Monday, September 29, 2014

Russia and Energy Stranglehold on Europe

Subtitle: Still Dumb to Drill Baby Drill in US

An article by Paul Driessen, senior policy analyst at CFACT, appears at  (see link), in which he makes several points directed at how EU nations and the US should change energy policies to reduce the Russians' grip over those EU countries.   

(side note:  I met Paul Driessen briefly at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, July 7-9, 2014, in Las Vegas, Nevada.  I cannot say I know the man well; it was just a very brief hello and exchange of cards.)

Some of what Mr. Driessen wrote in his Stranglehold article makes sense, and I agree with those points.   Other points are wrong, in my view.  

He is correct that Russia sells a great deal of natural gas to EU nations, and that Russia sometimes cuts off the gas flow.   He is also correct that EU nations could, and probably should, take steps to reduce reliance on Russian gas.  

His recommended steps are to import more gas from the US and other countries, and produce gas in their own countries.   What Mr. Driessen does not mention is that the US economy is enjoying a boom in engineering, process plant construction, and production of materials produced in those plants.  The economy, as bad as it is, would be much, much worse without the present supplies and low prices of feedstocks for those process plants - feedstocks that derive from production of natural gas.   Exporting natural gas to EU countries or elsewhere would increase the price of our domestic gas, and the light hydrocarbons that feed those chemical processing plants.    Therefore, it is not in the US' best interest to export natural gas to EU. 

I agree that other countries could, and should, produce their own reserves of natural gas.  The key process is precision directional drilling, not just hydraulic fracturing.   (see link for my article on France, natural gas, and the French nuclear industry). 

Next, Mr. Driessen argues that the US should increase drilling and production of oil from Federal lands.  This is an error, as I have written on and made speeches about (see link).  In my 2011 speech at Tulane Law School, New Orleans, Louisiana, I made the point that the US must conserve its oil resources against a future when other countries once again stop their oil exports to us, and we are in a prolonged and possibly world war.  All US presidents know that one of the reasons the Allies won World War II was the oil from the US.   This is indisputable, and is described in great detail in the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Prize by Daniel Yergin.    As I said in my speech at Tulane, 

". . . we must take the long view and not be short-sighted. It is critical that the US be prepared for that day when we will desperately need our domestic oil. That day when our foreign supplies are cut off yet again, and this time we are in a prolonged world war, similar to World War II. To meet that day, we must have oil in our own lands. Every president since Truman has known this to be true, and therefore have made so much of the USA offshore off-limits to drilling. The West Coast, East Coast, and eastern Gulf of Mexico are off-limits to drilling. Much of the on-shore lands are also off-limits, including the ANWR. We know the oil is there. We don’t need that oil right now. Preserving that oil for the future is critical, and that is why Drill, Baby, Drill is Dumb, Baby, Dumb."

Finally, Mr. Driessen opines that "the world is not going find safe, efficient, affordable, environment-friendly alternatives to oil, natural gas and coal in the next decade or so."   Yet, the renewable energy industries have already delivered wind and solar power that is producing valuable electric power.  The renewable energy field has ongoing reductions in production costs, as more efficient machines are made in both wind and solar arenas, better wind resources are tapped, economy of scale is applied, and grid-scale storage systems are deployed.   High prices for natural gas make the economics of renewable systems even better, therefore EU nations can look more and more to renewables.   The future will include not only wind and solar, but ocean currents will provide vast amounts of inexhaustible power with no need for storage.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2014 by Roger Sowell -- all rights reserved

Sunday, September 14, 2014

California Peaking in Power Demand in 2014

Subtitle:  Grid Is Peaking a Bit Late This Year

Watching the California grid operator, CAISO (California Independent System Operator) is part of keeping tabs on climate change.  After all, if the warmist-alarmists are correct, the climate is getting warmer due to increasing Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions.  The warmists are completely wrong, of course.  

This post is timely since there has been a fairly cool summer thus far in California, with the grid not being pushed much.  Today, however, the temperatures reached 106 F at 2:00 pm in downtown Los Angeles as measured at the campus of University of Southern California.  Weather forecasts are for more of the same for the next two days.  The normal temperature for this part of September is 83-84 F, with record temperatures 100 to 103 F set in 2012 and 1909.   The cause of the high temperatures is merely a stationary high pressure system.  Additional CO2 in the earth's atmosphere has nothing to do with it.  

The power grid peaked today at 41,540 MW per the CAISO website.  Their forecast for tomorrow is about 10 percent higher at 44,842 MW.   The weekend is almost always lower in demand than a weekday.  

For perspective, below are the peak demands for the past few years, again from CAISO:  (format from left to right in Year, MW demand, Month and Day, time of peak in hours and minutes; 16:00 is 4:00 pm)

1998 44,659 August 12 14:30
1999 45,884 July 12 16:52
2000 43,784 August 16 15:17
2001 41,419 August 7 16:17
2002 42,441 July 10 15:01
2003 42,689 July 17 15:22
2004 45,597 September 8 16:00
2005 45,431 July 20 15:22
2006 50,270 July 24 14:44
2007 48,615 August 31 15:27
2008 46,897 June 20 16:21
2009 46,042 September 3 16:17
2010 47,350 August 25 16:20
2011 45,545 September 7 16:30
2012 46,846 August 13 15:53
2013 45,097 June 28 16:54
2014 45,090 September 15 17:00  (estimated, to be confirmed)

The latest such peak day was September 8, in 2004.  If tomorrow (Monday) or Tuesday are the peak days, this will be the latest such peak for the past 17 years.  

The grid may be pushed a bit, since the San Onofre nuclear power plants are permanently offline since 2012 due to the radiation release caused by defective steam generators, but also from the lack of hydroelectric power during the ongoing drought.    The renewable generation in California includes solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and biogas.  Solar and wind are variable while the other three are very stable.   In the current heat wave, very little wind is blowing; the average for today (Sunday September 14) was approximately 1000 MW.   

The power to the grid, therefore, must either be provided by natural gas-fired power plants, the one remaining nuclear plant at Diablo Canyon, or imported if possible.  The state may also request load reductions from major users to ease the load.  

CAISO information on grid demand and supplies, including renewables, can be found at this link.

Update: 9/15/14, CAISO demand peaked at 45,090 MW today at approximately 17:00 hours.   This is the highest of the year, thus far.  Approximately 7,000 MW of this was provided by renewable energy: 4500 solar, 1000 wind, 900 geothermal, and the balance from small hydro, bio-mass and bio-gas.   - end update. 

Update:  9/17/14, the grid peak demand was lower today, at 43,757 MW at around 16:00 hours.  This reduced demand coincided with an increase in wind across the state, and wind-generated power.  The wind brings with it a cooling effect, reducing air conditioning loads.  The wind also produced approximately 2,800 MW of power.  Yet another benefit of wind-energy: cooling the atmosphere and thus reducing the load on the grid as it did today.  All the gas-fired plants were able to ease up a bit.   

The heat wave has ended, and cooler weather with lower grid demands will exist until sometime next summer.  -- end update

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California

Copyright (C) 2014 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Monday, September 1, 2014

Finland Nuclear Plant Delayed Yet Again

Subtitle: Four Year Construction Time More Than Tripled

The 1,600 MWe nuclear power plant under construction in Olkiluoto, Finland, is now delayed so much that first power production is not expected until sometime in 2018.  That is 9 years later than the original schedule, with a 13 year project construction time.  See link to the Finnish utility's website, TVO, and the announcement.  

This is yet more evidence that the nuclear power industry cannot deliver what they promise: the plant is not only years and years behind schedule, it is billions of Euros over budget.  

This plant has been the subject of previous SLB articles, see here, here, here, and here

This plant is designed for 1,600 MWe output, in an attempt to attain lower costs from economy of scale.  Larger plants can have lower production costs, and in many industries these economies are achieved.   But, with nuclear power plants, this does not seem to be the case.  Any economy of scale is surely obliterated by the increased financing costs on construction loans over a 13 year (2018-2005) construction period, plus escalations from inflation for materials, services, and labor.   These concepts are explored in some detail in Part Six of Truth About Nuclear Power (see link). 

The truth about the Finland reactor is that four more years are required, at least are now estimated as required, before startup.  Four years is a long time, and many more mistakes and problems can occur.  The plant may very well not see first production in 2018, but will likely be delayed much more.  

The reality is that, even after 50 years or more of design, development, actual experience, fine-tuning, and making best efforts around the world, nuclear power (as of 2011 per EIA statistics, see TANP part 11) provides only 11.7 percent of all power world-wide.   The only technologies smaller than nuclear’s share are oil (4.8 percent) and a catch-all category (4.5 percent) that includes wind, solar, geothermal, and various other renewable power.   One would expect that nuclear, if it were truly a superior technology economically and safe, would have easily surpassed coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric power (41, 22, and 16 percent approximately, respectively).

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California

Copyright (c) 2014 by Roger Sowell  -- All rights reserved