Wednesday, April 1, 2009

P58. Pick Points

Back in November 2007, with relatively little notice Con Edison ended a service begun by Thomas Edison in 1882. It was the transmission of electric power by direct current (D.C.) in New York. There was fierce rivalry back then between Edison, who favored D.C, and George Westinghouse who was pushing Nikola Tesla’s alternating current (A.C.).

Some 125 years later, Westinghouse finally and absolutely has prevailed as the world has moved to AC. Or has he? Back a couple of years ago I was at an ASPO meeting when Dave Rutledge (who is inter alia a Division Chair at Caltech) mentioned the resurrection of DC power transmission. At first I thought this was a mis-speak so I asked him about it afterwards, and no I had heard him right.

So there I was, today, half-listening to Dr Chu build up to explaining what the Helios Project at the Berkeley Lab was all about, when I heard him comment on the Smart Grid, and the benefits of transmitting current across the country using D.C. lines rather than AC. Unfortunately the feed I was watching (this was from last July) did not have a timer on it, but this was about a third of the way into the talk.

Dr. Rutledge had mentioned that one of the places that uses D.C. is in Denmark, and sure enough, cables between Norway and Denmark do transmit power using D.C., and they are adding more.
In modern systems high voltage D.C. lines are less expensive and suffer lower transmission power losses than A.C. lines, but require more expensive transformers to raise the voltage to the high levels required. One of their advantages, however, is that they make it easier to integrate remote generating capacity into a network. This will become more important as renewable energy sources dotted around the country start to be available for integration into a new Smart Grid in greater numbers.

While the wave energy program in Portugal is in hiatus, a project to further study its use in Hawaii is making progress with the system to be upgraded. There is a difference between tidal energy and wave energy, and in Scotland Aquamarine is picking the latter to be a better bet than the former. The wave energy program is known as Oyster. Further a new Israeli turbine is being developed which is claimed to reduce costs, and there is a competing idea being developed in Ireland.

Gazprom anticipates that its exports will drop some 17% this year and that prices will also drop. It is therefore not surprising that they are looking more favorably at LNG and new projects that will open this additional avenue for sales. It does not seem that long ago that they were arguing the other way, with all their efforts being put into pipeline transmissions. This was particularly true for Shtokman development, though now this is where business is anticipated to gestate.

While the volcanic eruptions at Mt Redoubt are apparently calming down , they are generating a bit of a problem for the local oil production facilities
With oil terminal operations suspended at Drift River, Cook Inlet oil producers are running out of space to store crude. Chevron shut in two of the 10 platforms it operates Monday night, spokeswoman Roxanne Sinz said Tuesday. The Bruce and Anna platforms normally produce about 71,000 gallons of oil a day, Sinz said.

Production was reduced by about 21,000 gallons daily at the Dolly Varden platform because of ash, Sinz said. . . . .
In Cook Inlet, with Drift River out of commission and no means to move oil to market, only seven days of storage remains at the production facility at Trading Bay, while tanks at Granite Point to the north have about four more days of storage, Chevron's Sinz said.

When the space is gone, either Drift River has to reopen or the platforms must be shut in, Sinz said.
Cathy Foerster of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said some wells could be forever lost if they are not continually producing. But crews can continue to pump oil from those wells into other wells if there are no tanks to store the oil, she said.

At the news conference Tuesday, representatives from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Coast Guard and Cook Inlet Pipeline Co., which owns Drift River, said their main concern continues to be the 6 million gallons of crude stored at the terminal. The facility was evacuated last week, but the pipeline company has sent crews to inspect it when it's been safe to fly.

And Russia is proposing a nuclear power station for Bangladesh . The facility would produce 1,000 MW and help meet the growing need (and shortage) of power in that country.

And in China they are getting the wires to build superconducting cables to move electricity. Superconducting cables can handle up to ten times the power of conventional cables and have additional benefits when transmission lines become congested.

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