Category: Energy

US gas-fired electricity generation overtakes coal + Obama’s new EPA regs

Generation by fuel

The war on coal” might have just witnessed another battle in April as the latest “Electric Power Monthly” data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show total natural gas-fired electric generation in April surpassed coal-fired power generation for the first time in history.

And here is the link to President Obama’s plan to fight climate change.

Overdue.

Brand new, double-layered pipeline ruptured causing giant spill


Click to enlargeTerry Reith/ICI Radio-Canada

A pipeline at Nexen Energy’s Long Lake oilsands facility southeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta, spilled about 32,000 barrels of emulsion, a mixture of bitumen, sand and water, Wednesday afternoon — marking one of the largest spills in Alberta history.

According to reports, the spill covered as much as 16,000 square meters – almost 4 acres…

Ron Bailey, Nexen vice president of Canadian operations, said the company “sincerely apologized for the impact this has caused.” He confirmed the double-layered pipeline is a part of Nexen’s new system and that the line’s emergency detection system failed to alert officials to the breach, which was discovered during a visual inspection.

At this time, the company claims to have the leak under control…

The spill comes at a particularly bad time for Canada’s premiers, who are poised to sign an agreement three years in the making to fast-track the approval process for new oil sands pipelines while weakening commitments to fight climate change, according to Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace…

Canada’s premiers aren’t alone in seeking to remove barriers to new pipeline construction in order to get more tar sands flowing out of Alberta. It recently came to light that Wisconsin officials worked with an attorney and lobbyist for Canadian pipeline company Enbridge to draft a controversial provision placed into the 2015 Wisconsin Budget that would fast-track expansion of the company’s Line 61 pipeline, what’s been called a “Keystone XL clone.”

Nexen and Alberta regulators say it’s too soon to determine what caused the pipeline failure Wednesday, or how long it was leaking before it was shut off. The emulsion has so far not reached any bodies of water, according to reports, but did flow into muskeg or bog.

Welcome to what passes for safety and quality control in oilfields. Pretty much all oilfield production. All that really counts in the minds of fossil fuel producers is getting the stuff out of the ground and into energy production.

Burn it up. Put the money in the bank!

Thanks, SmartAlix

Robot powered by exploding farts

Harvard uni boffins have 3D printed a robot with a soft butt able to belch hot gases, thus unleashing a remorseless and invincible-ish hopping trouser-cough machine…

The new design offers a fresh solution to the engineering challenge that the Harvard Gazette claims “has plagued soft robotics: the integration of rigid and soft materials.”

“The vision for the field of soft robotics is to create robots that are entirely soft,” said senior author Robert J. Wood. “But for practical reasons, our soft robots typically have some rigid components — things like batteries and control electronics. This robot is a demonstration of a method to integrate the rigid components with the body of the soft robot through a gradient of material properties, eliminating an abrupt hard-to-soft transition that is often a failure point.”…

To initiate movement, the robot inflates its pneumatic legs to tilt its body in the direction it wants to go. Then butane and oxygen are mixed and ignited, exploding the robot into the air.

Perhaps we could design something like this on a smaller scale to hunt grasshoppers. Or something like that.

Repeated, record-breaking rainfall events increase with global warming

montana
Click to enlargeSean R. Heavey

Heavy rainfall events setting ever new records have been increasing strikingly in the past thirty years. While before 1980, multi-decadal fluctuations in extreme rainfall events are explained by natural variability, a team of scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research detected a clear upward trend in the past few decades towards more unprecedented daily rainfall events.

They find the worldwide increase to be consistent with rising global temperatures which are caused by greenhouse-gas emissions from burning fossil fuels…

The average increase is 12 percent globally – but 56 percent in South East Asia

An advanced statistical analysis of rainfall data from the years 1901 to 2010 derived from thousands of weather stations around the globe shows that over 1980-2010 there were 12 percent more of these events than expected in a stationary climate, a scenario without global warming. “Due to the upward trend, the worldwide increase of record-breaking daily rainfall events in the very last year of the studied period reaches even 26 percent”, Lehmann adds.

The record-breaking anomaly has distinct patterns across Earth’s continents with generally wet regions seeing an over-proportional increase and drier regions less so. In South East Asian countries the observed increase in record-breaking rainfall events is as high as 56 percent, in Europe 31 percent, in the central US 24 percent. In contrast, some regions experienced a significant decrease of record-breaking daily rainfall events. In the Mediterranean, the reduction is 27 percent, and in the Western US 21 percent. Both regions are at risk of severe droughts.

While a statistical analysis of course cannot provide direct physical cause-effect relations, the scientists compared their findings to existing knowledge about how much more water can be stored in the atmosphere when temperatures rise, as given by the well-known Clausius-Clapeyron equation. This additional moisture can be released during short-term heavy rainfall events. The scientists show that the observed increase in unprecedented heavy rainfall events generally fits with this thermodynamically expected increase under global warming…

Up to now, studies could add up to only medium confidence on how human induced greenhouse gases have contributed to changes in heavy precipitation events at the global and regional scale. The new analysis now helps to fill this research gap. Building on previous work on extreme precipitation, it is the first to study worldwide observational data of record-breaking daily rainfall events in this context.

I probably haven’t said this for at least 10 minutes, but — if I was starting out, today, I’d point myself at a geek career in computational analysis. This stuff is fascinating. Most particularly when you have the opportunity to gather wide-reaching data and spend time data-mining, winnowing away the chaff – perhaps discovering a new direction, insight to old problems.

Solar Impulse 2 lands safely in Hawaii

Hawaii landing

Solar Impulse 2, piloted by Andre Borschberg, exceeded the previous record of 76 hours’ flying time.

The journey from Nagoya in Japan to Kalaeloa, Hawaii, breaks the absolute distance and duration world records for manned solar-powered aeroplanes – records set by Solar Impulse on earlier flights.

We watched the landing, live on BBC World, at 9:54 MDT.

London gets their first zero-emission double-decker bus this year


Click to enlarge

London’s public transport network is about to get a lot greener, with Mayor Boris Johnson announcing that the world’s first purpose-built pure electric double-decker bus will hit the city’s streets later this year. The announcement was made at the Clean Bus Summit, where 24 cities around the world committed to putting ultra-low emission buses on the road.

Public transport in the UK’s biggest city has been inching toward a greener future for years now, announcing its first hybrid buses back in 2009. There are now more than 1,300 of those on the streets of the capital, and it’s time for the next big step.

The new all-electric buses were produced in conjunction with BYD, which worked on the tricky problem of fitting enough batteries into the zero emissions vehicles to provide enough power.

There’s no mention of exactly how many all-electric buses are heading for London, but the first is due to arrive in October, which will enter service on route 16 in October, running between Victoria Station and Cricklewood.

It’s not just London that’s revising its public transport infrastructure for the better. The move forms part of a wider effort, with 24 cities around the world planning to put 40,000 ultra-low emission buses on the road by 2020.

I wonder if time’s right for nudging Santa Fe towards EV buses? The city was first in the United States to have NatGas-powered buses.

BYD is making a global push with their buses. More competition coming, no doubt.

Earthquakes force Dutch government to cut gas field production


Let in a little winter air?

The Dutch government has ordered a further tightening of gas production at Groningen, Europe’s largest gas field, in response to a spate of earthquakes that have caused extensive property damage in the Netherlands’ northernmost province.

Output at the field, the world’s 10th largest, will be capped at 30 billion cubic metres (bcm) for the whole of 2015, Economy Minister Henk Kamp told reporters on Tuesday. At the beginning of the year, production of 39.4 bcm was planned.

“The earthquakes are still there, and we will have to reckon with earthquakes in the future,” Kamp later told Reuters. “We can do two things to preserve safety: reduce the production of natural gas and strengthen houses, and we’re doing both.”…

Which tells us something about the size of profits – and how priorities are sorted. Even though Kamp says, “We’ll do whatever is necessary for the safety of the people in Groningen.”

In February, output was cut to 16.5 bcm for the first half of the year after the Dutch Safety Board said gas companies and state regulators had failed to take the threat of earthquakes seriously enough.

In the second half of the year, output will be capped at 13.5 bcm, with stored gas tapped if necessary to make up for any shortfall…

Analyst Oliver Sanderson of Thomson Reuters Point Carbon said reaction to the planned reduction had been relatively muted because it was announced in June, during the summer…

“Last time there was a cold winter, two years ago, Groningen was producing at around 54 bcm,” he said…”Where is Europe going to get 25 bcm?”

He said that with Groningen producing at 30 bcm in a cold winter, the shortfall in Western Europe would have to be met mostly with Russian gas, supplemented with some Norwegian gas and liquefied natural gas imported by tanker.

Try selling that in Brussels,” he said, referring to the political sensitivity of European governments increasing, rather than lessening, their reliance on Russian energy.

Sometimes, circumstances make it a little easier to understand some nations keeping commercial and trade policies separate from the latest political conflicts.