Poor Technology Choice Matters

I am often told that it is not the responsibility of the UK Government to decide which Energy Technologies are used.

That’s a bit limp. Some are better than others. Some are more efficient than others. Some plans for the deployment of technologies are better than others. Some use of technologies is wasteful by design.

If the Government leave all the decisions up to the private Energy suppliers and producers we will end up with the same mess we’ve always had : cheap, quick and dirty.

I want to share with you a little e-mail exchange that comes in the regular bulletin from the Claverton Energy Forum.

In order for you to be able to understand it, I need to give you a quick “acronym briefing” :-

Natural Gas : mostly Methane, chemical composition CH4. In its “natural” state also contains “ethane, propane, butanes, pentanes and higher molecular weight hydrocarbons, elemental sulfur, and sometimes helium and nitrogen” according to Wikipedia. Natural Gas is a gas, and vents quite naturally out of Oil wells and Coal beds, those great underground fermentation vats of hydrocarbons.

LNG : Liquified Natural Gas. You can’t build Natural Gas pipelines across all the Oceans. Think of the metal or plastic and the servicing, maintenance and repair required. How can you get Natural Gas from one place to another maybe a thousand miles or more away ? Freeze it until it becomes liquid. It takes up less space and is much less dangerous to transport. Put it in a cold ship and sail away.

re-gas, regas, regasification : Turning LNG back into gaseous Natural Gas. Requires heat, obviously. I mean you could just open the hold on the chilled storage and let Nature take its course, but that would take a bit too long. Besides which, you might need to take out some chemical nasties, pump up the pressure and feed it into the national grid of pipelines.

CHP : Combined Heat and Power, otherwise known as cogeneration, co-generation, co-gen, cogen and if Chilling is also done CCHP, trigeneratiion : burn your bog-standard fossil fuels in such equipment as to generate electrical power, but capture the heat (unlike in normal thermal power plant), and use the heat for other purposes, like chemistry, or heating through a local district heating grid. Very, very efficient use of energy.

GTL : Gas-To-Liquid, a giant chemistry set process to turn Natural Gas into liquid road vehicle fuel. Very energy intensive.

CCGT : Combined Cycle Gas Turbine : A two-stage generation method, making more use of the initial fuel energy : burn the Natural Gas in a normal gas turbine to create power, then use the heat created in the process to create power in a steam turbine.

EA : The UK Government Environment Agency.

CCW : The Countryside Council for Wales.

SAC : Special Area of Conservation.

EON : An energy company.

RWE : An energy company.

TWh : Terawatt hours, one trillion (10 to the power of 12), Watt hours. A lot of energy.

GW : Gigawatt : one billion (10 to the power of 9) Watts.

IOG : Isle of Grain : one of the many LNG import facilities in the United Kingdom


Note : this does not include the Corrib development at Rossport, County Mayo, Ireland, which is the subject of mass protest.


from: John Baldwin, CNG Services
to: Claverton Energy Forum

If you think LNG is bad they should look at GTL!

The EON CCGT/CHP at IOG comes on line shortly, this is very sensible, uses waste heat to gasify the LNG. All LNG importation terminals ought to have CCGT next door to use this heat.

Regards

John


from: Neil Crumpton Friends of the Earth Cymru (Wales) North
date: Wed, 22 Jul 2009
to: John Baldwin

John,

Friends of the Earth Cymru has campaigned for years to get CHP re-gas installed at the two new LNG terminals on the north side of Milford Haven. Instead Miliband recently consented RWE a 2 GW CCGT on the south side ! We estimate the annual loss of re-gas opportunity at around 5 TWh/y.

However the CCW and more recently the EA have been expressing concern about waste heat emissions to the enclosed Haven waterway which is a highly designated SAC ! We have suggested they put heat pipes under the waterway (next to the gas feed) which is about a mile wide and 2 miles to the Dragon terminal and 4 miles to the bigger South Hook terminal.

Ideally they should have not located within the Haven and used seawater re-gas as schemes in the US do – probably much safer too.

Neil


One thought on “Poor Technology Choice Matters”

  1. “If the Government leave all the decisions up to the private Energy suppliers and producers we will end up with the same mess we’ve always had : cheap, quick and dirty.”

    As opposed to those countries where the government decided what producers should do “for the general good”, which ended up with lovely clean, efficient, reliable energy (and consideration of environmental sustainability more generally)? You know, countries like the Soviet Union, Cuba, China…

    It’s not that markets are perfect, it’s just that history has shown that governments are even worse. It’s about the use of knowledge in society (see the famous article by Hayek: http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/hykKnw1.html ).

    If there are externalities, governments should modify the institutional framework to internalize the social costs (or benefits). And they should take stronger action to protect competitive markets from the market power of the Vertically-Integrated Large Energy (VILE) companies, rather than embedding their power with every intervention, as they currently do. But if they do those things, and get the interventions right, private energy suppliers will have every interest in delivering the optimum balance between cheap and clean energy, because that will provide the best returns on investment, just as dirty energy provided the best return on investment when the externalities (sulphur, carbon, etc) were undervalued.

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