June 26, 2017
Statkraft claims radical biofuel breakthrough
June 26, 2017
Norwegian utility Statkraft has found a way to produce biofuel from wood chippings and other solid organic waste, which it says replicates in minutes a process that made crude oil underground over millions of years, news agency Reuters reports.
According to Reuters, “Using high temperatures and pressure, Statkraft’s ‘hydro thermal liquefaction’ process turns wood and organic waste into diesel, producing what it says is a second-generation biofuel that is carbon neutral.”
Statkraft CEO Christian Rynning-Toennesen said “up to 7 percent of the new fuel, whose energy density is similar to fossil-derived diesel, could be mixed into diesel fuel and used for any vehicle without modification. With small adjustments, a diesel engine could run solely on the fuel, he said.”
“This could be revolutionary, it could have the same widespread impact as wind turbines or solar photovoltaics. Mankind needs liquid fuels, just not fossil liquid fuels,” he told Reuters at the Eurelectric utilities industry conference.
Statkraft says it aims to “create a green fuel for aviation and other areas where a liquid is needed, rather than focus on cars”. Statkraft and Swedish forestry group Sodra have formed a joint venture called Silva Green Fuel, which will make an investment decision this year on a 50 million-70 million euro ($56 million-$78 million) pilot plant in Tofte, south of Oslo.
A full-scale plant would cost several hundred million euros and was at least five years away, Rynning-Toennesen said, adding that six large-scale plants could supply 15 percent of Norway’s diesel demand using only forestry waste products.
“If you add what can be produced from algae or food waste, there is no limitation on raw materials. We can take any solid organic material, even plastic,” Rynning-Toennesen said.
For now, the firm’s calculations show the new fuel is cost-competitive with regular diesel because of higher taxes on fossil-derived fuels.
After converting waste into an energy-rich liquid, the process separates out the water, then adds hydrogen to produce diesel in a process similar to oil refining. “What we are doing is the same as what nature has done over billions of years,” Rynning-Toennesen said.
How accurate are energy intensity projections?
June 26, 2017
This is a question that has been asked before, but it remains crucially important to energy and climate policy. All the major 2 degree scenarios project substantial improvements in energy intensity (which is in effect the same as energy efficiency) over the coming decades. Not to mention national policies such as the German Energiewende, which rely on greatly enhanced energy savings to meet climate targets. If these improvements do not happen, there is no way the world’s climate targets can be met.
In this context, note that, according to the IEA, no less than two-thirds of the flattening of greenhouse gas emissions seen in 2014 and 2015 came from reductions in energy intensity; the rest from an expansion of cleaner energy sources in global energy use.
Unfortunately, there is little reason to assume that current energy intensity projections will come true, according to a new scientific paper written by David I. Stern of Australian National University (“How accurate are energy intensity projections?”).
Stern has assessed the “accuracy of the business as usual energy intensity projections embedded in the annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) produced by the International Energy Agency since 1994”.
He concludes that “recent projections of the elasticity of energy intensity with respect to economic growth probably overstate the likely future reduction in energy intensity even if economic growth is projected accurately.”
Note that Stern is referring here to the IEA’s reference scenarios. The IEA’s “business as usual” scenario (“Current Policies”) sees energy intensity declining 2.09% per year till 2020, 2.13% per year till 2030, and 1.7% thereafter. The “New Policies” scenario, which takes into account all existing government policies, and has now been adopted by the IEA as its reference scenario, “expects more rapid decline still”, writes Stern, although if I look at the WEO 2016 on page 283, it talks about 1.9% per annum to 2040.
However, these are not 2-degrees scenario. For example, the combined IEA/IRENA scenario “Perspectives for the Energy Transition”, published earlier this year, projects in its “66% 2°C Scenario” that the energy intensity of the global economy needs to be lowered by 2.5% per year on average between 2014 and 2050.
However, Stern’s analysis shows that in the real world energy intensity has consistently stayed behind the projections. The average rate of decline of global energy intensity from 1990 to 2015 was 1.46% per annum. The main reasons for the too optimistic projections, according to Stern, “could be because energy efficiency policies are not implemented as effectively as expected” or “because the economy-wide rebound effect is larger than modeling assumes”.
As Stern points out there is no reason why higher improvements rates cannot be reached, but his study shows that it would require very aggressive policies.
Korea, the next nuclear domino to fall
June 26, 2017
Nuclear power is being challenged in different ways, for various reasons, in many countries around the world, including Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Vietnam and South Africa and even in what were once leading nuclear nations, the U.S., Japan and France.
In December last year, I even speculated on Energy Post Weekly that we may soon be seeing “the end of new nuclear power in the world”.
That was perhaps a bit premature. Nevertheless, the announcement by the new South Korean president Moon Jae-in of a nuclear phaseout policy for his country is another huge blow for the global nuclear industry. With China and Russia, South Korea was one of the three countries in the world still boasting a strong and growing domestic nuclear power sector. This position appears to be finished quite abruptly.
As World Nuclear News describes the news, “South Korean president Moon Jae-in has used the permanent shutdown of Kori unit 1 [a 576 MW reactor built in 1978] to outline his intended nuclear energy phase-out policy. He said no new reactors would be planned and existing units will not operate beyond 40 years.”
On 19 June, an event was held at the site of the Kori reactor to mark its shutdown (Kori 1 is the first reactor in South Korea to be decommissioned). Moon Jae-in, who “was one of seven candidates in the May presidential election who signed an agreement in March for a ‘common policy’ for phasing out the country’s use of nuclear energy”, said at the event: “I will review the policy on nuclear power plants entirely. We will abandon the development policy centred on nuclear power plants and exit the era of nuclear energy.”
Moon said “plans for new power reactors will be cancelled and the operating periods of existing units will not be extended beyond their design life.”
WNN notes that “following the closure of Kori 1, South Korea has 24 power reactors in operation with a combined generating capacity of 22,505 MWe. Together they provide about one-third of the country’s electricity.”
Concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants due to earthquakes was one reason for the phase-out policy, Moon said. “The Gyeongju earthquake that struck South Korea in September 2016, which he acknowledged caused no deaths, has shown that Korea ‘is no longer a safe earthquake zone’. He said the seismic resistance of the country’s nuclear power plants – which had been reinforced since the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan – would be re-examined. He failed to acknowledge that it was not the earthquake itself that caused the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, but the tsunami that followed.”
According to WNN, “Moon said the transformation of national energy policy is never easy and acknowledged ‘there will be many difficulties’. He said his nuclear phase-out policy is to gradually reduce nuclear capacity over a long period of time. Even if South Korea starts the phase-out now, it will take several decades until the currently operating fleet of reactors reach the end of their operation, Moon noted. He said the government will now ‘actively nurture safe and clean energy industries’, including renewables and LNG power generation. ‘We will make the energy industry a new growth engine for Korea,’ Moon said.”
Note that in addition to phasing out the country’s use of nuclear energy, Moon also pledged to reduce South Korea’s use of coal-fired power generation. “On being elected, he immediately shut down eight old coal-fired plants and said no new such plants would be constructed. The remaining ten coal-fired plants will be closed within his term of office, he said [at the event]. Moon has said he favours renewable energy sources as a replacement for coal and nuclear. However, it would take some time for South Korea to build up its generating capacity from renewables and it is likely to have to rely on gas to meet power demand.”
With nuclear under pressure, EDF expands in energy services
June 26, 2017
The French “national champion” EDF, owner of the French nuclear feet, has created a new division, EDF Solutions Energétiques, that will bring together the activities of its subsidiaries in energy services. EDF has set itself the goal of more than doubling its turnover in energy services – from around €4.4 billion in 2016 to €11 billion in 2025.
In a press release the company says the new brand “consolidates the development of the activities of the Group [in energy services] and its subsidiaries in countries where it already has a presence, and to launch targeted takeover bids or buy shares in specialist companies.”
EDF has long been a diversified group, owning specialist subsidiaries like Dalkia, Tiru, Citelum, Sodetrel, and NetSeenergy, active in areas such as low carbon heating systems, smart lighting, waste recovery and electric transport. “All of these services guarantee energy savings and the establishment of low-carbon solutions”, notes the company. “They help businesses boost their competitiveness and tackle the challenges associated with performance. Local authorities appreciate them for their appeal and the way they help reduce their carbon footprint.”
EDF, which last year achieved turnover of €71 billion, is also active in hydropower, renewables and thermal energy, in addition to nuclear. Nevertheless, although diversification is not new to the company, the new emphasis on energy services may be regarded as significant in view of the French government’s intention to reduce the share of nuclear power in the electricity mix from 75% today to 50% in the future.
EDF’s nuclear fleet in France went through a difficult year with lots of unplanned outages. In addition, EDF’s nuclear activities have come under fire in Finland, due to long delays and cost overruns, and in the UK, where the Hinkley Point C project is still drawing heavy criticism, despite having been approved by the UK government.
The UK National Audit Office released a highly critical report on Hinkley Point C last week (on 23 June), which states baldly that “The Department [of Energy] has committed electricity consumers and taxpayers to a high cost and risky deal in a changing energy marketplace. We cannot say the Department has maximised the chances that it will achieve value for money.” The Guardian reports the story in detail.