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Marcellus Gas Pipe Dreams or Wind Turbines?

by nb41 Sun Nov 28th, 2010 at 09:51:52 AM EST

There has been a lot of talk about the latest get-rich-quick (GRQ)  scheme(s) called Marcellus Tight Shale Gas (MTSG) which is based on a  Devonian Shale (350 million years ago) resource. It turns out that this  is methane and other hydrocarbons (ethane, propane, benzene, for  example) trapped in essentially non-porous rock that have the  consistency of a brick. The hydrocarbons will not flow out of this rock  unless the rock is fractured in a special way ("fracking"). Quite often, the formation is between 1 to  2 miles underground, and there is often saturated saltwater laden  layers on either side of the approximately 100 foot layer (a former  swamp/shallow ocean bottom) of shale. The hydrocarbons are not  uniformly dispersed at the same concentration in the Marcellus shale formation, so there are regions of  hydrocarbon rich shale and other regions without any significant  organics (as in hydrocarbon chemicals) content.

These are not easy hydrocarbon reserves to extract, and they also are financially  expensive to bring to market compared to "easy gas". But, since most of the easy pickings of  natural gas have been developed and are being or have been drained of gas in North America, our  hydrocarbon addiction has resulted in a "seeds and stems" situation,  where we are getting down to the dregs. If we want to keep using and living large (energy wise), it's  time to use up the bottom of the barrel stuff - beggars can't be too choosy, after all.

Frontpaged with minor edit - for your Sunday reading - Nomad

Anyway, we could spend many large fortunes to extract some of the  Marcellus gas (followed by Utica Shale gas as the next hydrocarbon  adventure) and in the process make some people really rich as well as  a significant number  who might be able to cling to a middle class lifestyle for a while. However, keep in mind the fate of mining towns; once the mine has been played out, what remains is a ghost town and quite often a big mess (toxic mine tailings). Once the "sweet spots" in the Marcellus regions have been tapped, then we need to move on to  energy resources based on something else, such as something that won't deplete and also cause all kinds of  pollution problems. Some say that maybe we should just skip this  temporary patch and get on to a viable future. But if we do that, what  of the fortunes to be made by the wannabe or already are but not  sufficiently so Methane tycoons? Won't they be robbed of their potential methane/hydrocarbon riches based on our collective resource? Or what about the path not chosen - renewable energy - won't those riches go to someone/somewhere else while we tubed our money on Marcellus Pipe Dreams?

Anyway, therein lies the rub. So let's "drill down" and see what is  really at stake here. It could be that people will have to overcome  their phobia of wind turbines and highly skilled manufacturing industries (and with attendant large employment requirements/low unemployment rate resulting society), which  lead to more wealth generation and a more equitable distribution of wealth,  assuming they wish to have access to "electricity on demand". Well, is  that so bad? However, maybe they could have a society where electricity  is scarce and undependable (i.e. no renewable energy to speak of/fossil fuel dependent), more "3rd worldish", at least for the vast  majority who don't have a lot of money.

As is the motto with thermodynamics "there is no such thing as a free  lunch", overall, at least. Somebodies freebie cost someone else. And  there is also no such thing as perpetual motion, and energy is not like  magic...too.

America's society and economy runs on energy, among other things. Our rapid economic development, rise in our standard of living and rise in consumption of all sorts of things in the 19th and especially 20th century is based on plentiful quantities of cheap energy, notably coal, oil and natural gas. Our domestic oil production peaked in 1973 when the massive East Texas oil field (with 30 billion barrels extracted to date) had been sufficiently depleted, and for some time the difference between US consumption and US production has been made up by importing greater and greater quantities. We now pay over $1 billion/day to import about 12 million bbls/day (mbd) of crude and refined oil products, and this is a massive taxation on the American populace, for which no permanent improvement in our lives occurs. Oil is an especially compact and portable form of energy storage, and it is extremely useful for transporting goods and people in ways that coal and natural gas (Ngas) are not.

The US also had/still has major reserves of Ngas and coal, but depletion of these reserves have also resulted from decades of large scale consumption, and quite often, wasteful, profligate consumption. But since prices were cheap, who cared? However, starting in 2000 with the Enron crime wave and combination Ngas/electricity scams/frauds/grifting, Ngas prices have become more expensive, and even coal prices have been affected by these oil and/or Ngas instigated price spikes. At present, spot prices for oil on a thermal basis are 4 times that of Ngas, and about 10 times the price of coal (but that varies by region). Many of the prime U.S. Ngas fields have been drained, and so smaller fields that have less Ngas associated with them and thus higher extraction costs/required prices have to be used to maintain Ngas production. This is best seen in the number  of wells being used (Ngas consumption has been relatively constant for the last decade). There are 137,000 new Ngas wells producing since 2000 - up by 40% in this time - (see http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/na1170_nus_8a.htm), but Ngas production is still in the 22 trillion cubic feet year (tcfy) range (see http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9050us2A.htm) or up by 10% in a decade. Thus, 40% more wells to give 10% more Ngas... And the trend is even worse than that decade long summary of events - much higher investment and energy consumption (of diesel oil no less; those fracking and drilling operations use a lot of diesel oil) required to get out a given quantity of methane.

Ngas and oil production are also related - especially from the deep well in the Gulf of Mexico  (GOMEX) - the Macondo (BP) well was 50 wt% methane/50 wt% "oil""natural gas liquids". About 6 tcfy (see http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9012us2A.htm) of methane (Ngas) comes co-produced with oil and "condensates", or about 1/4 of marketed Ngas. Lately, there has been a glut of Ngas relative to what is used, partly due to GOMEX oil production, partly a result of the Exploration and Production (E&P) efforts undertaken when Ngas prices were very high (2004 to 2008), and partly due to the collapse in demand when so many factories bit the big one/were off-shored. As a result, Ngas storage capacity no longer exists (it's been maxed out) - see http://ir.eia.gov/ngs/ngs.html. As another result, Ngas prices are quite depressed - wellhead prices are averaging 50% of the values from two years ago (peak of recent prices) - see http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9190us3M.htm. Ngas prices are especially sensitive to the supply demand balance - drastic price changes result from subtle shifts in this balance.

Nowadays, prices for both Ngas and oil have severely diverged from the average cost to produce these materials. Worldwide cost to produce oil is around $20/bbl or less, but the marginal production costs (the cost needed to make that last bit (say 1 mbd out of a worldwide production of about 83 mbd oil/condensates) of oil) are much higher. The price for oil (now around $85/bbl) is explained by the high demand and limited supply. In fact, current oil production rates may have peaked due to depletion of so many long used "mega-fields" (more than 100,000 bbls/day production rate - these supply about half of the oil produced worldwide), and to the great surprise of many, the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has long denied the possibility of Peak Oil for at least two decades from now, now says that Peak Oil has essentially already happened (and in 2006, no less). Ooops!!! See http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2010/11/9/8402/91314 and http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2010-11-11/iea-acknowledges-peak-oil. So, if you find oil, and even little pockets of it (the Macondo field had 2 billion bbls of oil in it (plus Ngas), and that oil is presently worth around $170 billion!), in effect, you've won the Lotto, and a big one, too. And the Peak Oil prediction - as supply exceeds demand, prices will skyrocket until they crash the economy in repeated cycles, but the average oil price will rise at a much higher rate than inflation.

But as for Ngas in the US, the opposite is true. The marginal production price for Ngas is now near $10/MBtu (needs a price of around $10/MBtu) and the marginal production cost is above $7/MBtu, but the spot price is near $4/MBtu. Either production rates have to decrease and/or consumption rates have to increase before long term viable prices for Ngas (as viewed from the E&P perspective, not the consumer perspective) are the usual rule again. These graphs shows the trend for the smaller Ngas field/higher cost to find this Ngas:

The data for these cost and price estimates were provided by Credit Suisse, a major global banking concern, and a major banker/adviser to US oil an gas drilling companies. E&P activities are capital intensive, and don't happen like a charity; they have been high yielding investments, on average, and those projects that will be money losers will get cut off from investment bankers and fellow finance sources in a New York nanosecond (which is one billionth of a second, FYI). From the second graph, the estimated price needed to meet equity investor expectations would have been about $9.31/MBtu in 2010 (this year), and the break-even cost needed for the wellhead (not delivered, and not Henry Hub price) would be $7.11/MBtu. And this industry does not run on the "break-even cost" model..... Also note that a 10% ROI (return on investment) is really considered to be sub-par, and a sign of failure. ROI's of 15% to 20% are the ones really expected...

Over time, the Ngas glut will go away, but that point in time could be 5 years from now, and even longer if high oil prices spark off another Great Recession (GR2). All Ngas wells are depleting as long as gas is being extracted from them, so eventually the high productivity and high profit wells/fields will draw down. The other ways to deal with the glut is to either restrict production from existing wells (the "Standard Oil Business Model"), which may be illegal under anti-trust laws (assuming they are still enforced), or else to increase the consumption rate of this Ngas. Three ways to increase the Ngas consumption are to make more electricity from Ngas, use the Ngas directly in transportation (ships, trains, trucks, cars) or to convert the Ngas into liquid fuels. For a variety of reasons, direct use of Ngas in cars, trucks and trains is unlikely to become a major Ngas consumption venue, so Ngas to electricity and Ngas conversion into liquid fuels are the major options for increased consumption rates.

Ngas usage rates to make electricity can be increased readily with no need to spend anymore money on new plants, as there is already a tremendous glut of Ngas based generating capacity available in this country. Most of it is rarely used, or used for "peaking". The capacity usage of Ngas plants in this country is near 50% or less. However, any new electricity made by the Ngas using facility would have to displace ultra-low priced electricity from fully depreciated coal burning or nuke facilities, and even at $4/MBtu (or about $6/MBtu as delivered to the facilities (see http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n3045us3m.htm)), Ngas users would need electricity prices higher than 5 c/kw-hr to justify Ngas usage. Unless either the coal burners or nukes (the low cost electricity producers) are shut down to use the higher priced electricity source fuel, increasing Ngas usage for electricity is unlikely to occur to the extent needed to cause Ngas prices to double. In fact, a trend of slightly increased Ngas usage is evident (see http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n3045us2A.htm), but nothing significant. And additionally, wind power is often directly competing with Ngas based electricity production; as more wind is installed, less Ngas will be used to make electricity. Adding more wind into pricing systems such as those that exist in NY State also LOWERS generated electricity prices (no matter what the cost to make that wind derived electricity happens to be - remember, electricity production cost and price for that electricity are not necessarily related in the NYISO marginal based pricing system), further depressing any trend to make more electricity from Ngas and putting price pressure on Ngas.

So, since the electricity route will only provide a slight demand increase, what about the use of CH4 (methane) for make molecules such as polymers of - "CH2" - (gasoline, diesel, kerosene, waxes). Mobil Oil installed a facility at Motuni rated at ~ 15,000 bbls/day in New Zealand (MTG process) over 20 years ago (New Zealand has natural gas but essentially no oil associated with that gas). Another version is Shell Oil's Bintalu facility in Malaysia (see http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7118), and the "world scale" Pearl GTL (Gas To Liquids) facility in Qatar, rated at 140,000 bbls/day (see http://www.shell.com/home/content/aboutshell/our_strategy/major_projects_2/pearl/overview/). About 1.4 billion cubic feet/day (bcfd) of methane will be used, equal to about 2.3% of present U.S. production; this facility cost about $19 billion in Qatar, and easily over $25 billion in the US. It takes about 10 MBtu of Ngas to make a barrel of oil products (refined, not crude), so roughly $50 of raw material would be made into $125 of products.

In the U.S., a GTL facility could get made, providing companies were willing to fork over a $25 billion investment to make ~ 140,000 bbls/day (the US imports 12 mbd to make about 10.5 mbd of products). However, at least a $250 billion investment would be needed just to make about 10% of US gasoline, diesel and oil. The limiting factor may well be just the available investment money... And a 20 year supply per facility would need 10 TRILLION standard cubic feet just to keep it supplied with raw material. Furthermore, if that money was invested in renewable electricity (that could be made with wind turbines) and in electric transportation as well as more efficient liquid fuels consuming cars, the need for a GTL unit would more or less vanish. Looks like more oops. Bankers and other investors would ONLY make such investments if they had guaranteed customers for the products of these GTL facilities.... and at guaranteed prices for the GTL products as well as the Ngas raw material....

While people tend to be focused on Marcellus shale gas/fracking (see http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2010-11-17/sixty-lame-minutes for a great article on that), it is puzzling that:

  1. Ngas prices are now too low to justify shale gas E&P and are likely to be that way for some time, too.
  2. Ngas usage is likely to remain quite dormant for some time - no new markets to speak of.
  3. If Ngas prices were high enough to justify Marcellus Shale gas fracking, it would be less expensive or similar in cost to make onshore wind turbine derived electricity instead of Ngas derived electricity. So why bother with fracking to make unmarketable Ngas?
  4. Increased fuel efficiency could drastically lower oil demand in the US, which would trash any need for a GTL facility. For example, doubling average gasoline mileage at constant miles driven would mean that only half of the gasoline usage rate would result. Dropping the vehicle-miles traveled per year by liquid fuel consuming vehicles by half would also drop fuel usage by half. Combining these results in transportation fuel usage of only 25% of  today's levels. Given the huge demand for capital, and also potential competition from even MORE expensive to build coal based sin-fuel facilities (which at least used to have stable prices for the raw material - coal, pet coke), and also the potential for drops in the demand for fuel to move people and stuff around.. maybe GTL sin-fuel facilities are too risky to build.

So why the rush to do this? Maybe, as is suggested in this article - http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2010-11-17/shale-gas-shell-game - the Nags drilling is really an ASSET PLAY. That is, small and medium sized E&P companies stake out territory, drill some wells in order to get bought up by extremely cash bloated major oil companies. The goal is not to produce a lot of Ngas (but the more pricey "condensates" are another matter, and very much sought after), or to provide energy security to the U.S., or even to slow down the rate of CO2 pollution by substituting Ngas for coal in electricity production. The oil majors need to obtain hydrocarbon reserves in order to boost their stock prices (all that cash does not do this), and these E&P units are losing money at prodigious rates (a high "burn rate", as in burning through capital), so this is a match made in financial heaven. Recent examples include the purchase of XTO by Exxon-Mobil for $30 billion in cash, and Atlas by Chevron for a mere $3.1 billion, cash. So the idea that this will provide a "gas boom" of employment and business/economic development seems to have no basis. Of course, before the minor E&P's can sell themselves off, they have to find and deliver SOME gas, which means some fracking and related activity. Including air and water pollution, done by companies operating in a cut-throat, precarious environment, and a race against time to avoid bankruptcy. They need to get bought out before they go bankrupt, and that means cutting corners (safety and pollution rules be damned...), and hey, "ya gotta do what ya gotta do...."

Of course, eventually the oil majors will need to produce this Ngas, but that won't be for a while - not until prices are high enough for a long enough time to justify the rapidly increasing cost to do this Ngas development. And then that will run into the wind turbine wall; its less expensive and price/cost-wise, much more dependable to make electricity via wind than to rely on roller coaster pricing for Ngas, coupled with roller coaster electricity pricing. Who knows, proper environmental enforcement and proper waste water disposal (for all the spent fracking fluids, and hydrocarbon-contaminated produced water brines, alias "produced water") might be enforced.

Thus, a business model for Marcellus and Utica shale gas exploitation would include the removal/minimization/obliteration of the only viable competition for electricity production in the northeast part of the US (wind turbines, pumped hydroelectric energy storage, biomass and biogas) - those need to be "taken of the table". Taken out, prevented and thwarted by hook or by crook. So the use of astroturf "environmental organizations", lobbying, public relations, purchased/rented media, and the denial of media access to pro-renewable energy advocates is essential. After all, rural NY is pretty much all Republican, and the oil industry pretty much OWNS the GOP (Grand Oil Party). In this endeavor, truth is an immediate casualty, and time gets to be on the side with billions in cash (oil companies, and related bankster/investment entities organizations) just sitting by idly, looking for a use.

This is a big way that wind turbines enter the fray with respect to the fracking controversy. Wind turbines directly compete with Ngas to provide electricity, and they also tend to depress the price for electricity via the Merit Order Effect, thus destroying the profitability. You can choose no electricity (and thus a peasant farming based society, hurtling towards third world and then fourth world status), renewable wind, renewable biomass (and wind plus biomass plus pumped hydro is also a nifty combination), polluting coal, polluting nukes or air and water polluting fracked methane. But, it is a choice, one way or another. The one that creates the most jobs for a given investment with essentially no pollution is the renewable one. But for some, using the most money to create the least jobs is just fine as long as it results in a situation where the rich get significantly enriched, and all others get the wrong end of the process.


Thanks for this, Nb41. I made the graphs display in the diary body.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 05:04:59 PM EST
Well, much thanks to you. BTW, what's the Html code  do this?

This is getting to be quite the big deal in NY state. But, not so much in Ontario, which has a Feed-In Law. Funny how that works...


by nb41 on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 11:07:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Simply to display an image, use the image tag "img" :

<img src="http://i279.photobucket.com/albums/kk133/Nb41a/Energy/JonFriese_Ngas1a.jpg">

Yes, it's funny how feed-in mechanisms work... So well, incumbents have successfully spread the word that wind power lives off massive subsidy. The meme seems to have captured opinion in Britain. Even here in France, I frequently hear from otherwise apparently intelligent people that investors in wind power make out like bandits thanks to subsidies.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 02:16:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seeds and stems? You made me cough through the bong.
by Mentatmark (mentatmark at gmail dot com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 07:52:02 PM EST
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 04:04:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's difficult to pick off the link with video files, so try this one:

http://www.google.com/search?q=commander+Cody+seeds+and+stems&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&am p;client=safari

It will lead to a fine rendition of this tune (initial pick). And hopefully you didn't ruin the bong...


by nb41 on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 07:49:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Natural gas is not replacable with wind, as it is used primarily for power-on-demand electricity production (swing production, essentially) and secondarily, by people with no sanity, as baseload. And as long as we have no good solutions for large-scale energy storage, more wind power build out will increase, rather than decrease, the amount of swing production capacity needed.
The only way out of a reliance on natural gas for people currently using it, is to rebuild the entire grid until it no longer needs combustion fueled swing producers - this basically means a mix of hydro and nuclear (see, sweden, switzerland, a few other places) and if you dont have the geology for enough hydro to do the loadfollowing, your choices are either to overbuild nukes, and really silly amounts of pumped storage
by Thomas on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 12:32:51 PM EST
Where I live, we have the energy storage system down pat, with about 1GW capacity for at least 12 hrs nearby, and also 1GW of deferred hydro, in a region with less than 2 GW of demand. And that barely touches the potential in a region with lots of water and lots of nearby hills with steep slopes. Pumped hydro rules! And this might even allow us to dump nukes, too. Ironic, because the high probability and in fact certainty of emergency shutdowns means that nukes are partly the reason there pumped hydro units were built in the grist place...

And NY state does a lot of Ngas base load stuff, especially near NYC, where there aren't a lot of coal burners.


by nb41 on Thu Nov 25th, 2010 at 07:59:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Natural gas baseload is both a criminal waste of a scarce resource, and criminally irresponsible energy planning - The price of natural gas has historically been volatile as all hell, and it is certain that it will continue to be so, with most of the volatility being in the form of "eyewatering price spikes". This is not so bad if what you are doing with it is simply to supply peaking power, and backup power for unforseen outages - as long as NG is a small faction of your total supply, the priceshock when it goes up doesnt bleed through into electricity prices too much. But if your entire grid is NG, what you are doing is guaranteeing heart-attack inducing electricity bills at some not-to-distant future date.  
by Thomas on Fri Nov 26th, 2010 at 03:52:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you recommend in places with no opportunity for even pumped storage (i.e. western australia, where the hills are low and the water scarce)?
by njh on Fri Nov 26th, 2010 at 01:16:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Options: one of the basic design goals of the EPR was "operates well run in loadfollowing mode" so if you can get it built at a reasonable pricetag, (.. hire the chinese workcrews?) that works. Alternatively, if it is impractical to match supply to demand, then match demand to supply.
IE; build both enough nukes to supply peak demand and industrial plant to use the offpeak excess power so that the capital utilization on the nuke plant doesnt suck.
by Thomas on Fri Nov 26th, 2010 at 03:44:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Such demand follows supply system would work for renewables too I guess. I wonder how much could be done today?
by njh on Fri Nov 26th, 2010 at 07:56:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any process that has low capital requirements, high energy demand, and good tolerance for being turned on and off at short notice is good for this stunt.
Not much is, in fact, currently done in this area, but (un)natural gas synthesis with a good price point was recently demonstrated in Germany and electrolysis production of hydrogen for ammonia production is a profitable endeavor if electricity is cheap enough.* There are other options, but I am not an chemist of any sort so..

 - of course, the economic logic only works if the offpeak power you are unloading in this manner is significantly cheaper than a dedicated conventional powersupply for the process - and at the present state of technology, this only holds true for onshore wind in very good locations and nukes - Further implied,  even if you do this, the nuclear plant(s) supplying the last 50% of the original power demand you are attempting to satisfy is going to be rather more expensive than the first 50% worth, because electricity supplies that may be cut off at the convienience of the utility sell at a significant discount, which will have to be made up on the price of the rest of the output.

*Mostly because the price of ammonia is really rather high. Napkin math indicates that fossile fuel based  ammonia production has to be operating some sort of cartel, as the implied profits are insane.

by Thomas on Sun Nov 28th, 2010 at 02:35:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Demand can be adjusted through quite a wide range. And batteries.
by asdf on Sun Nov 28th, 2010 at 01:43:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pricing is one of the mechanisms to adjust demand. As long as you have a large enough pool of actors that do not have fixed prices, it appears to work.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 30th, 2010 at 08:09:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pumped and deferred  hydroelectric energy storage may not work for every situation (deserts have no water, flat lands have no hills), but it will work for lots of places. It is pretty efficient - pumped can be up to 85% efficient, and deferred isas efficient as is the hydroelectric turbine, but it has zero pumping losses. It can store tremendous amounts of energy, and is probably applicable to about half of the human race, and most of Europe and the Americas. It also works well with ocean water, for hills and mountains next to the ocean but with little fresh water. California is probably the best application for that.

Sure, there are some losses, but consider that the cost of doing business. They are capital intensive operations, but making them also is a great way to create jobs - great candidates for Keynsian stimulus projects. A typical cost of operation is 1c/kw-hr added onto the efficiency loss - until the capital is paid down, and then it gets cheap. Near where I live, electricity is generated at about 0.2 cents/kw-hr by government owned hydro projects (two of them make about 3 GW on average), so storage of lots of energy is  pretty cheap. The combined 410 MW of storage could probably leverage between 2 to 4 GW of wind energy (delivered basis), or roughly 5 to 10 GW of offshore wind capacity, and there could be lots of that on the Canadian south coast/U.S. North coast.

Prtetty much all of the NE and most of the east coast and all of the west coast of the US and Canada could use pumped hydro, and drastically leverage the awesome wind capacity of North America. But right now there is no will to do so. And there are lots of clever ways to uses variable demand at high electricity usage facilities, and with electric cars, too. Pumped hydro can be a great buffer for tidal and also wind. For longer term storage, NH3 manufacture or reduction of CO2 with H2 from water electrolysis to make storable liquid fuels is there for the taking. It's not going to be cheap, but it will be cheaper and inherently a lot safer than new nukes, which need really high prices, and don't make enough jobs for all the money invested in these govt subsidized efforts.


by nb41 on Sun Nov 28th, 2010 at 05:41:36 PM EST
What about super long distance networks, say across australia, or even australia to china?  I have no idea what the limits to voltage are, but if HVDC @ 1MV can go 3000km, perhaps 10MV can go 30000km?  (yes, current losses drop as v^2, but for those sorts of lengths other effects might take over - perhaps corona leakage)
by njh on Mon Nov 29th, 2010 at 01:45:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Those also work well with pumped hydro and deferred hydro. In fact, merging some very expensive long distance HVDC delivering renewables with locally available and near-local renewables. HVDC can also deliver variable renewables to and from numerous large and really large energy storage systems.

Odds are 3000 km is not needed very much in Australia. As I recall, there is a decent drop from near coastal cliffs and hills around Sydney to the ocean, and for at least 100 km up and down the coast. Tasmania has both hills and fresh water, or ocean water. Heck, there's always Papua/New Guinea - really mountainous and really wet.


by nb41 on Mon Nov 29th, 2010 at 10:10:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You would not get any pumped hydro near sydney.  land values are way too high.  I was more thinking of perth in any case, which is basically a vast expanse of flat.
by njh on Tue Nov 30th, 2010 at 02:13:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What about to the south of the national park south of Sydney, or near woolonggong, or to the noth near Newcastle. Those coastal areas have pretty steep cliffs that are a few hundred feet tall. Perfect for ocean based pumped hydro.


by nb41 on Wed Dec 1st, 2010 at 09:52:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Full of people.  It would require a significant change in circumstance to get public opinion behind something like this.

I expect that pumping sea water onto porous hills is going to ruin aquifers and whatnot too.

by njh on Thu Dec 2nd, 2010 at 06:25:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of pumped hydro (PH) ponds have an impervious liner so that water leakage does not happen. A great example of this is the Ludington PH facility, which has a ~ 800 acre pond built on a sand dune. They lined it with clay and then asphalt. See

Here is a list of PH facilities. So far, japan has the only ocean water one at Yanbura:


by nb41 on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 03:04:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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