New York Times:  Pricing the Risks of Climate Change

Some companies, including Exxon Mobil, say the economics of climate change are too hard to predict for them to give investors hard numbers about the business impact of global warming. Federal regulators may disagree and are considering requiring Exxon to do just that for the value of its oil reserves. Now a long-shot legislative effort by a Florida congressman to prevent such a move by the federal government has become an unexpected flash point in the battle over disclosing climate-related risks — with potentially hundreds of billions of dollars in the balance. The congressional measure, an amendment to an appropriations bill, originally introduced in July by Representative Bill Posey, a Florida Republican, has been picked up in the Senate version of the legislation. Because the bill is tied up in a partisan debate over spending, there is no certainty the amendment will pass. But at a time when many Republicans dispute the very notion of climate change, the Posey measure has focused the debate over whether it is reasonable — or even possible — to expect companies to put a price tag on the environmental impact of climate change. The issue is not limited to Exxon and oil companies. The Posey amendment would allow real estate companies to stay mum on the risks posed to waterfront properties by rising seas, for example, and let food companies leave the impact of future water shortages unaddressed.

Power Magazine:  Magical Thinking about Energy Storage

Topping the list for the renewables enthusiasts is the hype over electricity storage. Without economical storage, wind and solar can’t carry the load. Today, only two realistic ways to store electricity exist outside of large coal piles, oil farms, and natural gas caverns: pumped storage and batteries. Neither are low-cost; batteries today are prohibitively expensive. Pumped storage can work in limited circumstances. But the renewables community focuses mostly on batteries, as anything associated with hydro is tref. Their love of yet-unknown battery technology rests on predictions technology breakthroughs and the role of government. The current leader of the pack is lithium-ion batteries, which first showed up about 1991 to power laptop computers and cell phones. Lithium ion technology isn’t sufficient to transform the electric sector, as Tesla has acknowledged, addressing the idea among some advocates that used Li-ion car batteries could be used to support the grid. Among the troubles facing Li-ion technology is that they degrade, even when not used; deep discharge can kill the battery; and they can generate enough heat to catch fire or explode. Lots of effort is aimed at finding a successor to the Li-ion battery, including a decades’ old Department of Energy spawned program called the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium, dating back to the Bill Clinton administration. Industry and government have been looking for an acceptable battery for a hundred years. So far, not much progress toward a commercial product. The U.K.’s Daily Reckoning web magazine recently reported, “Researchers have been trying to come up with better batteries for decades. Every May for the last nine years, the US Department of Energy hosts a symposium on the topic called “Beyond Lithium-Ion”. It’s telling that the name hasn’t changed.”

Phys.Org:  Reservoirs play substantial role in global warming

Washington State University researchers say the world’s reservoirs are an underappreciated source of greenhouse gases, producing the equivalent of roughly 1 gigaton of carbon dioxide a year, or 1.3 percent of all greenhouse gases produced by humans. That’s more greenhouse gas production than all of Canada. Writing in next week’s journal BioScience, the WSU researchers say reservoirs are a particularly important source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the course of a century. Reservoir methane production is comparable to rice paddies or biomass burning, both of which are included in emission estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The researchers acknowledge that reservoirs provide important services like electrical power, flood control, navigation and water. But reservoirs have also altered the dynamics of river ecosystems, impacting fish and other life forms. Only lately have researchers started to look at reservoirs’ impact on greenhouse gases. “While reservoirs are often thought of as ‘green’ or carbon neutral sources of energy, a growing body of work has documented their role as greenhouse gas sources,” Deemer, Harrison and their colleagues write. Unlike natural water bodies, reservoirs tend to have flooded large amounts of organic matter that produce carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide as they decompose. Reservoirs also receive a lot of organic matter and “nutrients” like nitrogen and phosphorous from upstream rivers, which can further stimulate greenhouse gas production.

National Geographic:  Global Warming Is Real—But 13 Degrees? Not So Fast

New research suggesting that the planet might already be committed to vastly greater warming than previously thought is being dismissed as deeply flawed by prominent climate scientists. A study published today in one of the world’s top science journals, Nature, offers the most complete reconstruction to date of global sea-surface temperatures for the past two million years—a valuable addition to the climate record, scientists say. But the conclusions the study’s author drew from that research—that even preventing any further increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could still leave the Earth doomed to a catastrophic temperature rise of up to 7 degrees Celsius (about 13 degrees Fahrenheit)—isn’t supported by the data, several top scientists said. “This is simply wrong,” said Gavin Schmidt, chief of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The study’s author, a former postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, said she wasn’t attempting to offer a detailed climate forecast. But she examined the past’s tight link between sea-surface temperature changes and natural releases of carbon dioxide and tried to show what that might imply for the future. Her result: an alarming 3 to 7 degree Celsius temperature rise by several thousand years from now, even if fossil fuel emissions were capped today. “We do find this close relationship between temperature and greenhouse gases that is remarkably stable, and what the study is developing is the coupling factor between the two,” said Carolyn Snyder, who now works on climate issues for the Environmental Protection Agency.

American Meteorological Society:  Atmosfear: Communicating the Effects of Climate Change on Extreme Weather

The potential and serious effects of anthropogenic climate change are often communicated through the soundbite that anthropogenic climate change will produce more extreme weather. This soundbite has become popular with scientists and the media to get the public and governments to act against further increases in global temperature and their associated effects through the communication of scary scenarios, what we term “atmosfear.” Underlying atmosfear’s appeal, however, are four premises. First, atmosfear reduces the complexity of climate change to an identifiable target in the form of anthropogenically forced weather extremes. Second, anthropogenically driven weather extremes mandate a responsibility to act to protect the planet and society from harmful and increased risk. Third, achieving these ethical goals is predicated on emissions policies. Fourth, the end-result of these policies—a non-anthropogenic climate—is assumed to be more benign than an anthropogenically influenced one. Atmosfear oversimplifies and misstates the true state of the science and policy concerns in three ways. First, weather extremes are only one of the predicted effects of climate change and are best addressed by measures other than emission policies. Second, a pre-industrial climate may remain a policy goal, but is unachievable in reality. Third, the damages caused by any anthropogenically driven extremes may be overshadowed by the damages caused by increased exposure and vulnerability to the future risk. In reality, recent increases in damages and losses due to extreme weather events are due to societal factors. Thus, invoking atmosfear through such approaches as attribution science is not an effective means of either stimulating or legitimizing climate policies.

Breitbart:  The Polar Ocean Challenge expedition escapes from the Arctic by the skin of its teeth

(The expedition) was supposed to show how amazingly navigable the Arctic Circle has become now that climate change is supposedly melting the polar ice caps at a dangerous and unprecedented rate. But according to one observer who has followed their progress closely (see comments at Paul Homewood‘s place), the intrepid explorers – including a 14-year-old boy – came within just two days of calamity, after being hampered by unexpectedly large quantities of a mysterious substance apparently made of frozen water. You’d never have guessed this listening to the expedition leader David Hempleman-Adams on the BBC yesterday. Though he admitted the journey had been a close-run thing, he maintained heroically that all that extra ice he had encountered was not a sign that the climate alarmists had got their predictions wrong. “We’re not scientists. We weren’t collecting data. It’s wrong to suggest that this adventure will show that there’s less ice,” he explained – or rather tried to explain. “All we’re trying to do is to make people more aware of the hundreds of scientists doing good work who actually do show that.”

The good ship “Polar Ocean” meets the ice

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36 Responses to Blowout Week 144

  1. pyrrhus says:

    Magical thinking in the realm of energy seems to be the future of the World. I predict poor results, followed by a search for scapegoats…..

    • The four stages of a failed project are:

      1. Euphoria
      2. Disillusionment
      3. Search for the guilty
      4. Prosecution of the innocent

      I would say that as far as energy policy is concerned we are now somewhere between stage 1 and stage 2.

  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    There is much speculation in Australia about what caused the SA blackouts. The only certainty is that The Guardian is wrong.
    The strong low heading for SA was heralded by ‘worst storm for 50 years, worst since 1953 or 1948’ and warnings were issued about coming blackouts. This was the days before it hit. In practice the wind speeds weren’t as high as predicted, so the defenders of AGW have had to fall back on mini-tornadoes. These are blamed for all the 23 transmission tower collapses, yet at least one pictured in the local paper showed the tower had just overturned with the concrete footings (such as they were) pulled out of the wet ground.
    There is considerable discussion on JoNova which highlights the difficulty of finding the cause.
    (and the previous post).

    The points that should be made are that there was no blackout in 1948 or 1953 when there was no renewables push, and that this sort of blackout had been predicted for some years by various organisations.

    • Peter Lang says:

      If SA had still had its coal and gas plants operating it would not have been so dependent on imports from Victoria and NSW over the interstate connectors. Reliable power would have been supplying the grid at various places throughout the network. There would have been less disruption and faster recovery of power (not to everywhere throughout the state, but a lot less damage, especially to industry).

      • The scary think is that politicians in Victoria have learned nothing from the mishaps is both South Australia and Tasmania – two very different mishaps. Their hubris is as great as it ever was.

        Right now, they are closing down the largest coal-powered plant in Victoria – and they are busy congratulating themselves while reassuring everyone that the price of electricity will not rise or will rise by very little.

        “Hazelwood shutdown: Victoria’s dirtiest power station set to close early next year ”

        A little earlier, they were telling us that:

        “Coal is behind the attacks on wind turbines. It’s fighting for its life”

        Anyone who does not believe in the miraculous properties of wind turbines is a Luddite!

        Let me take a guess at what will happen sometime next year when the wind blows too hard (due to “Global Warming” no less). The interconnector from Victoria to South Australia will be switched off due to the urgent need to protect Victoria. If they are really lucky, the interconnector from Tasmania will not be down.

        Interesting times. 🙂

        • Greg Kaan says:

          The Age has become very pro-renewable so all their stories are heavily biased towards renewables and against coal.

          If they do try to shut Hazelwood down without replacement (which is sorely needed), South Australia will feel the effects more than any other state as the Heywood interconnector is unlikely to be able to supply the amounts that it does at present. Last Wednesday’s blackout will become a semi-regular event

          Victoria will be able to purchase electricity from NSW black coal plants (probably paying a high premium) and the Portland smelter will be gone, reducing demand.

          But hopefully,our state government will be forced to face reality and prevent the closure of Hazelwood, possibly with capacity payments.

          All the media and political discussion about batteries just demonstrates the ignorance and mathematical illiteracy that abounds.

          I am writing another letter to the Energy Minister at this very moment.

      • OpenSourceElectricity says:

        …. And those conventional power plants would have magically tansfered their power threw collapes power lines…..

        Or how would they have sent their power to the grid???

        • Greg Kaan says:

          The gas baseload power plants I mentioned are on the Adelaide side of the pylon failures.

          No magic required.

    • “South Australia’s blackout apparently ‘triggered by the violent fluctuations from the Snowtown wind farms’”

      • Greg Kaan says:

        That’s absurd. Snowtown was behaving oddly but was offline at the time of the grid collapse and is only 100 MW in any case.

        The trigger for the blackout doesn’t really matter – in wild weather, you will get short circuits and power surges. The issue is that there was relatively little thermal generator capacity online at the time so that there was not enough electrical inertia (synchronous inertia is the term that power engineers use) to absorb the shocks. In a stable grid main grid would stay up while the sections where surges and shorts occurred would be isolated and blacked out.

  3. Joe Public says:

    South Australia outage – graphic representation:

    Top right, above chart, select MW

    Bottom row of check-boxes – untick all except SA1

    Above & to right of ‘SA1’, untick ‘Total’

    Rud Istvan has a comment over at NaLoPKT

    “Paul, grid engineer TonyfromOz explained SA at JoNova’s. The key is your figure with the ‘instantaneous’ wind drop to zero. Wind turbines are asynchronous (they do not supply grid inertia). They rely on the rest of the grid’s inertia (synchronous spinning generators and reactive power synchronous condensers [essentially undriven spinning generator equivalents]) to maintain frequency by relying literally on the inertia of spinning generator momentum. The SA blackout was a classic rapid cascade. Some wind started to drop out as blades were feathered due to high wind speed. That is the drop in wind just before the fall to zero.The remaining system grid supply was insufficient for demand. It overloaded a little. That causes a voltage sag, which causes a frequency sag. (The common term is brownout). The system is designed to trip generators off line to protect them from physical damage when this fluctuation goes beyond design limits. So all the wind units then tripped off fairly ‘simultaneously’ to protect themselves electrically. As that process occurred, the rapidly growing overload would have also caused the interconnectors to trip off to protect the coal generators in Victoria. So SA went completely dark. Had SA had sufficient large spinning baseload generators, this would not have happened. But SA shut them all.”

    • Willem Post says:


      This was predictable, due to excessive reliance on variable, asynchronous, WEATHER DEPENDENT, energy sources, such as wind and solar, and not having enough synchronous base load for grid stability.

      If a cloud front had moved over large solar fields, output would have become near zero.

      Germany is having the same problem, but is saved from the worst, by exporting to nearby grids and feathering blades.

      During high wind periods, Germany has excess energy production, which it exports to the grids of nearby countries to make its wind energy work, but that likely will become less of an option in the future.

      Without those safety valves, there would be mayhem all over Germany, during very windy periods, and a lot less crowing about Germany being an RE leader….

      Germany’s energy exports have run into some roadblocks. France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Poland have installed phase shifting transformers, PSTs, to protect their grids from unwanted, grid-disturbing surges of German energy exports, and it’s only 2016. This implies, Germany will need to increase curtailments of wind and solar energy, as a near-term fix.

    • Greg Kaan says:

      Anton should be pleased that Rud has upgraded him to a grid engineer.

      In any case Rud’s explanation is not the cause of the grid collapse – if it was, you would have seen the wind farm total output rolloff, gradually at first before plummeting and then collapse. Instead the wind farm total output bounced around for a few hours before the grid collapsed with no telltale in the behaviour in any of the wind farms. It is this that allowed the AEMO and ElectraNet (the grid operator) to issue statments that the blackout was a weather event and that renewables were not at fault

      The issue was that there was relatively little thermal generator capacity online at the time so that there was not enough electrical inertia (synchronous inertia is the term that power engineers use) to absorb the shocks. In a stable grid main grid would stay up while the sections where surges and shorts occurred would be isolated and blacked out.

      The reason there was so little thermal generator capacity online (only the 4 x 200 MW Torrens B generators were up) is that the relatively high wind farm output meant the pricing was too low for the other baseload generators (Torrens A 4 x 120 MW, Pelican Point CCGT 478 MW) to reach their bid thresholds so without capacity payments, there was no economic incentive for them to be running, even as spinning reserve. Note: all 3 of these power stations are located close to Adelaide. There was also 260 MW of peaking plant online (Ladbrokes and Hallett).

      Since almost all of the wind turbines installed in Australia are now doubly fed (Type 3) or full converter (Type 4) and do not have synthetic inertia circuits, the 1580 MW of wind capacity in South Australia provides ZERO synchronous inertia for grid stabilisation.

      I am confident that the final analysis will show the pylon collapses in the region northwest of Adelaide created a large short circuit which caused the grid frequency to drop (because the Torrens B generators alone did not provide enough synchronous inertia to maintain the grid frequency in the face of the sudden current surge). This tripped the Heywood interconnector (else the power rating for this would have been exceeded), leaving South Australia as an island grid.At this point the South Australian demand would have greatly exceeded the amount being generated and without much synchronous inertia, there was not enough time to allow for ramping nor demand shedding to take place before the generator units tripped and the grid collapsed.

      So the renewables did not cause the blackout directly but their effects on the South Australian grid operations are what led to the conditions where the grid stability was inadequate. In the past, there would have been large blacked out portions of South Australia but the whole grid would not have gone down. Pylon collapses in one region should not result in a statewide blackout.

      • Joe Public says:

        Thanks for the additional info.

        Unsure whether this sheds light on the situation – looking (closely) at the blue-sky section of the image “Transmission tower knocked over in Mid North South Australia” shows (its) transmission lines not pulled down.

        This leads to wondering how many of the other reported downed towers didn’t pull down their transmission lines.

        • Greg Kaan says:

          There are 2 different types of transmission tower – strain towers and support towers.

          Support towers are lightly built and basically will only hold the cables at the designated height above ground. If the cables one side are untensioned, they will fall over. They are the most commonly used tower for a transmission link.

          Strain towers are much more strongly built (and hence expensive) and will stand unsupported even if the cables on one side are untensioned. They are used at corners of direction changes and at intervals as deemed appropriate amongst the support towers.

          In any case, it should not affect things either way. The media and renewables lobbies are trying to make an issue of the fallen towers/pylons – it’s an attempt to distract from the underlying issues caused by renewables and their subsidies.

  4. John F. Hultquist says:

    The typhoon turbine is an “omni-directional vertical-axis wind turbine” — search using that and you can see many examples. I think they develop vibrations (jostling forces?) and haven’t worked as well in the real world as they do on paper. The type name seems to be Darrieus.
    One was built about 15 miles away from me 30 years ago but the company had legal issues and went out of business about the time construction was completed. I don’t think it ever worked, but it still stands, now near the more common and much larger 3 blade type.

    • climanrecon says:

      Some of those were installed at the sailing marina near me, they turned very rapidly for a few years, making a lot of noise, but are no longer being used, maybe broken, maybe not worth the cost of maintenance, maybe people complained about the noise.

    • Greg Kaan says:

      The only relevant part of this story is the sentence

      Even if Shimizu and his team figure out how to catch all the energy from a typhoon, current battery technology might not even be capable of storing it.

      Except “might not” should be “will not”

  5. mark4asp says:

    On reservoirs as a source of greenhouse gas. The article said:
    “methane, a greenhouse gas that is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the course of a century”

    In fact, methane has the shortest atmospheric lifetime of any common GHG. Between 8½ to 12 years. : So I don’t know why they are calculating it “over the course of a century”.

    PS: The lifetime of a greenhouse gas refers to the approximate amount of time it would take for the anthropogenic increment to an atmospheric pollutant concentration to return to its natural level as a result of either being converted to another chemical compound or being taken out of the atmosphere via a sink.

  6. The Dork of Cork says:

    The biggest story of the lot is the near 50 % increase of Uk gas consumption in the electricity transformation sector which accounts for approx half of total Uk gas consumption.
    The deliberate failure of the biomass project to supply sufficient power , which is a classic inflationary industrial sabotage project.
    This waste of gas then subsequently drives further waste via the beginning of the North Atlantic LNG transport waste engine…

    The goal of Uk energy policy is entirely financial, that is to drive up costs.
    It has nothing to do with the physical input / output system.
    Certainly with Lng most of the energy will be wasted in transmission and Transformation.
    But people fail to get it for some funny reason.
    Waste is the central policy objective.

    • RDG says:

      What do you mean by:

      “It has nothing to do with the physical input / output system.”

      and what is to be gained financially by driving up costs?

  7. Alex says:

    Hilary tales the nuclear option: Sounds good, and I also hear that Terrestrial has applied for a $800-1.2 billion US Government loan guarantee which would enable them to build a MSR prototype.

    It may be that the US will want to get back its lead in nuclear technology.

    • mark4asp says:

      He has the true believer’s faith in a cheap “energy storage revolution” too. I don’t believe you AE-P!

      “For the first time in my life, I realized that what you read in the papers is not true, and this quite shocked me. I started writing from a different point of view, and I found myself very quickly in a big dispute with my colleagues, and it never ended.” — AE-P writing about the Sandinistas in 1997.

  8. robertok06 says:


    this one should be added to the blowout, or the one for next week:

    … another foolish attempt to justify an irrational, ideologically-motivated, “move” to renewable energy to replace 100% of the primary energy needs of mankind by the end of the century.

    It’s so fully of s**t that I don’t even know where to start debunking it.


  9. Greg Kaan says:

    AEMO preliminary report for the South Australian blackout last week. I don’t know how they could state that it was purely a “weather event”

    • Greg Kaan says:

      Note the speed at which the events took place on page 10 in table 3. There was no time for load/demand shedding to save South Australia’s grid after the Heywood interconnector tripped as it only took half a second from there for the generators to trip and only 7 seconds from the first batch of wind farms that tripped.

      And there was even less synchronous inertia online than I had supposed – only 3 of the 4 Torrens B units were online so only 860 MW of synchronous generators, not 1060 (table 1, page 8).

  10. Thinkstoomuch says:

    A news item that relates to the recent comments about Electric Vehicles and their future numbers from the EIA.

    In 2040 the EIA is projecting that out of close to 300 million light duty vehicles a little over 6 million will be electric. Going by the first graphic.

    Granted the article is about state government’s distorting the market and it is trusting the EIA to do the numbers (hat tip to Roger) but …

    Interesting to me anyway,

  11. Greg Kaan says:

    My letter to The Minister For Energy and The Environment on the weekend following the South Australian blackout. This was written prior to the release of the AEMO preliminary report.

    Dear Sir

    Thankyou for sending me a response to my comment from the 23rd of July this year. I hope you will re-evaluate its content in light of the recent blackout in South Australia. Unfortunately, in the interest of keeping my comment straightforward, I simplified the South Australian situation to what I believed would be the most likely cause for a statewide blackout. I had thought that the blackout would probably occur this summer when low production and high demand are likely so I focused on the possibility of a generation shortfall. As such, I neglected to outline the other effects of the high penetration of renewable energy sources that can compromise a grid’s stability. These other effects manifested themselves with the surges and short circuits that are inevitable during a period of wild weather.

    The renewables lobby and their allies in The Greens party will focus on the loss of transmission from the northwest of Adelaide. They are rightfully pointing out that this is the region from where the now closed Northern and Playford coal powered stations were located so that even if these stations were still operating, their capacity would still have been lost during Wednesday’s storm.

    What they either fail to realise or else wish to conceal is that the vast majority of South Australia’s remaining thermal generation capacity is now concentrated around Adelaide itself. This includes all of the base load generators – the Torrens A and B stations with their gas boiler powered generators and the Pelican Point combined cycle gas turbine powered generator.

    Past practice for stormy conditions would have been for almost all of these base load generators to be online not only to supplement the output of the Northern and Playford stations but to be available in the unlikely but possible event that the northwest transmission link to the coal stations was lost. Examination of the AEMO generation data shows that only the Torrens B station was online at the time of the blackout with the consequences outlined below.

    The combined generating capacity of the Torrens A & B and Pelican Point power stations is 1758 MW while Torrens B by itself at 800 MW makes up less than half of that total (the actual breakup up of generation capacity is Torrens A: 4 x 120 MW, Torrens B: 4 x 200 MW, Pelican Point: 478 MW). In addition, the Ladbroke and Hallett peaking plants were online, adding another 260 MW of generation capacity. Why the amount of generator capacity online is important requires some basic power engineering knowledge.

    As with all traditional power stations, the generators can be regarded as extremely large and heavy three phase versions of car alternators driven by large and heavy turbines. All these spin at a speed locked to the grid frequency and at the same voltage phase (the peaks and dips all occur at the same time). The generators output at a fixed voltage so any variation in power output is through change in current – if demand increases, more current must be output by the generators and if demand decreases, then current must also decrease. This is in accordance with Ohms Law which states Power = Volts x Amps. With some types of load (eg induction motors), some of the current flow is not directly related to the power being generated due to the overall current being delivered slightly later than the voltage. To simplify things, this component (termed reactive power and current) will be ignored as it does not directly affect the grid behaviour which led to the blackout.

    The generators are turned by the turbines and the power delivered by the turbine is the torque by the rotation rate – this is the same relationship as for car engines where Power = Torque x RPM. Essentially, because generators are run at a fixed RPM, the torque needed to turn the generator is directly related to the current flowing through the generator – the current produces a braking torque in the generator that matches off against the driving torque of the turbine.

    In a perfect world, the power plant operators would know exactly what the demand (current requirement) is and would adjust the power driving the generator to keep the RPM constant by burning more or less fuel to drive the turbine harder or more gently. In the real world, the demand will change and if it increases, since the power turning the generator has not then the current flow increase will cause the generator to slow down, reducing frequency, since torque required must increase – RPM = Power / Torque. The plant operator and systems will then react to the slowing down by increasing the power of the turbine to bring the speed back up. If demand falls, then the generator will speed up, increasing frequency, and the turbine power must be decreased.

    Since all the power plant generators connected to a grid run at a speed locked to the grid frequency, they will all slow down or speed up together causing the grid frequency to change. Normally, a baseload plant will have its generators run at a specified power level while peaking plants alter their power output to keep the grid frequency as close as possible to that specified (50 Hz in Australia). If a peaking plant is driven too hard, however, it pull out of phase from the grid in which case protection circuits isolate that generator from the grid and it no longer supplies power.

    Now being large, heavy assemblies, the turbine and generator units have a significant amount of rotational inertia – they will want to keep spinning at the current speed if either the demand or turbine power changes – which provides frequency (synchronous) inertia. This is the basis for a stable grid in the face of power surges or short circuits. With multiple large generators online, the effect is that of a very large generator with the synchronous inertia being the total of the online units.

    If there is a short circuit from a branch falling across power lines or a pylon collapse, the larger the amount of synchronous inertia, the smaller the frequency drop that will occur. Or if there is a surge from a lightning strike, then the larger the amount of synchronous inertia, the smaller the frequency rise. The danger of having a low amount of synchronous inertia is that in the event of a short circuit or a surge, the grid frequency can change by an amount large enough, before the fault is isolated, for some generators to fall out of synchronization with the grid. As with the peaking plant example, protection circuits will isolate the unsynchronised generator which further reduces the grid’s synchronous inertia. This can quickly lead to a cascading condition which results in a grid collapsing. In the worst cases, the generators will fall offline before the cause of the fault is isolated, making recovery more difficult.

    The wind turbines that have been installed in Australia are almost all of types that supply power through electronics and provide absolutely no synchronous inertia at all (additional circuitry is available for some models to provide a small amount of synthetic inertia ). This meant that during Wednesday’s event, there was only the 1060 MW of generation capacity providing synchronous inertia to stabilise the South Australian grid.

    We know that the Heywood interconnector disconnected from the South Australian grid due to an “under frequency event”. This was probably due to a massive short circuit from the pylon failure near Port Augusta causing the Torrens B units (and peaking plants) to slow. From there, the isolation of the South Australian grid meant that demand was far greater than the amount being generated causing the cascading generator disconnections. The wind farms would have also disconnected due to overloading.

    The fact that pylons collapsed on Wednesday is unfortunate. Such events ensured that there would have been blacked out portions within the South Australian grid. What should not have happened is the total state blackout. The lack of baseload generators running in the Adelaide region is a direct consequence of the pricing subsidies via PPA’s and REC’s that made them uneconomic to be running. With more than half of the baseload generators offline, there was not enough synchronous generation to stabilise the grid long enough for the protection mechanisms to isolate the faults, controlled demand shedding (selective blackouts) nor generator ramping to cover the loss of the Heywood interconnector.

    The irony of the statements by the AEMO and Electranet that the blackout was a weather event and not caused by renewables is that their joint report from February on South Australia warns against this type of situation and the consequences.

    The renewables lobby and The Greens are already dreaming up excuses as to why renewables were not connected with the blackout and how further renewable and battery deployment would have prevented it. This is all spin as the amounts of electricity storage (the only thing that could possibly have helped) required is not realistic, either technically nor economically. Please pursue the investigation to provide the underlying causes made the blackout possible and not just the trigger event that caused the blackout itself.

    Yours Respectfully
    Greg Kaan

    • Greg Kaan says:

      Following the release of the AEMO preliminary report, I sent another letter to the Minister based on the event sequence in table 3 on page 10 plus some of the other sections.

      My interpretation of events also takes into consideration the generation levels from the South Australian wind farms and thermal generators preceding the blackout
      I also looked at the interconnector flows preceding the blackout from the AEMO archives but the time resolution is far better in the preliminary report.

      The rule change request that I mention is detailed in the ABC article below

      Dear Sir

      First of all, please accept my apology for the error in my diagnosis of the South Australian blackout cause in my previous comment on Sunday. I had based my diagnosis from the statement by the Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill, that he had been advised by the head of the AEMO that the blackout was wholly a weather event with no contribution from renewable generation.

      The preliminary report on the blackout which was released by the AEMO today now shows that wind farms were directly involved in the sequence of events that led to the blackout. This is of even more concern as it demonstrates that the wind farms are not only incapable of providing stability support for a grid but are unstable themselves in the face of grid disrupting events such as short circuits and power surges. The extremely short time interval between the wind farms falling offline and the loss of the Hazelwood Interconnector shows why the South Australian grid operators, ElectraNet, had no chance to shed demand as the events unfolded. This is why synchronous inertia is so important – the grid operators need that margin of stability in order to put emergency procedures into effect so that a blackout can be limited rather than statewide.

      The rule changes requested in July by the South Australian Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Tom Koutsantonis, to limit flow on the Heywood lnterconnector based on the amount of online inertia available in South Australia, indicates that the situation was fully appreciated by the South Australian government. The statements by the South Australian government since the blackout indicate a disturbing level of denial .

      Again, I implore you to pursue the investigation to provide the underlying causes made the blackout possible and not just the trigger event that caused the blackout itself.

      Yours Respectfully

      Greg Kaan

      • mark4asp says:

        Wind also needs more transmission lines because wind farms are many, with more possible points of failure. Queensland has worse storms than South Australia but does not seem to suffer problems like this. I would not be surprised if corners were cut building the transmission connecting SA’s new wind farms. That might explain why so many towers fell over with such ease. Just something to look for, that my naturally suspicious mind might seek out were I investigating this farce.

      • Peter Lang says:


        Two excellent, well written letters. Thank you for posting them. I hope you can get them posted in MSM as an opinion piece. They would be valuable as public education.

        Is there some way I can contact you?

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