Sunday, February 7, 2016

Why Claim of 97 Percent Scientists is Wrong

Subtitle:  Consensus Does Not Make Wrong Science Right

The claim is often made, and by a great many people who don't know any better, that the science is settled because there is a 97 percent consensus among the scientists.   The "science" at issue here is global warming due to increasing amounts of man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.    The point appears to be that scientists looked into the global warming problem, carefully measured the available records, and published their findings over many years; those findings show (they say) that man's activities are definitely warming the globe's climate.  Finally, the climate scientists sounded the alarm, saying drastic measures must be taken right away to avert an impending catastrophe of melting polar ice caps and glaciers, rising seas, inundated shorelines, millions of displaced people, and a host of other calamities.   

Then, along came a group of skeptics who claimed that the science is not settled, there are serious problems with the way the scientists obtained the data, altered the data, falsified or made up data, analyzed the data, and wrote down conclusions that ignore contrary data.   

A poll was then taken, "how many of you scientists believe that global warming is happening?"  and supposedly 97 percent of the respondents agreed that it is.  

Those who believe the 97 percent number often draw the analogy to a sick person who sees a doctor.  If 97 percent of all the doctors tell you that you have an illness and need their treatment to be cured, would you believe them?   Would you take the chance that the other 3 percent are right, and go on your merry way? 

This article addresses the 97 percent of the doctors argument.   Disclosure:  I am fully aware that the climate science has serious flaws, with data included in the databases that should never have been included, with data that has been adjusted over and over and over yet again, with contrary data that shows no warming occurring is ignored, and many other problems as described below.  As a chemical engineer with 40 years (and counting) of world-wide experience both in operating companies and as a consultant, I have a great deal of knowledge and experience in data acquisition and analysis.  Chemical engineers do not have the luxury of using bad data, of falsifying data, of selecting only the data that proves our agenda.  We design, build, and operate the toxic, hazardous, flammable and explosive chemical plants and refineries.  If we use bad data, people die.  It is that simple.  

Here then, are some points against believing the 97 percent.

1.  The 97 percent publish in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.   Peer review, alone, does not guarantee scientific accuracy.  The sheer number of scientific findings that are wrong, are retracted, are shown to be false by subsequent studies shows that peer review and publication is no guarantee.   Indeed, there are hundreds upon hundreds of published, peer-reviewed articles that refute the claim of man-made global warming.  

2.   If the 97 percent of doctors kept revising their diagnosis every time you make a visit, would you feel confident in their conclusions?  The false-alarmists of climate science do exactly that, every few years re-adjust their findings and pronounce them as reliable, certain, and believable.  Then change it all again a few years later.  

3.  If you learned that the 97 percent of doctors will lose their jobs, lose their incomes if they don't diagnose you with the illness, would you feel confident?  That is precisely the situation with false-alarmist scientists, with great pressure to publish only the results that agree with the doctrine. 

4.  If you learned that the international governing medical association that is assigned to study the illness is biased toward one, and only one cause, would you feel confident?  That is also exactly what the false-alarmist scientists have, the IPCC that is assigned to study man-made global warming.  Not if there is any warming (or cooling), not what might possibly be causing climate change, but only the man-made aspect of warming.   

5.  If you learned that it is impossible to conduct more studies, instead the 97 percent doctors accept the corrupted data from the past, would you feel confident?  That is exactly the situation, with temperature data from the past (it's impossible to go back and measure it again).  Much of the past data is biased, impacted by buildings and parking lots, and is clearly wrong.  But, the scientists adjust it to what they want it to be and use it anyway. 

6.   If you learned that the 97 percent doctors realized the past data is corrupted, then started a new research program with modern instruments to accurately collect data on the illness, would you feel confident?  Especially if you learned that the new experiments will not yield valid results for approximately 100 years?  That is precisely where climate science is today, with the establishment 10 years ago (more or less) of the US Climate Research Network, USCRN, where temperatures are taken in hundreds of pristine locations across the US.   see link to "US In A Cooling Trend - Winters Much Colder"   and see link to USCRN Overview

7.  If you learned that the 97 percent doctors rely on truly awful data, with missing data simply made up, with known false data used to adjust good data so that it is virtually all bad data, would you feel confident? 

8.   If you learned that the 97 percent doctors have a predictive tool, and they predict future illness in their patients; but none of the patients show any symptoms, would you feel confident?   That is exactly where false-alarmist scientists are, having a multitude of predictive models that do not agree at all with actual measured temperatures.   see link to Dr. John Christy's testimony of 2 February, 2016, before Congress, Figure 1. . 

9.  If you learned the 97 percent number is false, that it is more like 2 percent, would you feel confident?  

10.  If you learned that the cure recommended by the 97 percent doctors will bankrupt you and all your descendants, would you feel confident?  

11.  Especially when you learn that the proposed cure will do absolutely nothing to treat or cure your symptoms, even if they eventually do manifest?

12.  And finally, if you learned that the illness the 97 percent doctors diagnosed cannot possibly be true because it violates fundamental laws of science and engineering, would you feel confident?  see link to "Chemical Engineer Takes On Global Warming"

Given all the above, twelve issues in all, how confident would a patient be in accepting the diagnosis from those 97 percent doctors?  Instead, would you as the patient be headed to report medical malpractice?

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

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Implications of Closing Aliso Canyon Gas Storage in California

Subtitle:  Gas Storage Critical to Averting Electricity Shortages

A few days ago (Feb 1st), three California regulatory agencies sent a joint letter to Governor Brown, stating their concern over electricity availability in Southern California this summer, and for continued natural gas supplies for the remainder of the winter.   This concern is certainly valid if the gas injections, storage, and withdrawals at Aliso Canyon are not allowed to resume.   The letter is shown below in its entirety.  The three agencies are California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, and California Independent System Operator, CEC, CPUC, and CAISO, respectively.  CAISO operates the major electricity grid in California.  

For context, there are calls from many sides to shut down the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility because one well is leaking gas into the air.  The gas leak stinks, to put it bluntly, because the gas is already odorized with the sulfur compound that smells like rotten eggs.  Thousands of local residents have been temporarily relocated at gas company expense to escape the stink and related health issues.   There are public meetings of various types to discuss the many aspects of the leak, when it will stop, and what different parties can or should do.  see link to an earlier SLB article on the gas leak. 

From the big picture perspective, California uses natural gas for a substantial part of its basic energy needs.  Gas is used for power generation and for home and commercial space heating.  Having a generally mild climate with some hot summer weather, the demand for gas peaks in the summer, not winter.   The local gas production, plus gas imported via pipelines are not sufficient to meet the peak demand.   Therefore, quantities of natural gas are stored during slack demand, and withdrawn from storage in peak demand.  This is a common practice across the US.   One of the favored storage means is abandoned oil or gas wells.  Aliso Canyon has the abandoned oil wells as the storage means.

The three agencies are responsible for ensuring that California has safe, reliable, and cost-effective utilities - both natural gas and electricity.  An unplanned shortage sometimes occurs, as is mentioned in their letter regarding the sudden shut down of the nuclear power plant in 2012 that is located at San Onofre, and known as SONGS for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.   Today, the issue is natural gas and the electricity that gas produces.  

A few years ago, an artificial shortage of natural gas was created in the El Paso Natural Gas Company fiasco, and California experienced electrical shortages, rolling blackouts, and outrageously high electricity prices.   Part of that fiasco was due to the untimely shutdown of a natural gas pipeline that brings natural gas to California from Texas. ( see link to a copy of the settlement agreement between El Paso Corp and various parties.  This describes some, but not all, of the activities that created the electricity shortage.)

In short, a looming electricity shortage in California is a big issue.  There is always suspicion that someone is manipulating the market to obtain windfall profits.   The El Paso case from above alleged the gas pipeline was shut down, or partially shut down so that gas shipments did not occur.  Ostensibly, the shut down was for needed repairs.  The FERC, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission got involved, and sternly questioned the timing of the repairs.  

The analogous situation today might be, and I emphasize this is only a possibility, that a gas shortage occurs, electrical power shortages result in the summer, and the suspicious parties bring lawsuits.  For one thing, a lawsuit can bring facts to light via discovery.  

However, if the three state agencies CEC, CPUC, and CAISO can resolve the issue before any critical shortages occur, there would be no need for the kind of litigation that the El Paso fiasco created.  

The electricity demand in California has not increased as the climate change alarmists warned, with ever-increasing hot summers due to man-made global warming.   Indeed, the peak demand for electricity (see table below) has been remarkably constant between 45,000 MW and 47,000 MW for the past 8 years.  The claim of "hottest year ever" must be the result of other places getting warmer; California certainly is not.  These peak demands are flat, even though the population is growing as always (25 percent over the past 8 years).  

YR    MW     Date   Time
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 45,089 September 15 16:53
2015 46,519 September 10 15:38

UPDATE 1:  The options the agencies may be considering include the following, and possibly others: 
1) repair and restore Aliso Canyon storage facility
2) increase storage capacity at other locations
3) import more natural gas when needed
4) produce more natural gas within state as needed
5) reduce the demand for natural gas during peak periods, i.e. summer hot days
6) find a replacement or substitute for natural gas
7) reduce the demand for electricity during peak periods

Each of the above options has ramifications.  
1) Repair and restoration of the Aliso Canyon storage facility is viable only if the leaking well is not a common occurrence.  However, if the oil formation underground has deteriorated, and other wells are likely to also leak, then repairs may be futile.  

2) Increasing the storage capacity at other locations may be possible given enough time, but must be studied carefully.  At least one other storage location is not far away at Playa del Rey near Santa Monica.  

3) Import more natural gas when needed may not be possible within the time available, that is, the hot summer when demand peaks in August and September.   Importing natural gas requires gas pipelines from other states, or an LNG import terminal.  Both are expensive, time-consuming, and have long environmental evaluations.  

4) Produce more natural gas within state as needed also requires more time.  It may be possible to obtain emergency drilling permits and drill now to bring in wells in the next few months.   Much is needed to accomplish this, including cleaning the raw natural gas to remove impurities.  

5) Reducing the demand for natural gas during peak periods, i.e. summer hot days, where the primary focus is gas-fired power plants.  There are not many ways to accomplish this, as the hydroelectric capability is low due to an extended drought, and solar power plants with adequate storage are not yet built in great number.   Wind energy without adequate storage is not sufficiently reliable. 

6) Finding  a replacement or substitute for natural gas has potential, but not in the short time-frame required.  Producing renewable forms of methane also is not a large-volume activity, such as methane from farm waste, and landfills.  One long-term solution is the conversion of human waste to synthetic methane, the patented process of Dr. Chan Park of University of California at Riverside.  Dr. Park's process produces pipeline-quality methane from the sludge from waste treatment plants, but it is not yet in commercial production.  see link to SLB coverage of this fascinating chemical engineering research. 

7) Reducing the demand for electricity during peak periods is last on the list, and will likely be the decision if all of the above fail.   California already has a program in place to encourage consumers to reduce electrical load (Flex Alerts), and gives financial incentives to many consumers to shut off their power during high-demand periods.   Demand can also be reduced via rolling blackouts, if needed.  

--end update 1. --- 

--- (Agencies joint letter to Governor Brown) ------

February 1, 2016

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown Jr.
State Capitol Building, 1st Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Brown:

Shaping a Renewed Future

The California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Independent System Operator are writing regarding the Emergency Proclamation you issued on January 6,2016, relating to the gas leak from the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. The Proclamation called on us to work together and "take all actions necessary to ensure the continued reliability of natural gas and electric supplies during the moratorium on gas injections into Aliso Canyon."

The immediate issue has been gas system reliability for core customers, which we are working to ensure reliable gas for the rest of winter given the field's current 15 billion cubic feet of working gas. Our shared concern is electric system reliability for this summer, and both gas and electric system reliability for next winter and beyond in the event injections cannot resume.

The nexus between the gas and power systems in the Los Angeles Basin is a complex
problem to assess given the constraints on gas deliveries, rapid changes in electricity demand that occur every day, and electric transmission constraints that limit electricity imports into the area. We have created a team to perform the studies that includes our experts and those of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and SoCalGas Company. There is good reason to be concerned that reliability of supply may be critical for electric generators in the LA Basin, especially those serving LADWP. We expect to complete the work related to summer 2016 by April when we will hold a public, joint agency workshop in Los Angeles to describe the reliability risks and present a reliability action plan for mitigating them. Of course, we will take action immediately as effective mitigation is identified. We look forward to working with the City of Los Angeles, South Coast Air Quality Management District, and other public agencies affected by this issue. 

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown Jr.
February 1, 2018
Page 2 of 3

This matter is critical to public health and safety, and has our full attention. We are bringing
the same urgency and attention to this as we did when faced with the unexpected closure of
the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Our organizations worked together effectively
then, and we will again.

Thank you for entrusting us with this responsibility.

Sincerely yours,

Chair                                                            President
California Energy Commission                    California Public Utilities Commission 

President and Chief Executive Officer
California Independent System Operator 

cc: Transmitted via email
Senator Pro Tempore, Kevin de Leon, 24th Senate District
Speaker of the Assembly, Toni G. Atkins, 78th Assembly District
Speaker-Elect of the Assembly, Anthony Rendon, 83rd Assembly District
Senator Fran Pavley, 27th Senate District
Assembly Member Wilk, 38th Assembly District
Senator Ben Hueso, Chair of Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, 40th
Senate District
Mike Gatto, Assemblymember and Chair of Utilities and Commerce Committee, 43rd
Assembly District
Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Mayor
Hilda L. Solis, First District Los Angeles Board of Supervisors
Mark Ridley-Thomas, Second District Los Angeles Board of Supervisors
Sheila Kuehl, Third District Los Angeles Board of Supervisors
Don Knabe, Fourth District Los Angeles Board of Supervisors
Michael D. Antonovich, Fifth District Los Angeles Board of Supervisors
Gilbert Cedillo, District 1 of Los Angeles City Council
Paul Krekorian, District 2 of Los Angeles City Council
Bob Blumenfield, District 3 of Los Angeles City Council 

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown Jr.
February 1,2016
Page 3 of 3

David E. Ryu, District 4 of Los Angeles City Council
Paul Koretz, District 5 of Los Angeles City Council
Nury Martinez, District 6 of Los Angeles City Council
Felipe Fuentes, District 7 of Los Angeles City Council
Marqueece Harris-Dawson, District 8 of Los Angeles City Council
Curren D. Price, Jr., District 9 of Los Angeles City Council
Herb J. Wesson, Jr., District 10 of Los Angeles City Council
Mike Bonin, District 11 of Los Angeles City Council
Mitchel Englander, District 12 of Los Angeles City Council
Mitch O'Farrell, District 13 of Los Angeles City Council
Jose Huizar, District 14 of Los Angeles City Council
Joe Buscaino, District 15 of Los Angeles City Council
Mary Nichols, Chairman, California Air Resources Board
Marcie L. Edwards, General Manager of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Dennis Arreola, Chief Executive Officer, Southern California Gas Company
Pedro Pizzaro, President, Southern California Edison
Barry Wallerstein, Ph.D, Executive Officer, South Coast Air Quality Management District 

----(end letter ) ----

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

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Thursday, February 4, 2016

UK Proposed Nuclear Plant at Hinkley Point C In More Trouble

Subtitle:  An Expensive Plant Gets More Expensive 

Hinkley Point C proposed nuclear power plant in UK has hit yet another snag, as the man in charge quit to take on a different role at a different company. see link to story.   Meanwhile, the financing for Hinkley Point C is also murky, with sources lacking for the £18 billion (UK).   The project is experiencing cost creep already, as every few months the cost appears to escalate.  

One can only imagine the cost over-runs and schedule delays as, and if, the project actually gets into the construction phase.   Cost overruns of 25 to 50 percent are quite common with nuclear power plant projects.   This fiasco in the making could easily cost £27 to 30 billion.  At those figures, the price of electricity would be brutally high for UK citizenry.  Their outrage will be felt loudly and repeatedly.  

This is but one example, of many, of the real world of nuclear power plants.   The real world has actual plants that are either running, shut down, or under construction.  Each plant has an operating history, a cost to build or refurbish, among other documented facts.   Many nuclear plants in the US, in the real world, cannot make a profit and are shutting down.  

There is another world, though, the world inhabited by nuclear dreamers.   In the dreamers' world, costs to build are based not on real world facts, but on the overnight cost.  In addition, the dreamers like to discuss the cost of future nuclear plants as Nth Of A Kind, which they so cleverly abbreviate NOAK.   The dreamers like to point to various studies, presumably from authoritative sources, to support their cost estimates.   What the dreamers apparently can not do, or will not do even if they could, is realize that no one builds a nuclear plant in one month for the overnight cost as the final cost.  Nuclear plants require half a decade at a minimum, and in most cases, at least a decade to build and start up.  Inflation alone on materials, equipment, and labor add 20 to 50 percent to the overnight costs.   Also, interest on construction loans begins to add up over a decade period, so that final installed cost of a nuclear plant can be another 30 percent or more.  

Back in the real world, Nth of a kind is elusive for nuclear power plants.   More than 450 have been built and started up worldwide, with some shut down and approximately 430 still in operation.   One would think that after more than 450 units of a technology have been built, that there would already be well past the nth of a kind cost efficiencies. 

However, nuclear plants are not like automobiles, nor like commercial aircraft.  Cars are turned out by the millions each year, and aircraft by the several hundreds.   Nth of a kind costing is commonplace for cars and airplanes.   Nuclear plants, not so much.   Perhaps 4 or 5 nuclear plants worldwide are finished per year, in recent years.   One source states 65 plants are currently in some phase of construction, globally.   How many of those actually are ever finished is anyone's guess.  

The dreamers apparently do not know, or do not care, about Professor Derek Abbot's paper that clearly shows nuclear has zero chance of being the long-term, sustainable energy supply of the future.  Zero.  see link

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Coal per Energy Outlook 2016 by ExxonMobil

Subtitle:  Coal Consumption Not Clear - Figures Don't Match

A new Energy Outlook for the next 25 years (2016-2040) from ExxonMobil, EM, (see link) has quite a bit to say about one of the major global fuels, coal.   This article discusses EM's points, and offers a few perspectives consistent with other articles here on SLB.  In short, coal use will decline over the next few decades, on that both SLB and EM agree.   The reasons for the decline are different.  EM states countries' desire to reduce CO2 emissions, in an effort to save the planet from global warming.   SLB contends there is no man-made global warming, only man-made false measurements.  However, SLB contends that there is a limited supply of coal, extractable at economic prices, and that supply will be exhausted within 50 to 60 years.   The time frame to coal exhaustion can be much shorter, if developing countries burn more and more coal relative to current use.  

The EM statements:

"Global demand for (total) energy rises by 25 percent 2014-2040" –EM Energy Outlook 2016, p. 15. 

The most striking development in power generation is expected to be the shift away from coal – the dominant energy source in this sector – and the rise in cleaner fuels such as natural gas and renewables."  (Ibid, p. 44).  

"Coal provides about 30 percent of world’s electricity in 2040, vs. 40 percent in 2014."   (Ibid, p. 46)

Coal, currently the world’s second-largest fuel, is expected to see global demand peak around 2025 and then begin to decline. This decline will be led by the industrial and power generation sectors, as businesses improve energy efficiency and switch to fuels with lower CO2 emissions. By 2040, coal will account for 20 percent of global energy demand, down from about 25 percent in 2014.”  (Ibid, p. 56)


Analyzing the EM statements, and numbers, it can be seen that tons of coal used for electricity increases almost 24 percent  (assuming that each ton of coal has consistent heating value).  This is from the EM projected increase in electricity production of 65 percent from 2014 to 2040.   Yet, the EM statement on coal providing 30 percent in 2040 vs 40 percent in 2014 of the world's electricity appears to state that coal use will decline.   In fact, the two statements, read together, show that coal use increases 24 percent: as 0.4 x 100 = 40, but 0.3 x 165 = 49.5; then 49.5 divided by 40 is 1.24.    This is a simple calculation where 2014 electricity production is set to 100, and the 2014 production is then 65 percent greater or 165.  

Yet, the EM Outlook has a far different result in the Data table on p. 72 of the Outlook, for coal use in power generation.  There, the number for 2014 is about the same as for 2040: 97 Quads in 2014, and 95 Quads in 2040.   (Quad is quadrillion Btus)   If the Outlook were consistent, then 2040 should have 97 x 1.24 or 120 Quads.    

Global Energy

Next, the global energy statements.  Here, EM states that coal will decline from 25 percent of global energy demand in 2014, to 20 percent in 2040.  However, given the projected increase in global energy demand of 25 percent, the amount of coal used remains constant.  This can be seen by 0.25 x 100 = 25, while 0.2 x 125 = 25.  Again, using simple values, the 100 is global energy demand in 2014, while 125 is the global energy demand in 2040.  

Note, the summary Data table on p. 72 of the Outlook shows 148 Quads in 2014 vs 142 Quads in 2040 for coal world-wide.    148 is close enough to 142 for these purposes, to be essentially no change in coal use.  

Industrial Energy

Where, then, is the decline?  Electrical demand for coal increases, but global energy demand remains constant, per EM.  Therefore, some category must have a decline in coal use.  EM's Outlook has several categories for energy use, electricity, industrial, transportation, and residential plus commercial.   One assumes that agriculture consumes zero energy.   Coal use in transportation is close to zero, or perhaps is included in the catch-all category of "other."    In any event, coal is named in electricity, industrial, and residential plus commercial categories.    The residential plus commercial use is very small to begin with, and declines a bit by 2040.  

The EM Outlook states that coal for industrial purposes will decrease from a bit more than 20 percent in 2014 to approximately 15 percent by 2040, while overall industrial energy grows by 30 percent.   This does, then, show a decline in coal use as 0.22 x 100 = 22, while 0.15 x 130 = 19.5, again where 100 is the 2014 use and 130 is the 2040 use. 

The Data table on p. 72 shows a slight decline from 46 to 44 Quads, 2014 and 2040.   

Commentary by Sowell

It is important to note that ExxonMobil is an oil and gas company, primarily.  They also are active in derivatives from oil such as petrochemicals and lubricating products.   They have a vested interest in selling oil and derivatives, plus selling natural gas.   The Energy Outlook is a convenient way to show all interested stakeholders that the future looks bright for their company, because the demand for their products remains robust.   The company also has a bit of coal mining in the corporate portfolio as ExxonMobil Coal and Minerals Company.  EM conducted some research over the years into coal-to-liquids plants, and coal gasification.   However, it is very clear that oil and gas are more than abundant, while coal is being rapidly exhausted world-wide.  

The Outlook repeatedly describes future activities as moving away from coal, to natural gas because the greenhouse gas emissions are far less.  The above discussion shows where that is likely to occur, in the industrial sector.   EM would be more than happy to provide the natural gas for replacing the coal.  

Earlier on SLB, the stark facts of coal resources, coal consumption, were discussed.  see link.    In summary, there is only approximately 50 years of coal supply remaining, if the present consumption rate continues.  However, developing countries are increasing their annual coal consumption in their efforts to increase electricity production.    

From a power planner's perspective, a coal-fired power plant will last only 40 years, and at most 50 years.   If all countries continue their coal consumption, it would make no sense to build new coal-powered plants at any time after 2025.  However, the US has already passed some forms of regulation on coal (mostly by EPA edicts, not laws passed by Congress and signed by the President).   These coal regulations essentially halted new coal-powered plants, and will very likely result in many coal-powered plants shutting down.   In theory, that would make more coal available to other countries since it will not be burned in the US.  In reality, the US would need major infrastructure to export coal overseas.    

The EM Outlook discusses none of this, not delving into reserves, resources, costs of extraction, and costs of transportation of the various fuels to meet demands in different countries.   Perhaps in future editions those issues will be discussed. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Energy Outlook 2016 from ExxonMobil

Subtitle:  World Cannot Build More than 500 Nuclear Plants in 25 Years

An Energy Outlook for the next 25 years (to 2040) is published and available for downloading, this one is from ExxonMobil (EM).  see link    It has some interesting points, and this article discusses the nuclear plant aspect.   Another article will discuss the coal aspect.   Essentially, EM anticipates 65 percent growth in electricity demand over the 25 year period, from approximately 20 thousand TWh to 33 thousand TWh (TWH is terra-Watt-hours).   Is the 65 percent growth reasonable?  One can quickly determine that a 2 percent annual growth rate yields 1.64 when compounded 25 years, which is close enough for such endeavors.  

Growth in nuclear plant output is described as: "Nuclear capacity to grow by 85 percent 2014-2040, led by China" - pg 46 of the Outlook.   The implications of this statement, if true, are staggering.   First, the number of nuclear power plants that must be completed and started up, per year on average, is 20 plants per year.    There must be approximately 520 new power plants (a few more or a few less, depending on output) in only 25 years.   The 520 is arrived at as follows.

At present, there are 437 nuclear power plants operating in the world, and 85 percent more is then 808 plants.  However, many of the existing plants are old and will shut down well within 25 years, such as almost every plant in the US, Western Europe, and Japan.  With a conservative estimate of 150 such plants shut down due to old age, that then gives 808-437 + 150 equals 521.   There very well could be more plants shut down due to old age.  

The challenge, then, is how to design, obtain approval to construct, then build and place into operation 20 nuclear power plants per year in each of the next 25 years.   For perspective, World Nuclear Report stated that only 5 new reactors started up in 2014.  (Two of those had construction periods of 31 years (Russia), and 33 years (Argentina).  The other three reactors were all in China).  

One can safely assume that the world will NOT build 520 new nuclear plants over the next 25 years.  The logistics and manufacturing required to support building 20 reactors per year simply does not exist.  To mention merely one of those, there are simply too few manufacturing plants to build the heavy-wall, nuclear-grade reactors to turn out 20 new reactors per year.    In addition to the reactors, the plants also require heavy-duty heat exchangers, large pumps, steam turbines, and very large generators.  

For most countries, the time required to construct a new nuclear power plant is approximately 10 years.   Some, as shown above, require far longer.    

In addition, the cooling water required for the nuclear power plants is enormous.  An earlier article on SLB discussed this see link, showing that nuclear plants consume approximately 4 times the amount of cooling water compared to combined-cycle gas turbine power plants.   

Also, finding suitably safe locations is a serious concern for 520 new nuclear power plants, given the earthquake and tsunami risks, as well as radiation releases and their hazards for populated areas.   Professor Derek Abbot discussed this in his excellent article from 2011, published in Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 99, No. 10, pp. 1611–1617, 2011.  The article title is "Is Nuclear Power Globally Scalable?"    see link The list of problem areas that Professor Abbot discusses includes:

1.  Not enough plant sites (away from population, near cooling water, etc)
2.  Land area required per plant
3.  Embrittlement problem
4.  Entropy problem
5.  Nuclear waste disposal
6.  Nuclear accident rate problem 
7.  Proliferation
8.  Energy of extraction (mining dilute ores for uranium)
9.  Uranium resource limits
10. Seawater extraction for uranium
11. Fast Breeder Reactors
12. Fusion Reactors
13. Materials Resources (materials of construction, rare alloy metals)

14. Elemental diversity


ExxonMobil usually has conservative, reasonable publications, however this one seems a bit off on the nuclear power projections for the next 25 years.   Even if nuclear power plants were accepted as safe and economic alternatives to conventional power generation technologies, there are enormous and insurmountable logistics and regulatory issues to overcome to install the requisite number of plants, more than 500 total in only 25 years.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

Desperate Nuclear Plant Rescue - More Subsidies

Subtitle: Old Nuclear Plant is Losing Money - More Subsidies Proposed

This is becoming a repeating theme:  a nuclear plant operator loses money, announces shutdown; state lawmakers step in to change laws to subsidize the nuclear plant so it can keep operating.    This time around, it is the FitzPatrick nuclear plant, on the shore of Lake Ontario in New York state.   see link   "CNY state legislators sponsor bills trying to save FitzPatrick nuclear plant"   
FitzPatrick Nuclear Plant with Lake Ontario in background (NRC)

These new proposed subsidies are in addition to the long list of existing subsidies that US nuclear power plants enjoy.  see link to "US Nuclear Plants are Heavily Subsidized,"  and see link to "Price-Anderson Act Gives Too Much Protection to Nuclear Plants."

The FitzPatrick plant is due to shut down in 2017.  Lawmakers likely will not garner support for such a subsidy.   The simple fact is that a nuclear plant requires substantial investment in its latter years, after age 30 approximately.   But, with the low prices for electricity due to increasing natural gas power production, especially at night when the nuclear plant will not or cannot reduce its output, it is difficult for plant owners to justify spending the money on nuclear plant upgrades.   FitzPatrick just passed its 40th anniversary (July 1975 startup).  Any money spent on upgrades would not have a long life to return the investment.   It is better to shut down the plant and cut one's losses, instead of spending money and then shutting it down.  

Even though many nuclear proponents insist that nuclear plants run for 60 years, that is not the case.  When FitzPatrick shuts down in 2017, it will have operated only 42 years.   see link  to Truth About Nuclear Power - Part 10,  "Nuclear plants require costly upgrades after 20 to 30 years"   

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Natural Methane Seeps - Very Common

Subtitle: Aliso Canyon Leak Is Nothing New 

An article today (Los Angeles Times, known for False-Alarmism) harps on and on about the leaking methane gas from the Aliso Canyon gas storage system near Los Angeles, California.   The article complains that the methane released will create massive global warming.    What utter rubbish.   (see link to LA Times article)

The fact is that methane is seeping into the atmosphere, naturally, and from thousands of locations worldwide.  It has been seeping, or even venting, for thousands of years.   The tiny bit from Aliso Canyon will not even be a blip on the radar.  

Here is what a 2014 news release from the USGS had to say about newly-discovered natural methane seeps offshore the US Atlantic coast:  (see link)

"Natural methane leakage from the seafloor is far more widespread on the U.S. Atlantic margin than previously thought, according to a study by researchers from Mississippi State University, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other institutions.

Methane plumes identified in the water column between Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and Georges Bank, Massachusetts, are emanating from at least 570 seafloor cold seeps on the outer continental shelf and the continental slope.  Taken together, these areas, which lie between the coastline and the deep ocean, constitute the continental margin.  Prior to this study, only three seep areas had been identified beyond the edge of the continental shelf, which occurs at approximately 180 meters (590 feet) water depth between Florida and Maine on the U.S. Atlantic seafloor."

Other natural methane leaks have existed (and still do) in many places around the world.  One such leak was offshore Santa Barbara, California, with such volume that bubbles were frequent at the ocean surface.  Lightning strikes sometime ignited the gas, and it appeared that the ocean was on fire.   That must have been a strange sight.  Eventually, an oil company obtained permission to cap the methane seep on the ocean floor, trap the gas and pipe it to shore for beneficial use.  

Other natural seeps occur in Indonesia, and many locations in the Middle East.    In fact, one of the several ways that oil companies collect data for decisions on where to drill is to measure methane concentration in water just above the ocean floor.  The idea is that cracks in the seabed allow methane to flow upward into the ocean.  Even if no bubbles form, the methane is dissolved in the water and can be detected.  

Also, here in Los Angeles, one can see methane vents along many streets.  These are associated with underground vaults, such as electric companies install for their equipment.   The methane is prevented from collecting in the underground vaults, and creating an explosive or toxic atmosphere.   The natural leaking of methane is widespread over a huge area of Southern California.  

More examples of natural methane leaks are the explosions a few years ago in a mall in Los Angeles in 1989 and another in 1985.    

One cannot believe the false-alarmism of the global warming crowd.   Natural gas has been seeping out of the ground, and under the sea, for millenia.    Any trip to the Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles will display the frequent bubbles bursting on the liquid tar's surface.   Those bubbles are not air.  Those are methane.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved