Sunday, February 8, 2009

P32 Pick Points

Half-a-dozen or so stories of interest:

In what appears to be a win-win situation New York is learning what those of us who live in more rural parts have been doing for a while – adding used cooking oil to fuel . while the oil is usually transesterified to give a biodiesel, in NY they are using the vegetable oil “as is,” saving the restaurant up to $22 for 5-gallons in disposal, and the county runs vehicles for almost free. Mythbusters shows that it works, even with no change, other than filtering, of the oil which is straight from the fast food shop. On a word of caution you need to check that your engine is designed for this before trying it, since there is a world of difference between running a liter of the stuff through your engine once, and running nothing but vegetable oil all the time. Not to mention the fact that EPA considers it illegal.

Ausra is changing from producing solar power to selling equipment to industry so that they can generate it themselves, either as solar thermal or steam. This is not long after the company opened the first solar thermal plant in California and is a reflection of the times. The speed with which such plants can be built is shown by a company in Israel that expects that they will be generating power in March from the new domestic size (100 kW of electricity and 170 kW of heat) plant. Power comes from the heated air running a gas turbine. Often these quite small projects are being undertaken by students from American universities who travel to poorer countries to help with such projects.

And speaking of small subjects, drying clothes can take 6% of the nations energy, thus a move has started to overturn rules against clothes lines. There is a promise of subsidies for renewable fuels, as they scale upwards from the small, in remarks made by the new Secretary of Energy though I'm not sure that a clothes line will count.

As Britain suffers under more bad weather the price of salt for the roads has risen from 25 to 100 British pounds per ton. However, once the sun comes back, up to a quarter of British homes may be eligible for energy efficiency makeovers – though it appears the government may only pay for insulation, while encouraging investment in more efficient appliances – including wood-burning boilers. (Did I hear a mutter from Edward I’s tomb?) If you are thinking about it, there is a friendly web site to help with wood burning issues. And yet, even as they encourage wood in the UK, Montreal is thinking of banning wood-burning stoves because of pollution problems.

The question as to whether or not to build a new coal-fired power station is difficult, given the uncertainty about regulation, but in Europe the fluctuating price of carbon credits is also making it difficult to determine the balance between cost and profit, whether for the coal-plants or for wind farms on the other side of the exchange. Finland, meanwhile, is planning on starting a new nuclear power station (they currently have four and would like six). Russia is selling nuclear fuel to India, the first after the international ban was lifted. (Though Australia is still debating whether to lift it. They may need the money, since even Gazprom is talking delays in the South Stream pipeline because of money worries. They are anticipating that gas sales to Europe may fall 5% this year, with a drop in price to $280 per mcm.

I may feel the urge for a new Tech Talk (sorry about today – just swamped with requests for information at work) since Bangladesh is talking about starting “Longwall Top Coal Caving” as a way of improving the extraction ratio in their mines. It is usually used in seams above 20 ft thick, so Americans and Europeans should not get too excited. The need for energy is critical in Bangladesh, since reduced supplies of natural gas are causing increased power shortages and load shedding of up to 480 MW in January, today (Sunday) it was 1000 MW. It translates into several hours without power, and is expected to get worse in the short term. India, meanwhile, is looking to hasten the move to solar power by creating 60 “solar cities” in the next five years, dropping power needs by 10%. The first city in this program began its planning last April China also has a “solar city” and is planning for the 2010 Solar cities convention there. The focus remains on solar water heaters at present. Meanwhile in the US utility companies such as Ameren have started encouraging consumers to consider using power from renewable sources, albeit at a premium. It is an idea that is spreading into the South-East.

Those of us who have concerns about the long-term prospect for fuel supply from fossil fuels have often seen our arguments disputed by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) which is headed by Daniel Yergin. It often seems we are on the opposite sides of everything. Well this is their big week in Houston, and it will be interesting to see what news their meeting makes. The title is “Risk and the Rebuilding of Confidence.”

For more stories visit The Energy Bulletin and Drumbeat at The Oil Drum.

1 comment:

  1. On the not so small amount of 6% of the energy in the U.S. is currently being consumed to dry our clothes. A simple clothes line or clothes drying rack can reduce that number to almost zero. What a great way to get started on our road to lowering our fuel dependancy.

    Thanks for some of the other interesting information about what all is going on in the world on the energy front.