Comments by Edward Dodge Subscribe

On A Grand Compromise on Energy?

Rick, I fully agree on the need to leverage soil carbon as central to managing carbon emissions. One of the best elements to come out of the Paris talks is the new focus on land use which is the source of 1/3 of all GHG emissions. By re-greening the planet we can turn that GHG source into a sink and improve agriculture and water at the same time.

And separately, I remain utterly unconvinced that wind and solar have anything to do whatosever with high temperature manufacturing despite the wishful thinking expressed by many in this thread. 

December 20, 2015    View Comment    

On Paris Climate Accords, Shale, and Implications for OPEC

I agree that we are moving into a new era where peak demand is the issue, not peak supply. New technologies are bringing new hydrocarbon resources into the market in voluminous quantities while at the same time climate change and pollution issues are forcing every country to reevaluate how they consume those hydrocarbons. Simply burning raw fuels with no pollution controls is quickly becoming unacceptable.

As more resources come to market: shale, deep oil, oil sands, even municipal solid waste, (and lurking over the horizon are the methane hydrates), there will be increasing competition for every resource provider to find their place in the market.

Coal is gettting knocked out of the power market by natural gas, but coal has options. Coal can be gasified and converted into liquid fuels and chemicals and continue to compete with oil and gas. Coal gasification has the benefit of producing pure CO2 streams ready for capture. If the CO2 capture can be incentivized or monetized then coal is right back in business competing in the liquid fuels market. Synthetic liquid fuels are ultra-pure and zero sulfur and can demand premium pricing due to their superior environmental performance. Couple that with CCS, biomass blending and recycling CO2 through methanol pathways it is possible to manufacture liquid fuels that have lower fossil carbon content and are advantaged in the market.

The 21st century is going to be an interesting time, no longer can every fossil fuel resource simply expect to find customers, the competition will be to refine ever cleaner and carbon advantaged fuels, and a furious fight for market share.

December 18, 2015    View Comment    

On Garbage: The Back End of the Renewable Economy

Municipal solid waste is an excellent energy source that we are not taking advantage of. And a much better method than incinerating waste is to gasify it. Incineration is proven, but has limitations, it creates a lot of dioxins and leaves behind 10% as toxic ash. Combustion systems only allow for the production of heat, steam, and power which are cheap in the market. Though that is useful, it fails to capture the full range of opportunities.

Using high temperature gasification all of the material is converted into usable commodities and dioxins are not formed. All of the carbonaceous material, organics, plastics, paper, etc is converted into synthesis gas which is a common industrial feedstock that is in turn converted into a wide variety of valuable liquid fuels and chemicals, or it can be combusted for heat, steam and power. The inorganic materials melt into slag which has long been certified as safe and is good for use as construction aggregate for concrete and road building.

Regarding carbon emissions, gasifcation systems produce pure streams of CO2, ready for capture. While incinerators produce dilute CO2 that is expensive to capture, same as coal power plants.

Waste gasification offers the opportunity to convert all manner of waste (anything but nuclear), including difficult hazardous and industrial waste along with MSW into extremely valuable chemicals. Incineration is incomplete in this regard and leaves behind a lot of its own waste that remains chellenging to deal with.  

December 18, 2015    View Comment    

On A Grand Compromise on Energy?

Wind turbines absolutely require fossil fuels to be manufactured. The primary materials in a turbine are steel, concrete and plastics, all of which are made from fossil fuels. Concrete needs cement which needs a lot of fuel to produce, usually coal but any fuel will do, like tires. Steel needs the carbon from metalurgical coal, steel is iron+carbon. Plastics are hydrocarbons.

For PV, silicon is refined using high temperature furnaces, though typically electrically driven, the raw megawatt loads required generally means conventional power sources. High temperature manufacturing generally runs 24/7 to keep the temps up, intermittant power sources don't meet the engineering requirements.

If someone can show me a solar panel factory that is powered by solar panels I would love to see it.

December 18, 2015    View Comment    

On A New Model for Carbon Pricing Using Blockchain Technology

Bob,

Wind, solar, nuclear, they are all expensive, and have all relied on public money to get traction. Solar costs would not have fallen if not for massive public investment by the Chinese into manufacturing and similarly massive subsidies in the west to purchase them. 

CCS is proven to sequester millions of tons of CO2 per facility, and while progress is slow projects are getting built. There is a lot of data to support the argument that CCS is the most cost effective method to directly mitigate CO2 emissions and is the only method to mitigate emissions from heavy industry like steel manufacturing. And costs fall when manufacturing expands, just as true for CCS as any other industry.

http://hub.globalccsinstitute.com/sites/default/files/publications/195008/costs-ccs-other-low-carbon-technologies-united-states-2015-update.pdf

September 24, 2015    View Comment    

On My Dr. Strangelove Moment: How I Came to Love Clean Coal

Just to add a point. BECCS works perfectly with clean coal. Plants designed for lignite coal can readily take biomass at up to roughly a 30% blend (depending on the specific facility). Lignite has a very high moisture content, similar to biomass. The challenge on blending biomass with coal is mainly on the upstream side, getting the fuel handling equipment to work right (conveyors, grinders, storage, etc.).

Both Kemper and Sask Power reps told me they had done analysis on blending wood chips with their lignite and they believe it would work fine. Both regions have extensive timber resources.

I have seen some interesting analysis that shows that biomass-coal blends with CCS could produce carbon negative synfuels (instead of power).

July 13, 2015    View Comment    

On My Dr. Strangelove Moment: How I Came to Love Clean Coal

I believe that CCS will scale quickly once the value proposition becomes clear, and that partly requires policy that forcibly limits carbon emissions. Canada has regulations now limiting CO2 emissions from coal power plants, and that drove the CCS investment decision in Saskatchewan. Canada is not a big coal country so the regulations were not as politically contentious there as they are in the USA.

If investors see that they can make money investing in CCS capital will pour in and infrastructure will get built. We have very elaborate infrastructures for rail, oil and gas, telecom, etc, which is largely built with private money (a lot of public money too). But there needs to be a solid business case for each link in the chain, every capture project and pipeline link needs to make financial sense or else it will never get done. But on the other hand if the business case is good, stuff will get built quickly and we need policy to push the needle or else business as usual will persist. 

July 13, 2015    View Comment    

On My Dr. Strangelove Moment: How I Came to Love Clean Coal

Nathan,

You need to look at the political drivers and local resource cases that drive investment decisions on a local, case-by-case basis. There is no one single price for any type of power generation, they all vary depending on location. For instance natural gas prices fluctuate dramatically, Boston and New York City routinely pay much higher prices for gas than the Henry Hub price that is generally used in energy statistics.

Saskatchewan is a perfect example of why a regional government would make the decision to invest in CCS. Saskatchewan has coal and it has mature oil fields, but they don't have natural gas in the province, nor good solar resources, they do have good wind though. For the regional govt it makes complete sense to invest in CCS and CO2-EOR because it supports two major industries in their province with significant employment and tax revenues, while helping to mitigate carbon emissions.

For Saskatchewan to invest in wind, and they do have wind farms, they must import natural gas from outside the province to match up with the wind. In this scenario the natural gas is fired in simple cycle turbines which are less efficient than combined cycle turbines (that are suited for baseload), and hence have higher CO2 emissions than combined cycle. In this scenario, CO2 emisssions are lower by doing 90% carbon capture on coal, than doing wind + simple cycle gas, plus two important local industries continue to stay in business. 

Other regional governments are starting to make the same argument. In England they see the opportunity to marry up their fading North Sea oil with their coal industry through CCS and CO2-EOR. The Western Governers Association in the USA also released a memo making the same case.

If your region has coal resources that you do not wish to see go out of business, and you have appropriate oil fields nearby, it is perfectly logical to invest in CCS and CO2-EOR. Of course other regions will make different decisons based on their local resource case. And none of these technologies are mutually exclusive options, you can have renewables and clean coal together. 

Here in New York where I live we could be using our own domestic gas in state to help lower prices and put New Yorkers to work, but the environmental lobby would rather shut the drilling industry down and force the state to import gas from elsewhere.

July 13, 2015    View Comment    

On My Dr. Strangelove Moment: How I Came to Love Clean Coal

Roger, the vampiric load for doing amine scrubbing is significant, but it is much lower than 33%, closer to 25%. But it is important to remember that these clean coal plants are not strictly power plants, they have evolved into chemical refineries that sell a variety of products, sCO2 is a value added product not waste. At Kemper, the expectation is that 60% of their revenues will come from chemical byproducts, only 40% from power.

I don't believe that CCS will be the sole solution for resolving climate change issues, but I do believe that there is no solution for climate change that does not include a significant amount of CCS. The mitigation numbers simply do not add up without CCS. 

CCS will ultimately require an extensive pipeline network at continental scale, similar in scale to existing oil and gas pipeline networks. This network will link carbon sources with carbon sinks, most of those carbon sinks will be oil and gas production because that will provide revenue. There are many CO2 sources with much lower capture costs than coal plants such as ethanol plants, chemical refineries, and oil refineries that will be able to plug into the network.

July 12, 2015    View Comment    

On The Case for Carbon Capture

Bob,

I believe it is possible to bring carbon emissions into balance with the Earth's existing natural carbon cycle through a combination of:

1. Maximum efficiency in the use of fossil fuels (leveraging renewables, batteries and nukes to allow us to sip instead of guzzle hydrocarbons).

2. Industrial carbon capture (send the CO2 back into oil fields, coalbeds, and shale as a component of continued hydrocarbon production).

3. Regreening the planet to sequester carbon in soil (reforestation and building healthy soil reduces the need for agricultural chemicals and their runoff pollution).

Hypocrisy is a strong word, folks who rely on products derived from hydrocarbons every day of their life should think twice about their own role in demanding the products that are sold in the market. You hate oil? Don't buy it. But just keep in mind that the computer you are using to type out your message is very much a hydrocarbon product. Kind of like the kayaktivist protesters in Seattle protesting Shell oil, paddling around in their petroleum based kayaks, with plastic paddles, life jackets, swim suits, water bottles and all the rest. Is the irony of that not lost on anyone?

June 4, 2015    View Comment    

On The Case for Carbon Capture

Roger,

DOE has done a lot of research characterizing the resource potential for CO2-EOR both in terms of CO2 sequestration and oil production. The numbers I present in the article are actually pretty modest because they only cover the oil fields that have been studied in some detail, while there remains large categories of potential fields that have not been studied. For example there is huge, but uncharacterized potential for CO2-EOR in the Bakken Shale, where productivity today is low and much oil remains in place. Researchers believe that CO2 in shale could open up billions of barrels more, but since it is new technology no one can say for sure, but they are working on it. The numbers above are also only for the USA, but EOR opportunities in Saudi Arabia and the rest of MENA are pretty staggering if you can get the CO2 there. 

There is a good article here where I pulled the data from. The link is a kind of a kluge, it opens up an online magazine and you can find the article on p. 36.

http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/wiley/cornerstone_2013winter/#/38

And to all the folks who have a knee-jerk opposition to CO2-EOR simply because it produces more oil I would simply point out that there is no evidence that we are going to stop drilling for oil any time. Demand for energy remains sky high and the reserves continue to grow with technology advances. It it is tough to fight supply and demand.

Personally, I would like to see the oil industry step up to the plate on CO2-EOR and accept that they have a role to play in limiting carbon emissions and do their part by injecting CO2 into their fields. The industry could choose to put more efforts into CO2-EOR rather than drilling in the arctic or other sensitive locations.

I would also point out that the Middle East is going up in flames and as long as we are dependent on those resources we are vulnerable as a nation to disruptions. We have plenty of resources in North America that we can be net energy exporters and compete with Middle East supplies rather than depend on them.

June 3, 2015    View Comment    

On EPA's Blown Call on Ethanol

Geoffrey,

All the analysis I have seen indicates that the present corn ethanol industry would continue to operate essentially as-is if the entire RFS was scrapped. There is genuine demand for ethanol as an oxygenate blend in gasoline as a replacement for the old MBTE that was banned due to its toxicity.

The blend wall is effectively a demand wall that fortunately seems to have found some balance with overall corn production. We can't really significantly raise the amount of corn used for fuel without impacting food markets and all the cellulosic ethanol prodcution has been a bust. 

I say scrap the RFS and put into efforts into other, superior fuels, like DME, renewable natural gas, or fischer-tropsch synfuels.

 

June 2, 2015    View Comment