Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bleak outlooks on Bio-energy and CCS

Here's some light electricity generation related reading from the past week.

George Monbiot's The Biogas Disaster is a must read for the unlucky who missed Will Boisvert's extraordinary Harmonic Destrucion: How Greens Justify Bioenergy's Assault on Nature when it was release a month ago, and a nice companion for those who did.
Monbiot: There could scarcely be a better formula for subverting everything biogas is supposed to achieve.
The first and most obvious problem is that it means taking land out of food production. ...
... the area of maize being grown for biogas in the UK has trebled – to 15,000 hectares – just in the past two years, and is likely to rise to 25,000 hectares next year. This is an astonishing rate of growth. If, as the National Farmers Union (NFU) advocates, 1000 medium-sized biogas plants are built by 2020, and maize supplements the slurry and manure they process, that will mean the use of between 100,000 and 125,000 hectares.
So when you hear the NFU insisting that we cannot remove even the most barren land (such as hills which can support only one sheep on every two hectares) from farming for the purpose of rewilding and flood prevention, because that might have an impact on our food supply, remember that the same organisation wants 100,000 hectares of the best land in Britain to be taken out of food growing and used instead for gas.
But it gets worse, because maize farming could scarcely be better designed to cause soil erosion, compaction and run-off, which threaten the fertility of the land, the health of our freshwater ecosystems and the homes at risk from flooding.
 Chris Goodall's Maize in anaerobic digesters: Is Monbiot right? demonstrates that yes, he is.
Does it make sense in energy terms to grow maize (or even wheat) as a feedstock for a digester? No. The energy value of the methane that is produced in an AD plant, converted into electricity via a gas engine, is about 0.4 megawatt hours per tonne. This is approximately a tenth as much as the calorific value of maize to a human being.
This isn’t the whole story, since the digestate left behind after the energy has been extracted in an AD plant does have some value as a replacement fertiliser when it is reapplied to the fields. Nevertheless, putting maize into an AD plant to make energy involves a huge loss of calorific value. And the climate change implications also need considering: as well as the energy used in the Haber Bosch process the high levels of nitrogen fertiliser used on maize land produce large amounts of nitrous oxide, a powerful warming gas.
Well, with the promise of biomass fading under scrutiny perhaps we should turn our attention to capturing CO2 from coal based generation instead.
Or maybe not - or maybe just is we have coal available by a generation location near a site that required gas to push oil out of the ground.

Suzanne Goldenberg had a lengthy article in the Guardian, Can Kemper become the first US power plant to use 'clean coal'? 
"We definitely see the Kemper County energy facility as a way forward to keep coal as part of a viable, energy mix," Amoi Geter, a spokesperson for Mississippi Coal, a subsidiary of Southern, said during a tour of the plant. "It may not be the only way but it is definitely a way."
But Southern, which relies heavily on coal at its other power plants in the south-east, has been outspoken in its opposition to the EPA's new regulations – and the use of its plant to sell them to a sceptical industry and public.
"The revised new source performance standards would essentially eliminate coal as a future generation option," Tim Lelejdal, a spokesman for Southern Company, wrote in an email.
He argued the Kemper plant was a one-off that made commercial sense only because the plant was close to coal fields and Southern had a market for the CO
...environmental groups see carbon capture as an industry figleaf to shield the EPA from pushback against its climate rules that will still allow the use of fossil fuels, albeit with lower emissions.
"It's expensive, it's dirty, and it's unnecessary," said Louie Miller, director of the state Sierra Club.
In Miller's view, carbon capture technology just perpetuates the use of fossil fuels – and dangerously delays the transition to renewable energy...
Renewable energy - like maize?

I covered much the same ground recently inTrailblazing Saskatchewan power plant is first to bury its carbon... and biomass news, but it's worth revisiting for two reasons
1.  CCS is not launching well, and well that may have to do with the technology, it likely also has to do with a political environment that doesn't allow for any investment in a high capital cost facility with a 40-80 year life
2.  The Obama administrations use of the EPA to implement policy may not be bound to fail, but I doubt the EPA's proposed standards on new coal generation will be implemented during his Presidency, if ever.

CCS Is Not Yet “Adequately Demonstrated,” Say Industry Leaders | Power Magazine
Janet McCabe, a top air regulation official at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defended the agency’s carbon rule for new power plants at a House hearing on Wednesday, even as industry witnesses countered that technology does not yet exist to meet the regulatory requirements.
The EPA’s acting assistant administrator for air and radiation reiterated the Obama administration’s commitment to mitigate “current and future damage” caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
The proposal meets the Clean Air Act’s requirement for “adequately demonstrated technology,”... 
Robert Hilton, who is vice president of power technologies for government affairs for carbon capture technology pioneer Alstom, noted that no carbon capture technologies had yet been deployed at commercial stage, though several Alstom technologies had progressed through the validation scale demonstration. “This stage is the proof of technology in real field conditions—or in this case actual power plant flue gas,” he said. “It is at this point we can say confidently that the basic technology works.”
But, he cautioned, “The final stage to reach commercial status is to perform a demonstration at full commercial scale. There are several reasons for this requirement. It is critical to be at commercial scale to define the risk of offering the technology. This cannot be defined until the technology can be shown to work at full scale.”
Significantly, after listing the EPA’s considered CCS projects, Hilton asserted that “four of the six projects are gasifiers and high pressure technology not suited to pulverized coal... 
... Scott Miller also said the EPA’s conclusion that CCS is adequately demonstrated is “premature.” None of the four pilot projects described by the EPA exhausts or sequesters carbon dioxide he said.
“Of the four, two are in the process of being constructed and two are in development. Of the two being constructed, the Kemper plant faces development costs in excess of $1 billion, and is dependent on a technology development for a lignite coal that is not available any other place in the country. The second plant under construction, in Canada, is a post combustion CCS operation at a small research facility boiler that is not scalable. Of the two projects [TCEP and HECA] still in development, there is no firm timeline for construction of either.”

No comments:

Post a Comment