The Ergosphere
Saturday, March 14, 2020

One for Pi Day: an analysis of hypedrogen from its proponents claims

Hypedrogen has been the holy grail of the renewablistas since the 1970's, when it was also one of the magic bullets that was going to solve air pollution from cars.  Here we are 50 years later and we're still burning gasoline (and the oilcos have laughed all the way to the bank).  The talk seems to be getting more serious recently.  But is it realistic?

Power Engineering magazine has a piece on converting a turbine fired by natural gas to hydrogen fuel.  Apparently the only changes involve the burner design and the need to feed a much greater volume of fuel.  So far, so good.

But the really interesting part of that article comes down at the very end:
MHPS and Magnum Development have partnered on the idea of building an electrolysis facility near the Intermountain Power Plant around Delta, Utah. The electrolysis–which uses electricity to separate water into its hydrogen and oxygen molecules–would be powered by renewable energy, such as western U.S. solar, wind and hydro. The resulting hydrogen would be stored in underground salt caverns deep beneath the Utah rocky soils.

Ducker estimated that each of those salt caverns potentially could store 150,000 to 200,000 MWh of hydrogen capacity. The area could offer dozens of those caverns, all impermeable and yielding no energy loss.

“Think of it as a really really big battery,” he said.
A really really big, if rather lossy, battery.  I note that storage in salt domes avoids any issues of sulfate minerals which hydrogen could react with and be lost as hydrogen sulfide and water.  You'd likely have that trouble if you tried to use old gas wells to store hydrogen.  Methane is an extraordinarily stable molecule; hydrogen is not.

Let's assume, out of charity, that those numbers are the energy you could get out of the hydrogen power plant rather than the 56% larger requirement for stored energy, or the even greater figure for energy input to make it in the first place.  150,000 to 200,000 MWh of energy sure sounds like a lot if you're not familiar with the field, but it's roughly 1 week of generation from a 1000 MW power plant... of which the USA has the equivalent of about 460 running flat out on average.  A reserve of 90 days of energy (what the Trump administration wants at least some plants to hold in case of fuel supply disruptions) is roughly 13 weeks, or about 1 dozen such reservoirs to supply just one 1000 MW plant.  "Dozens" of reservoirs translates to just a handful of plants being able to ride through a sustained period of energy famine... such as the most populated parts of the USA endure every winter when the sun heads south.  To supply the electric grid reliably you'd need close to 10,000 of them.  And that wouldn't supply the requirements for heating fuel, for vehicle fuel, for industrial heat and chemical feedstock.

You'd need probably 20,000 such reservoirs just to have 90 days of energy security.  The area has "dozens".  The inadequacy of the resource to the task is obvious once you know where to look.  And that's just one of the problems you'll face if you try to power any industrial economy on "renewables".

It's time to face facts.  The "environmentalists" are demonstrably not doing the arithmetic (and it's arithmetic, not even algebra) to properly understand the magnitude of the gap between their proposals and reality.  It's likely that they have been forbidden to do the arithmetic by the people who finance their organizations.  Who would benefit from such betrayal?  Fossil fuel interests.

Save for a few dissident organizations like Environmental Progress and the Breakthrough Institute, the environmental movement has become a front for fossil fuel interests.  They've been corrupted by donor money.  Do not trust them.  Do not listen to them.  And when their activists come to plug "renewables", call them the liars they are.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

A question of basic honesty

First, Michael O'Boyle of "Energy Innovation" posting at Forbes:
Once commonly considered a “bridge fuel,” electric utilities now must face the mathematical reality that fast-falling clean energy costs mean the bridge only leads to climate breakdown and the destruction of shareholder value.
Natural gas is being used as the backup fuel for balancing the unreliable supplies from wind and solar.  It is delivered on a just-in-time basis and cannot be stockpiled, so it is inferior to coal as a buffer against supply disruptions or demand surges.  However, it is currently cheaper than coal so those deficiencies are being overlooked until crises like the "polar vortex" strike.
A new report from Energy Innovation and shareholder advocacy group As You Sow outlines these evolving risks for shareholders
In other words, O'Boyle's group.
Utility investment in new natural gas infrastructure makes less and less sense from multiple angles and only compounds risks for investors, consumers, and society. New natural gas infrastructure is incompatible with a low-emissions future and faces intense economic competition from wind[1], solar[2], storage[3], and clean energy technologies[4].
Now wait just a second.
  1. Wind is not just unreliable but grossly so, subject to multi-week outages which are likely to get worse as the jet stream gets "stuck" more often.
  2. Solar's output is strongly counter-cyclical to demand at northern latitudes, being the least available when it is needed the most for heating.
  3. "Storage" meaning batteries or PHS, presumably.  PHS systems are typically sized for less than 24 hours at full power and batteries generally a handful of hours at most.
  4. What OTHER "clean energy technologies" are there?  Are any of them deployed at scale?  Can they be expanded?  This is deliberate deception.
On with the show.
Greater scrutiny of fossil fuel infrastructure at the regulatory commission level also looms large. Financial and climate concerns have recently led several local commissions to reject utility plans for new gas power plants including Indiana, Arizona, and California. These actions point toward a future where demand for gas is limited
Unless there is another source of energy to fill in for the frequent absences of wind and solar, gas will still be required.  The requirements will not be as much overall, but peak demand will remain and perhaps even increase as efficient combined-cycle plants are shut down and replaced by open-cycle peakers.
Today, new unsubsidized wind costs $28-54/megawatt-hour (MWh), and solar costs $32-44/MWh, while new combined cycle natural gas costs $44-68/MWh. In short, in almost all jurisdictions, utility-scale wind and solar are now the cheapest source of new electricity without subsidies.
Using LCOE is deliberate deception.  LCOE ignores the costs of firming and backup, which O'Boyle wants everyone to ignore.  The only even-somewhat valid figure of merit for unreliable generators is Levelized Avoided Cost of Energy (LACE).
For example, NV Energy’s recent procurement of 1,200 megawatts (MW) solar and 580 MW of four-hour battery storage already beats new natural gas on price. NV Energy paid $20/MWh for solar and $13/MWh for enough battery storage to shift 25% of daily energy, resulting in a total cost of $33/MWh per MWh delivered (including federal tax credits).
We're supposed to ignore "including federal tax credits" because we can all make out better by robbing someone else's taxes paid to fund our own energy consumption.  Not.
While often cited as the clean energy transition’s largest barrier, it is increasingly clear new natural gas won’t be needed to ensure grid reliability.
And who's saying this?
Studies by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Evolved Energy, and Vibrant Clean Energy have found that 80% or more of our electricity could be produced from renewable sources without reliability or affordability issues.
A bunch of highly biased parties.  Tell it to Germany, which isn't remotely close to 80% "renewable" but whose Energiewende "is regarded in academic circles today as disastrous."

What's missing from this article that is allegedly about decarbonization?  Try "^Fnucl"; no matches.

Of course, the adults in the room differ wildly.  Utility Dive summarizes the report from the National Energy Technology Laboratory:
Additional gas capacity, baseload generation 'critical' to maintaining reliability: DOE analysis

Dive Brief:

  • A new analysis from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) concludes additional natural gas pipeline capacity and baseload generation units, such as coal and nuclear, are "critical" to maintaining grid reliability and affordable electricity in the Eastern Interconnection during extreme weather events.
  • Coal power advocates argue that the continued retirement of coal-fired generating units threatens grid reliability and could lead to double-digit spikes in electricity prices in several wholesale markets, but clean energy advocates counter that renewables are now the cheapest energy option and can keep the grid operating reliably.
  • According to the NETL report, a "conservative" analysis shows investment in new pipeline capacity of more than $1 billion is needed to maintain reliability, though dual-fueled plants can partially relieve peak demand.
Dive Insight:

As more wind and solar energy comes online, the new DOE study questions whether those intermittent resources can maintain reliability in extreme weather.

“As the power sector relies more and more on natural gas and renewable sources for power generation, infrastructure must keep pace with this growth,” NETL Director Brian Anderson said in a statement.
NETL's report examines the near-term economic and reliability costs associated with expanding the natural gas generation network. The analysis concludes dual-fueled plants can partially relieve peak demand for natural gas, "but it will be difficult to maintain adequate fuel availability to meet that demand when more coal and nuclear resources are lost."

According to the DOE research, there is a need for additional pipeline capacity as thermal generating units are retired.

"Natural gas deliverability constraints lead to high fuel and electricity price spikes," the report find. It concludes those spikes are "exacerbated by the continued retirements of thermal units," which are expected to top 44 GW through 2024.

"Conservatively, an investment of $470 million to $1.1 billion over that already entrained in the long-haul natural gas transmission system is identified to avoid even worse outcomes," the report estimates.
Total hits for "nucl":  3.

It's obvious who's being honest, and who's lying through their teeth.

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