Tagged: power plants

How an accidental magma strike was harnessed to heat homes


One of the “ordinary” geothermal power plants

Can enormous heat deep in the earth be harnessed to provide energy for us on the surface? A promising report from a geothermal borehole project that accidentally struck magma – the same fiery, molten rock that spews from volcanoes – suggests it could.

The Icelandic Deep Drilling Project, IDDP, has been drilling shafts up to 5km deep in an attempt to harness the heat in the volcanic bedrock far below the surface of Iceland.

But in 2009 their borehole at Krafla, northeast Iceland, reached only 2,100m deep before unexpectedly striking a pocket of magma intruding into the Earth’s upper crust from below, at searing temperatures of 900-1000°C.

This borehole, IDDP-1, was the first in a series of wells drilled by the IDDP in Iceland looking for usable geothermal resources. The special report in this month’s Geothermics journal details the engineering feats and scientific results that came from the decision not to the plug the hole with concrete, as in a previous case in Hawaii in 2007, but instead attempt to harness the incredible geothermal heat…

…cementing a steel casing into the well, leaving a perforated section at the bottom closest to the magma. Heat was allowed to slowly build in the borehole, and eventually superheated steam flowed up through the well for the next two years…

The well funnelled superheated, high-pressure steam for months at temperatures of over 450°C – a world record. In comparison, geothermal resources in the UK rarely reach higher than around 60-80°C.

The magma-heated steam was measured to be capable of generating 36MW of electrical power. While relatively modest compared to a typical 660MW coal-fired power station, this is considerably more than the 1-3MW of an average wind turbine, and more than half of the Krafla plant’s current 60MW output.

Most importantly it demonstrated that it could be done. “Essentially, IDDP-1 is the world’s first magma-enhanced geothermal system, the first to supply heat directly from molten magma,” Elders said. The borehole was being set up to deliver steam directly into the Krafla power plant when a valve failed which required the borehole to be stoppered. Elders added that although the borehole had to plugged, the aim is to repair it or drill another well nearby.

Bravo! None of this response was as placid as it may sound written up for scientific journals. The facility faced the danger of eruption and fire throughout the experiment. Staff and scientists demonstrated their resourcefulness, resolving questions on the fly.

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Northeastern states ask EPA to crack down on Midwest polluters

Dirty-Business

Eight Northeastern and mid-Atlantic governors on Monday petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require “upwind” states in the Midwest and South to curb ozone-forming pollution from their power plants, which they say travels downwind and poses health risks to their citizens.

They want the EPA to force nine states – Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia – to regulate the emissions that cross into their borders through prevailing winds and contribute to higher ozone levels to the north and east of the upwind states.

The move comes just ahead of a closely watched Supreme Court review of an earlier appeals court rejection of the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

The governors, led by Delaware governor Jack Markell, said the upwind states had failed for decades to install the technology needed to contain emissions of organic compounds and nitrogen oxides which cause asthma and other respiratory diseases and contribute to as much as 98 percent of the ozone air pollution problems in their own states.

The petition asks the EPA to require the upwind states to join them in an “Ozone Transport Region,” which under the federal Clean Air Act would force actions to limit air pollution consistent with the efforts of the “downwind” states…

Besides Delaware the states petitioning for the controls are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont…

In a case being closely monitored by environmentalists and energy companies, the Supreme Court on Tuesday will consider the EPA rule that would have set limits on pollution from coal-fired power plants in 28 states, generally referred to as “upwind states,” that directly affect air quality in other states…

Vickie Patton, general counsel for environmental group Environmental Defense Fund, said it is also in the interest of the upwind states to install pollution controls…”Cleaning up this harmful power plant pollution will mean healthier, longer lives for children, families and communities across the Midwest and the millions of people afflicted in downwind states,” she said.

What is it with creeps who dedicate their lives to profiteering from power generation? I’ve been involved in struggles against these scumbags over half my life. Take it all the way back to acid rain.

The only thing that matters in their contemptible lives is profit-and-loss statements with all the emphasis on that first word. They couldn’t care less about families and individuals in their own state much less someone next door or downwind. They should be required to live in a guard shack immediately downwind of one of their crud-belching coal-fired power plants. A shorter lifespan might change their style.

Oceans suffer with acidification as part of global warming

casting a net

Global warming is causing a silent storm in the oceans by acidifying waters at a record rate, threatening marine life from coral reefs to fish stocks, an international study showed on Thursday.

The report, by 540 experts in 37 nations, said the seas could become 170 percent more acidic by 2100 compared to levels before the Industrial Revolution. Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, can become a mild acid when mixed with water.

Acidification is combining with a warming of ocean waters, also caused by a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and other man-made factors such as higher pollution and overfishing, the report said.

“It is like the silent storm – you can’t hear it, you can’t feel it,” Carol Turley, a senior scientist at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England, told Reuters.

The study, released on the sidelines of a meeting of almost 200 nations in Warsaw on ways to slow global warming, estimated that acidity of the oceans had already increased by 26 percent since the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries…

The pace of acidification was the fastest in at least 55 million years, the scientists said. Acidification undermines the ability of everything from corals to crabs to build protective shells and has knock-on effects on the food web.

“Marine ecosystems and biodiversity are likely to change as a result of ocean acidification, with far-reaching consequences for society,” according to the summary led by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme…

“If society continues on the current high emissions trajectory, cold water coral reefs, located in the deep sea, may be unsustainable and tropical coral reef erosion is likely to outpace reef building this century,” the report said.

Deep cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases, from power plants, factories and cars, would limit acidification.

The barriers in the way of halting – and reversing – these processes are political not technical. I keep reading and posting articles like this one to provide ammunition for those of you with the courage and fortitude to continue the struggle against politicians and pundits bought and sold by fossil fuel barons. Nothing counts more in their mean, disgusting lives than short-term profits.

Scandal in South Korea over revelations of corruption in the construction and operation of nuclear power plants

Like Japan, resource-poor South Korea has long relied on nuclear power to provide the cheap electricity that helped build its miracle economy. For years, it met one-third of its electricity needs with nuclear power, similar to Japan’s level of dependence before the 2011 disaster at its Fukushima plant.

Now, a snowballing scandal in South Korea about bribery and faked safety tests for critical plant equipment has highlighted yet another similarity: experts say both countries’ nuclear programs suffer from a culture of collusion that has undermined their safety. Weeks of revelations about the close ties between South Korea’s nuclear power companies, their suppliers and testing companies have led the prime minister to liken the industry to a mafia.

The scandal started after an anonymous tip in April prompted an official investigation. Prosecutors have indicted some officials at a testing company on charges of faking safety tests on parts for the plants. Some officials at the state-financed company that designs nuclear power plants were also indicted on charges of taking bribes from testing company officials in return for accepting those substandard parts.

Worse yet, investigators discovered that the questionable components are installed in 14 of South Korea’s 23 nuclear power plants. The country has already shuttered three of those reactors temporarily because the questionable parts used there were important, and more closings could follow as investigators wade through more than 120,000 test certificates filed over the past decade to see if more may have been falsified…

With each new revelation, South Koreans — who, like the Japanese, had grown to believe their leaders’ soothing claims about nuclear safety — have become more jittery. Safety is the biggest concern, but the scandals have also caused economic worries. At a time of slowing growth, the government had loudly promoted its plans to become a major builder of nuclear power plants abroad…

The nuclear industry, they say, was built around the notion that South Korea’s industries needed inexpensive power, leading Kepco to build plants quickly and operate them cheaply.

“South Koreans have guzzled cheap electricity while turning a blind eye to the safety concerns of their nuclear power plants,” said Yang Lee Won-young, a leader at the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement. “They may end up paying dearly.”

Our history in the United States is almost the opposite in terms of economics. Back in the day – when I worked in a corner of the industry supplying components for nuclear powerplant construction – they were treated as the world’s newest, biggest cash cow. Frankly, I doubt that’s changed much. Which is one of the reasons I support the political battle for solar farms, wind farms, over nuclear power plants, nowadays.

Not only does the cost per nuclear megawatt continue to increase – in the United States. The opposite is happening in the other alternative sources. The economies of scale in the production of components is still driving installed costs down for wind and solar.

Malicious virus shuttered power plant – introduced by employee


Duh!

A computer virus attacked a turbine control system at a U.S. power company last fall when a technician unknowingly inserted an infected USB computer drive into the network, keeping a plant off line for three weeks, according to a report posted on a U.S. government website.

The Department of Homeland Security report did not identify the plant but said criminal software, which is used to conduct financial crimes such as identity theft, was behind the incident.

It was introduced by an employee of a third-party contractor that does business with the utility…

In addition to not identifying the plants, a DHS spokesman declined to say where they are located.

Justin W. Clarke, a security researcher…noted that experts believe Stuxnet was delivered to its target in Iran via a USB drive. Attackers use that technique to place malicious software on computer systems that are “air gapped,” or cut off from the public Internet.

“This is yet another stark reminder that even if a true ‘air gap’ is in place on a control network, there are still ways that malicious targeted or unintentional random infection can occur,” he said.

Yes, you can rely on human beings to do something dumb!

Many critical infrastructure control systems run on Windows XP and Windows 2000, operating systems that were designed more than a decade ago. They have “auto run” features enabled by default, which makes them an easy target for infection because malicious software loads as soon as a USB is plugged into the system unless operators change that setting, Clarke said…

A DHS spokesman could not immediately be reached to comment on the report.

The largest single category of so-called hacking attacks – which had nothing to do with hacking, of course – was spearphishing emails sent to specific employees of public utilities. The emails including a suggestion to “click here” for more information. They did.

Indonesia hosting world’s biggest Geothermal energy forum


Geothermal power plant in Iceland

Indonesia is hosting what is being called the world’s biggest Geothermal energy conference.

The congress in Bali is an attempt to look at how to better develop geothermal power as an environmentally friendly fuel for the future…

It is often dubbed volcano power but the correct scientific explanation for geothermal energy is power extracted from the heat stored in the Earth’s core.

Indonesia has ambitious plans to tap geothermal power…The archipelago of more than 17,000 islands sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” – one of the most active regions in the world for volcanic activity…

Scientists say that in theory the planet’s geothermal power is enough to supply mankind’s energy needs and could certainly help to solve Indonesia’s fuel problems.

But the issue is cost. While environmentally friendly, the harnessing of geothermal power is also a very expensive endeavour.

Reports from the conference just might provide some info, some hope, some idea of folks realizing that a little extra time and money means a great deal to the future of energy production.

Or we can continue with the same short-sighted analysis of commerce and production that gets the world – repeatedly – into disaster-laden corners.

Clean air at the expense of waterways

Masontown, PA — For years, residents here complained about the yellow smoke pouring from the tall chimneys of the nearby coal-fired power plant, which left a film on their cars and pebbles of coal waste in their yards. Five states — including New York and New Jersey — sued the plant’s owner, Allegheny Energy, claiming the air pollution was causing respiratory diseases and acid rain.

So three years ago, when Allegheny Energy decided to install scrubbers to clean the plant’s air emissions, environmentalists were overjoyed. The technology would spray water and chemicals through the plant’s chimneys, trapping more than 150,000 tons of pollutants each year before they escaped into the sky.

But the cleaner air has come at a cost. Each day since the equipment was switched on in June, the company has dumped tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater containing chemicals from the scrubbing process into the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to 350,000 people and flows into Pittsburgh, 40 miles to the north…

Even as a growing number of coal-burning power plants around the nation have moved to reduce their air emissions, many of them are creating another problem: water pollution. Power plants are the nation’s biggest producer of toxic waste, surpassing industries like plastic and paint manufacturing and chemical plants, according to a New York Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data…

Yet no federal regulations specifically govern the disposal of power plant discharges into waterways or landfills. Some regulators have used laws like the Clean Water Act to combat such pollution. But those laws can prove inadequate, say regulators, because they do not mandate limits on the most dangerous chemicals in power plant waste, like arsenic and lead…

Even when power plant emissions are regulated by the Clean Water Act, plants have often violated that law without paying fines or facing other penalties. Ninety percent of 313 coal-fired power plants that have violated the Clean Water Act since 2004 were not fined or otherwise sanctioned by federal or state regulators, according to a Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency records.

RTFA. It goes on and on – pretty much as you would expect.

It remains cheaper to buy state officials than a congress-critter; so, the ever-popular federalist defense utilizes states rights to fend off the rare attempts to use federal regulations to stop pollution creep.

U.S. utilities signing uranium deal with Russia

Russia, already a large supplier of nuclear-reactor fuel to Europe and Asia, is expected today to sign its first purely commercial contract to supply low-enriched uranium to United States utilities.

With the signing, Russia’s nuclear-fuel trade with the United States will shift to a commercial footing, similar to Russia’s dealings with other consumers of fuel, like France and the Netherlands, both longtime buyers of Russian uranium.

For the United States, the change is a sign that Washington is acquiescing to the idea of a major Russian role not only in the international nuclear power market, but also in the domestic market. Russia’s outsize role in supplying uranium to American utilities had previously been justified because the fuel was a byproduct of a program to eliminate nuclear weapons. Now the Russians will be selling nuclear fuel from virgin uranium…

The policy of buying diluted, or blended-down, Russian weapons-grade uranium yielded a clear nonproliferation benefit. The new mode — of having the Russians enrich new uranium for United States markets — is not directly beneficial for nuclear security because it does not remove weapons-grade uranium from stockpiles. Yet by encouraging the commercial availability of Russian enrichment services, the United States deprives other countries of the rationale to have enrichment programs of their own.

It also diminishes the liklehood of our wonderful domestic suppliers getting back into the business. We don’t exactly miss the sleazy thugs who inflicted a couple generations of distorted and mutated genes on the poor buggers who worked their mines.