Wednesday 26 October 2011

Energy From Waste

In my last blog I called for more effort on energy from wastes. I showed some nice pictures of Anaerobic Digester Plant in the Czech Republic. Who listens? Not many, I was not bold enough in my delivery..

So lets show what wastes we are talking about:

This is where London sends at least 50% of their DOMESTIC wastes
 London is a great example. It generated hundreds and thousands of tons per year of domestic waste plus a further 16 million tons of commercial wastes (including construction materials). No, that is a lot of stuff.

But most of it is transported out of London! The total bill each year for collecting and redistributing (I cannot use the word recycling as this does little which could truly be considered recycling) is £580m. At the same time they run 10,000 buses on diesel choking up the hard pressed residents. It's utter madness. It smacks of blinkered, too specialised, compartmentalised thinking. We need some generalists who can co-ordinate - to pull together all these strands; and to bang a few heads together.
A Mountain to "Recycle"

Luckily Boris Johnson has a plan. And its not too bad; so long as the plan is carried out and not just started as a publicity stunt (as if....). He has begun to listen to what a great deal of people in the UK already know. However all this is put into practice on the Continent already and has been for decades.

In Germany they reckon that they could replace all their natural gas needs from bio-gas, or bio-methane. This would be generated from 'digesters' which would process farming wastes, food industry wastes and sewage works to make gas. In fact they already do a huge amount.

And the best thing is that they generate gas, which they can easily store - unlike electricity. This is a great point worth making. All the detractors regarding renewables always complain about the [assumed] storage problems with all technologies. Well with bio-methane we can store the energy for plenty of things.

If properly designed sewage can be big exporters of bio methane
Like using the stored bio-methane to run Buses (as they do in Sweden), Lorries and Cars and even trains. The bio-methane can also be used to generate electricity on demand -just so long as we can find a usage for the heat that this process generates (something that is rarely done in the UK's conventional power thinking).

Food Wastes can make useful bio-methane
Lastly bio-methane can be injected into the gas grid, like our partners have done in Didcot, Oxfordshire with Thames Waters Sewage Works there. When it goes in we get 'Green Gas Certificates', and users can buy it out at their end, so we can effectively utilise the existing gas grid to distribute all the bio-methane generated from anywhwere in the UK within a sensible distance from a gas main (for which we have the UK's plans). Just like the renewable electricity schemes. But unlike electrcity, as I have said it can be stored and used when needed. In fact it has to be stored, because there are times when the gas grid is not ready to receive the bio-methane.

Our' love affair' with waste is institutionally inefficient. Very little of what happens today makes much economic sense. Sending stuff to landfill is not necessarily good. But not capping off the gas generated by this same landfill is [energy wise] criminal. The gas needs to be 'harvested', and ideally injected into the grid. Transporting wastes out of London is pretty stupid too, all that energy expended to move waste around - it's well ...wasteful.

All those crisp clean tanks from my last blog could be dotted all around the less attractive parts of London, to generate gas on the spot, from food wastes from all those eating places. In turn that gas could make electricity, heat or transport fuel.

It just needs vision and a generalist thinker. Like me.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Renewables from Wastes AD Benefits

Typical Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Plant
By 2015, biomass is to become the Czech Republic‘s primary source of renewable energy.

Waste to Energy is a major component in any renewable energy field, but efficient bio-mass plants need to be well specified and use 'clean' technologies - incineration in NOT the preferred solution. Anaerobic digestion and efficient gasification (without oxygen) are designed to produce bio-gas (a rich mixture of methane, hydrogen and C02). From the resultant gas several options are possible for energy production or transport fuels. The remaining solids can also be used as fertilizers or soil conditioning.

Accordingly, there is a high demand for biogas plants among investors and operators, especially from manufacturers who have international experience and an extensive service network. This summer, one such manufacturer established its fifth plant in the Czech Republic. The construction of the agricultural biogas (AD) plant in Příložany in the southern part of the country was completed in four months.

After casting the concrete floor slabs in March, the construction of the 2,500 cubic metres stainless steel fermenter, the combined heat and power generation plant (CHP), and the 35 cubic metres vertical dosing feeder started in the same month. The setup of the biogas plant equipment was finished in May. The gas started flowing through the pipes in early May, and the final approval of the test operation was granted in June.

AD can supply Heat, Power and CNG road fuel
The biogas plant has a biogas emergency flare and operates without a hygienisation unit and separation unit. In the CHP, a CHP-Unit with 366 kW output produces the electricity that is fed into the grid. The plant‘s energy efficiency is high, because the generated heat is used in the facilities and stables. The plant is fed with substrates and manure of the operator and farms in the vicinity: pig manure, grass silage, maize silage, crop silage, and grain waste.

The EU and the Czech government provide special incentives for biogas plant projects in the Czech Republic. One of the main reasons is that the carbon dioxide emissions per capita are rather high compared to other countries. Czech farmers receive financial support for the establishment of biogas plants from an EU environmental fund and an EU rural development fund.

Since 2005, the feed-in law for decentralised eco-power has resulted in an increase in the energy production from regenerative sources. In 2010, a share of about 10 percent of the energy was already produced from alternative sources, compared to only 4 percent in 2008.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Transport Fuels GAS vs Electricity?

Why bother with a 'beauty parade' when you can have CNG/LPG Electric Hybrids!

Electric power trains and systems are still in the development phase and will be for some time.

However that development could work hand-in-hand with the gaseous fuel advantages. With hybrid delivery system you get electic power to the wheels, but with a great range due to on-boad fuel. By utilising CNG for Trucks and Buses as a 'transition fuel' to wean us off diesel.

Additionally bio-methane can be cleaned and compressed to make transport CNG, but derived from our ever increasing 'mountains of food, human, farming and other wastes. So two issues resolved.

The big advantage with CNG is that it is far cleaner in terms of Particulate Matter (PM) and Oxides of Nitrogen (Nox) than current diesels, even with the expensive to maintain particulate filters. But the CNG Electric Hybrid takes clean air and fuel economy to new levels compared to the best diesels around - even the diesel hybrids.

CNG is ideal for buses, Truck and even trams and trains, as seen in Europe.
Swedish CNG Train

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Gaseous Vehicle Fuels: Alternative view

Commentators tend to lump together oil and gas and describe them as fossil fuels, complete with 'Peak Oil' crisis projections. BUT:

How long ago do you recall that during oil extraction or refining, that gases were flared off? Yeah, not too long ago, and in Russia and Nigeria it's still common practice.

Well I have to say that the Renaissance of CNG and LPG for transportation fuels is almost a' breath of fresh air'; why? Because these are practical uses for what was a waste product. By reducing flaring and marketing LPG, Propane, Butane CNG, LNG etc we are improving extraction efficiency. Thus making the fossil fuel business go 'further' for practically the same outlay.

This has to be a good thing. Whilst we wait around and twiddle our thumbs before hydrogen and electric vehicles have 'matured' to a point where they are available to the 'masses' at acceptable cost; in my [humble opinion] in about 15-20 years time.

So short term look at some commercialisation of gaseous fuels as an immediate alternative to petrol and diesel, with obvious environmental benefits.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Open Letter re Energy Strategy

Open Letter to Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany, the founder and to all members of the German Ethics Commission "Secure Energy Supply"

Starnberg, Germany, April 12th, 2011

Dear Frau Chancellor Merkel, dear Ms. Lübbe, dear Ms. Reisch, dear Ms. Schreurs, dear Mr. Toepfer, dear Mr. Beck, dear Mr. von Dohnanyi, dear Mr. Fischer, dear Mr. Glueck, dear Mr. Hacker , dear Mr. Hambrecht, dear Mr. Hauff, dear Mr. Hirsche, dear Mr. Huettl, dear Mr. Marx, dear Mr. Renn, dear Mr. Vassiliadis!

“In the light of the events in Japan, it is imperative that the risks of nuclear energy be re-evaluated. The task is, to establish a national energy strategy that will have to be accepted by the entire society as a guideline for the next decade…” This challenge has been handed over to you by the German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel as members of the German Ethics Commission “Save Energy Supply”.

Please allow me to support your work a little by providing a few figures which may already be known but contain high potential for immediate improvements. Surprisingly, these facts and figures are neither questioned nor discussed by so-called expert groups. Also media representatives and other groups are quite disheartening in considering their immense significance.

This should not stay as it is, due to the fact of the importance of the topic.

A new energy strategy, which you are now being asked to create, is urgently needed. However, it can only be done based on a clean state analysis of the actual status of the existing energy infrastructure. According to the BDEW*, the German electricity grid as of March 22, 2010 is an incredible 1.783.209 Kilometers (more than 1.000.000 miles) long. This length corresponds to four times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.In addition, more than 550,000 transformers (substations) are needed to keep this grid-network running in order to transfer electricity from the source of production (still mostly coal-fired power plants) to the consumers in industrial, domestic and Small and Medium Enterprises (SME`s). Here, I would like to ask you for your judgment by “common sense”. This inefficient archaic system, which was set up in the 1890s, has only been even marginally improved since then, it should not further be supported by additional network expansion. Please ask yourself the question, who will benefit from any modifications to make this grid smart.

Additionally, according to the German Working Group on Energy Balances (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Energiebilanzen e.V.), the conversion losses (consumption and losses in the converting sector, flare and cable losses in the grid) in the German electricity generation in 2008 (newer figures not available) was 141.6 million tons of hard coal units (1million tons of Coal Equivalents (CE) = 29.308 Petajoules). That number alone does not offer much insight. The total energy use in all German households amounted to 87.3 million tons CE. In addition, in trade, commerce, services and other industries, additional 49.2 million tons of CE were used. The total energy consumption of all these consumer groups put together amounts to 136.5 million tons CE, which is far less energy than the losses in the German power generation and transmission process.

One of the major “flaws” of our current energy infrastructure among other things, is the fact that electricity from renewable energies in Germany (hydroelectric since 1891 and wind power since 1870s) in the electricity industry has always been treated like electricity from normal power plants by feeding it into the inefficient grid. This has always made little or no sense physically. Also, the so-called smart network doesn’t really help. We need many more intelligent solutions. And they are there.

What you now have, dear members of the Ethics Committee is the wonderful opportunity to put forth a truly genuine, decentralized, dedicated and small-scale energy system. With this, I mean that the energy is only to be converted where it is actually needed. Not even a single (old or new) nuclear, coal or gas power plant would be needed to supply the energy actually required in Germany. But all this is achievable only if the sources are used “by their nature”, depending on local existing renewable sources of energy. They have to be used locally within a maximum radius of 15 kilometers. Requiring only small storage capacity, these autonomous units can therefore also be utilized to cover all transportation services in Germany, too. The necessary facilities should in each case be used and operated locally and above all, they have be owned by the consumers. This changes the consumer behavior in households, SME`s industry and transport automatically in the right direction. The savings will be based on the close relationship of converting and using power independently.

This system will be the most efficient and also the most secure energy supply system. It can propel Germany to the forefront of the Renewable Energy race in the coming years, alleviating today`s fears of dependence on uncertain foreign and expensive supplies of imported fossil fuels. With “Out of the Box” thinking and new infrastructures like the one mentioned here, we can save more energy than our collective imagination may allow us to believe.

As a next step, we will need strong and responsible individuals who understand how to transfer these ideas to our population, bringing them to discussions on open and unbiased forums. The concepts can then be implemented quickly and locally. All the necessary components and processes for this transition phase are in part known for years and already exist. What is needed is to provide “only” the meaningful connections to create a new and much better picture.

Dear members of the Ethics Commission “Secure Energy Supply”, please let make use of this unique historical chance to achieve a quantum leap in our energy economy. In the past, perhaps the officials lacked the courage to implement such drastic changes. The time has now come. However, I wish you to have the power to achieve these worthy results in the time available to you which will impact many subsequent generations to come. Many thanks for your personal efforts in this matter. Future generations will be thankful to you.
For further information, I am at your disposal.

Best Regards,
Arno A. Evers
Arno A. Evers FAIR-PR
Achheimstrasse 3, 82319 Starnberg
tel.: +49 (0) 8151 998923, fax: +49 (0) 3212 9989243
Founder of the Group Exhibit Hydrogen and Fuel Cells (in 1995)
at the annual Hannover Fair in Germany
More about Evers new book The Hydrogen Society...more than just a Vision?
Background information:
The Ethics Commission "Secure energy supply” is headed by former German Federal Environment Minister and current founding Director (since 2.2. 2009) of the Institute for Climate Change, Earth systems and sustainability, based in Potsdam, Klaus Toepfer and the President of the German Research Foundation, Matthias Kleiner. Chancellor Angela Merkel appointed as additional members:
Ulrich Beck, a former sociology professor at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich
Klaus von Dohnanyi (SPD), former Federal Education Minister
Ulrich Fischer, Bishop of the Evangelical Church in Baden
Alois Glück (CSU), President of the Central Committee of German Catholics
Jörg Hacker, president of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
Jürgen Hambrecht, CEO of BASF
Volker Hauff (SPD), former Federal Minister for Research and Technology
Walter Hirche (FDP), President of the German Commission for UNESCO
Reinhard Huettl, Chairman of the German GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam and President of the German Academy of Science and Engineering
Weyma Lübbe, Philosopher, member of the German Ethics Council
Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising
Lucia Reisch, Economist, Professor at the Copenhagen Business School, member of the Council for Sustainable Development
Ortwin Renn, Risk Research, Sociology Professor, Chairman of the Sustainability Advisory Board of Baden-Württemberg
Miranda Schreurs, American Political Scientist, head of the Research Centre for Environmental Policy at the Free University of Berlin
Michael Vassiliadis, Chairman of the Mining, Chemical and Energy
* The quoted Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) e.V., Berlin, is since October 2008 led by the Chairman of the Executive Board, Ms. Hildegard Mueller. Ms. Mueller is wired well with the Federal Chancellery; she was from 2005 to 2008 Minister of State in charge of the Federal Chancellor and the federal-state coordination of the federal government in Berlin, Germany.
The BDEW represents some 1,800 companies. The spectrum of members is ranging from local and municipal to regional to national companies. They represent about 90 percent of electricity sales, a good 60 percent of the local and district sales, 90 percent of natural gas sales and 80 percent of drinking water funding and about a third of the wastewater disposal in Germany.
Additional Links:
Dr. Klaus Toepfer at the Hannover Fair 2003:
Interview with Dr. Klaus Toepfer at the Hannover Fair 2003:
Dr. Angela Merkel at the Hannover Fair 2006:
Video with Dr. Angela Merkel at the Hannover Fair 2006:
Information regarding the German electricity grid:
Information regarding the energy balance in Germany 2003 in comparison with 2007:
My sincere thanks for helping with the translation go to:
Srikanth Honavara-Prasad, MS in Mechanical Engineering, San Fransico, USA,
Robert (Robbie) Mackay, Managing Director at VeMarine Ltd Thurso, United Kingdom
Juan Martínez-Vázquez, Energy Ambassador, Paris, France and:
Peter Kindzierski, Managing Director at ISCEER, Malaga, Spain
Thanks also to:
Heinz Sturm, Europaen CompetenceCenter for Energy & Environmental Transfer, Bonn, Germany

Thursday 24 March 2011

Woeful Energy Efficiency Skews Electricity Supply Planning

Why not add some serious focus on ENERGY DEMAND and ENERGY EFFICIENCY.

We in the UK like most of the western world have some pretty miserable performance characteristics when considering turning fossil fuels into electricity. Around 25% fuel efficiency. The remaining 60% losses to 'low grade heat' dissipated to the cooling towers (erected as a testimony to waste), and 10-12% grid distribution losses etc.

Just as bad in the USA see graphic: Interestingly the figures for generation losses translate into 67.2% of the energy inputs, even after allowing for the Hydro and other renewable inputs. Poor efficiency indeed!

The nuclear cycle is similar with the cooling towers (designed to 'waste' heat energy) warming up the atmosphere rather than being usefully employed to heat buildings etc.

Pimlico District Heat Plant
BUT WAIT: we can't use the heat from cooling towers because all power stations (with the exception of Ferrybridge and Trent) are too far away from population centres to justify the district heating distribution network.

As a historical pointer Battersea Power Station, London had no cooling towers (land was too expensive) so they piped the heat energy to Pimlico and sold it to the residents in 1950! And its still there today.

So in effect our whole approach to centralized power (electricity but not heat energy) is flawed. THATS THE FIRST PROBLEM.

For the sake of brevity I will summarize:
THERE IS NO ENERGY POLICY: What we have is a series of lobby groups shouting at weak Governments. What goes for a 'policy' is to do with taxation on North Sea Oil and other taxes on transport fuels. The rest is to keep you quiet.

THERE ARE NO DRIVERS TO MAKE POWER GENERATION EFFICIENT: Otherwise we would see hundreds of 'mini' (unseen to the 'man/person in the street') power, heat and (optional chilled water) generation systems providing around 85+% fuel efficiency heating and powering our homes, offices and retail parks. What we do is just pay more and more per kWh, heck the Government even taxes us for the Carbon because of this inefficiency. On top of that they want us to stump up to artificially support renewable because you have been 'told' they are more expensive(?). Renewable can stand on their own. Which is more than can be said for Nuclear.

The factors that are determining our plans for electricity supply (not energy needs) are still based on the hopeless inefficiency I have merely touched on. Its also based of the economist's 'favourite mistake' of constant upward industrial growth and electricity needs expanding as they have done in the past. That will not happen.

In fact the power companies will never object to talk of brown-outs and demand outstripping supply. It's their business. They get bigger and more powerful on comments like that.

Football Stadium that Acts as a power station
The real alternatives are for efficient 'parish' or even 'estate' scale power and heat generation systems utilising all energy sources, gas, wind, geo-thermal, small scale hydro and solar thermal. (forget the vastly over sold solar PV for the next 10 years). Then we will have our own independent power supplies and then we might actually see real ENERGY COMPETITION.

So start forming your local energy co-operatives, forget Nuclear NIMBY'ism and lets create real energy security in our homes and offices. Because we certainly don't have it now if we continue with the energy propaganda that fills the press and the BBC.

Saturday 5 March 2011

Risks of shale gas seem to outweigh the advantages-Really??

Risks of shale gas seem to outweigh the advantages

This article in the Montreal Gazette, got me thinking about relative risk and bias. I will quote from the article [below in orange high-light] which has been written with a 'bit of an agenda', and to be fair makes some very good points regarding oil and gas industry attitudes towards leakge, waste and the [arrogance] of some of their exploration processes. But the bias is too anti natural gas (called so because it occurs naturally, but because it is primarily methane some think is OK to bash it because it's a "chemical"!)

"Quebec has sometimes been called a polluters’ paradise because of its tradition of slack environmental protection. Even an uncharacteristically keen corps of inspectors would have a hard time enforcing regulations at the 15,000 wells that the Quebec Oil and Gas Association estimates could be drilled in the province during the next 20 years. Many would be in remote areas."
"No matter what steps the Charest government takes to reduce the risks of shale gas, those risks appear great."

"As for the environmental upside, it’s far less than commonly touted. The natural-gas industry likes to say its product, when burned, gives off 31 per cent less carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas) than heating oil and 45 per cent less than coal. When you count for methane leaks, however, much of gas’s relative climate-change virtue literally vanishes into thin air."

However, just like the Carbon Cycle, there is a Methane Cycle that has been happening since way before man or woman was on this planet. Methane is to do with decomposition of organic materials. Its occurring on such vast scales that we need to understand the relative risks portrayed by articles such as this.

So to add some balance my research shows the following article from NASA circa 1977 [ ] , and even this has under-estimated the volumes of Methane Hydrates on our ocean floors. For which I have included material from the Office of Naval Research (US Military Source 2002) concerning these: Then a recent Wikipedia article points out some un-accounted for reductions in Atmospheric Methane between 2000-2006


The Global Methane Cycle

(Note: This article was originally written in conjunction with the 1997 Global Methane Inventory.

1. Introduction to the Methane Cycle

Measurements of methane from Greenland and Antarctic ice cores indicate atmospheric concentrations of ~350 ppbv (parts per billion by volume) during the Last Glacial Maximum about 18,000 years ago, rising to 650 ppbv by about 200 years ago (Chappellaz et al., 1990). 

Researchers have estimated that natural methane sources totaled about ~180-380 Tg (1012 g) methane per year (Chappellaz et al., 1993). Wetlands were the dominant source with small contributions from wild fires, animals and oceans. [note 1 Tg (Terra-grams) equals 1 million tonnes]

Since methane is chemically as well as radiatively active, atmospheric concentrations can increase because the terrestrial sources are increasing and/or because the sinks are declining. An important atmospheric sink for methane is the OH (hydroxyl) radical. The reaction of methane with OH radicals is the first step in a series of reactions which eventually leads to compounds that are readily removed from the atmosphere by precipitation or uptake at the surface. OH radicals also act as a chemical sink for other trace gases. For this reason, OH radicals are known as "the detergent of the atmosphere" (Crutzen, 1995).

During the last two hundred years, atmospheric methane concentrations have more than doubled to ~1800 ppbv and are still increasing. During the same period, the total annual emission of methane has increased to ~450-500 Tg, about two times what it was during the pre-industrial period when natural sources dominated. Most of this increase in sources is due to the anthropogenic perturbation to the methane cycle, though climate variations may also contribute to changes in emission from wetlands and from wildfires.

The following sections provide a brief overview of the major methane sources -- background on what we know about them, the processes that produce methane, and what we still do not know (based on Matthews, 1993, 1994).

2. Natural Sources

Figure 2-1 below shows current estimates for individual sources. Although some uncertainties remain, the largest sources are natural wetlands, irrigated rice paddies, and domestic animals.

Figure 2-1: Global sources of methane

Also See table from Wikipedia

2.1 Wetlands

What we know:
  • Wetlands are most likely the largest natural source of methane to the atmosphere; their emissions are estimated to be about 100 Tg annually.
  • About 50% of the wetlands are peat-rich, temperature regulated northern wetlands and the remainder are low latitude systems dominated by precipitation and flood cycles.
  • Both flux measurements and large-scale modeling studies confirm the dominance of low-latitude wetlands and the smaller role of northern ecosystems in methane emissions under current climate conditions. Only about 30% of emissions are from peat-rich northern wetlands.
Processes that produce methane:
  • Methanogenic bacteria produce methane by anaerobic decomposition of organic materials.
  • Methane produced in the sediments is transported to the surface either through the water column (diffusion), through gas bubbles that rise from the sediments (ebullition) or via transport through the plants themselves.
  • Highly local controls such as temperature, topography, water table, and organic content as well as episodic events such as ebullition, degassing, hydrostatic pressure changes and wind have a large effect on methane fluxes.
  • Methane that is produced in water-logged soil sometimes moves upward through a drier surface soil and is oxidized, resulting in no methane emission.
  • There is general agreement concerning the global area and distribution of wetlands although uncertainties remain as to seasonal variations of wetland environments and dynamics of methane production periods.
  • The response particularly of high-latitude wetlands under a changing climate is highly uncertain; they may become larger or smaller methane sources or methane sinks.
  • Methane characteristics of most major wetland environments have been studied; measurements are still scarce for the wetlands of Russia which occupy about 25% of the global total, and for non-riverine tropical grasslands such as the Pantanal in Brazil.

2.2 Termites

What we know:
  • The source strength of termites has been estimated with a very large range, but recent estimates suggest emissions of 15-20 Tg/year.
  • The habitat distribution of the termite source is similar among several studies; termites are concentrated in tropical grasslands and forests.
Processes that produce methane:
  • Methane is produced by the activity of methane-oxidizing bacteria on the organic material consumed by the termites.
  • The source strength has been estimated with a very large range of 0-200 Tg methane per year.

2.3 Oceans

What we know:
  • The ocean source is very poorly known but considered minor. The emissions estimate is 10 Tg.
  • Coastal ocean regions exhibit higher and more variable concentrations.
Processes that produce methane:
  • Methane is produced at seepage areas in the seabed with organic-rich sediments (Judd, 2000).
  • Seabed flux rate estimates vary widely.
  • Losses to solution as bubbles rise to the sea surface are not known well.

2.4 Methane Hydrates

What we know:
  • Methane hydrates are rigid water cages surrounding methane molecules.
  • Hydrates are known or inferred to be found on the continental shelf at all latitudes.
  • Stability of hydrates requires high pressure and cold temperatures, meaning that most occur at depths and in regions insulated from climate change.
  • Methane source from hydrates is considered minor at present [See article by Office of Naval Research to show this is a huge under-estimate].
Processes that produce methane:
  • Hydrates are subject to destabilization from climate warming. Destabilization would lead to the release of the methane molecules.
  • The dispersed nature of this source makes it especially difficult to evaluate.
  • The large pool of methane in gas hydrates implies that a small perturbation under a changing climate could produce a considerable source of methane.

3. Anthropogenic Sources

3.1 Rice Cultivation

What we know:
Rice Fields Emit Methane
  • Rice production may account for 10% (~30-60 Tg) of the total annual methane emission.
  • Since 1980, rice production has risen by over 40% through the combined effects of increased harvest areas and higher yields.
  • Over 90% of the harvested area is confined to Asia.
Processes that produce methane:
  • Methanogenic bacteria produce methane by anaerobic decomposition of organic materials.
  • A large number of factors affect the production, transport, and efflux of methane in the flooded rice fields, among them temperature, water status, fertilizer application, soil properties, and plant phenology.
  • Methane that is produced in water-logged soil sometimes moves upward through a drier surface soil and is oxidized, resulting in no methane emission.
  • As much as 90% of methane produced in sediments may oxidize during transport to the water surface.
  • Information on local soil temperatures, type and application rate of fertilizers (especially non-commercial organics), seasonal and annual variations in water status, and soil chemistry is not readily available.
  • Even with sufficient data on the factors mentioned above, considerable uncertainties remain in quantitative relationships between methane flux and these factors, though they have been significantly reduced recently.

3.2 Domestic Animals

What we know:
  • Animals contribute about 80 Tg methane per year.
  • About half of the global emission come from India, China, the former USSR, USA, and Brazil.
  • Non-dairy cattle and dairy cows together contribute about 75% of the total methane source from animals; the remainder is from water buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs, camels, and horses.
  • Emissions from animals may be one of the better known sources in the methane budget because statistics on animal populations in developed countries are reasonably reliable.
Processes that produce methane:
  • Methane production from animals results from fermentation of carbohydrates in the rumen (stomach containing microbes capable of breaking down cellulose).
  • Production is affected by factors such as quantity and quality of feed, body weight, age, and activity level; therefore, it varies among animal species as well as among individuals of the same species.
  • Significant uncertainties exist with respect to population statistics for less developed countries.

3.3 Fossil Fuel

What we know:
  • Methane is the major component of coal gas and natural gas.
  • Methane emissions associated with fossil fuel sources range from ~16 to 24% of the total source strength equal to about 80-120 Tg.
Processes that produce methane:
  • Natural gas and coal gas both consist almost entirely of methane.
  • Fossil fuel sources of methane include coal mining and processing, as well as gas exploration, production, transmission, and distribution.
  • Methane released to the atmosphere during mining and processing of coal is associated directly with coal removed from mines as well as with releases from coal left in the mine in overlying and underlying seams.
  • Methane emissions associated with natural gas production and consumption include losses during extraction, venting and flaring at oil and gas wells, and losses during processing, transmission and distribution.
  • Most of the variation among estimates of methane released to the atmosphere during mining and processing of coal results from inclusion and/or exclusion of processes or particular coal products, and from differences in the emission factors used.
  • Natural gas transmission losses are the difference between gas purchased for delivery and gas sold, differences which may be due to theft and metering errors as well as to actual leaks.
  • The geographically- and sectorially-dispersed nature of the sources of methane emission from natural gas transmission makes direct estimates difficult.
  • Time series estimates using constant emission factors do not take into account changes in technology which would affect the amount of methane emitted.
  • Lack of data on venting and flaring of natural gas (collected by oil and gas companies but not available publicly) is a major source of uncertainty.

3.4 Biomass Burning

What we know:
  • Recent estimates indicate annual methane releases of ~10-50 Tg from biomass burning.
Processes that produce methane:
  • Methane is released when vegetation is burned. The amount is a function of burning technique and temperature, moisture and carbon content of the vegetation, amount and type of vegetation burned etc.
  • The contribution of biomass burning to the global emission of methane is highly uncertain due to the innate variability of the process itself as well as to severe data limitations.
  • A considerable portion of burning takes place in association with poorly documented agricultural activities in the tropics.

3.5 Landfills

What we know:
Open Landfills Contribute to Methane Emissions
  • One early global estimate of methane emission from landfills gave a range of 30-70 Tg/year, although recent estimates suggest that the landfill methane source may be more in the range of ~25 Tg.
Processes that produce methane:
  • Decomposition of biodegradable organic material in landfills produces both carbon dioxide and methane.
  • Uncertainties remain with respect to the magnitude and composition of waste production and the fraction of waste placed in landfills.
  • There is very high variability in local factors such as climate, age of refuse, and landfill design, construction, and management which affect the amount of methane produced, consumed and emitted in these sites.

4. Summary

Methane sources under anthropogenic control currently account for approximately 70% of the total annual emission. Several of these (e.g., animals, rice cultivation, energy-related sources) may be prone to future increases due to demands of increasing human populations. The magnitude of the remaining natural sources, dominated by wetlands, is relatively well known. Currently, northern wetlands contribute about one-third of the world's total wetland emissions while the tropics account for most of the remainder. However, wetland response to climate change predicted for the next century is highly uncertain. Depending on local interactions among temperature, water status, nutrients etc., wetland ecosystems may become larger or smaller methane sources, or even methane sinks. A varied collection of additional sources such as volcanoes, oceans, seabed seepage, gas hydrates, and peat mining are highly uncertain but considered minor, probably totaling of ~20 Tg.

Currently, we understand a great deal about the processes that produce methane from various sources as well as the distribution of many of the sources such as wetlands or animals. In addition, we now have a 15 year record of measurements of atmospheric methane from a growing network of ground stations. However, the atmospheric record shows large and variable patterns in annual increases in atmospheric concentrations and uncertainties remain with respect to year-to-year variations in methane emissions from various sources. For example, short-term variations in temperature and precipitation can affect emissions from biological sources such as rice paddies and wetlands; political and economic changes can affect levels of industrial activity and consumption of fossil fuels; management practices can affect emissions from domestic animals and rice paddies; and development and recycling trends can affect methane emissions from landfills and from wastewater.

The challenge is to improve the collection of tools we have to understand the methane cycle and its variations over time. These include:
  1. atmospheric chemistry models that simulate chemical reactions and transport in the atmosphere,
  2. measurements of the atmospheric concentrations of methane and related gases,
  3. field measurements that quantify the influence of various factors on emission from sources (for example, how do methane emission from a northern wetland change when the summer is hotter than usual? wetter than usual?)
  4. inventories of the sources of methane and associated emissions at intervals of about 5 years beginning in the early 1980s and continuing in the future.
The methane inventory project described in the following section is a contribution to the last goal listed above. These global inventories are developed in part using field measurements (2 above) and used in the atmospheric chemistry models (1 above). Results from the models are evaluated by comparing them to the measurements of atmospheric methane (2 above).

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Concentrating Solar Power

Poised for gigawatt-scale adoption in 2011, concentrated solar power’s star is only beginning to rise, says Lux Research.

Stirling Dishes win on Price and Modularity
Boston, MA

Despite competitive photovoltaic prices and lingering environmental and financing concerns, concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies are poised for gigawatt-scale adoption in 2011; and future growth will remain healthy as the generation stack increasingly incorporates CSP plants in excess of 100 MW. However, in order to land their share of this emerging market, utilities and developers alike will need a clear grasp of the economic and performance factors driving adoption of CSP’s four main technology contenders, according to a new report from Lux Research.

The report, titled “Solar Thermal Update: The Renaissance of Concentrating Solar Power,” compares the economics and performance of three key CSP technologies – parabolic trough, power tower, and Stirling thermal systems – as well as CSP’s arch-competitor, photovoltaic systems. To do so, it examines the application of each technology in a hypothetical 100 MW plant, and compares their levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), capital costs and internal rate of return, among other factors driving adoption.

“After a few fits and starts, solar thermal projects have begun to make a big impact on the generation mix in both Spain and the Southwest U.S,” said Ted Sullivan, a Lux Research Senior Analyst and the report’s lead author. “Though trough technologies have been dominant to date, we expect power tower solutions to gain increasing prominence as the technology is proven, because their integration with thermal storage technologies smashes through the fundamental constraint that has held solar back to date: intermittency.”

Among the report’s key findings:
• Dish Stirling offers the lowest capital expenditures. A more modular technology, dish Stirling leads the pack in terms of cost, due to its cheap Stirling engines. Meanwhile, the costly mirror fields of parabolic trough plants make them the priciest of CSP options, while power-tower systems are relatively cost competitive. Driven by high module costs, PV systems fall somewhere in the middle.

Solar Tower
• Conventional trough and tower CSP technologies lead in performance. Parabolic trough plants have the highest peak efficiency but come second in yield and capacity factor, while power tower is the top performer on system yield and capacity factor due to a highly efficient turbine cycle and dual-axis tracking. Dish Stirling and PV, in contrast, both underperform, with lower capacity factors and lower energy yield, in kilowatt-hours output per kilowatt of peak power (kWh/kWp).

Solar Trough
• Dish Stirling also leads in LCOE. LCOE (measured as $/kWh) neatly synthesizes the total operating costs of a power plant, and is key to determining the internal rate of return (IRR) to the project investor. Here again, dish Stirling leads due to its low cost and decent performance – making it a good substitute for PV. But power-tower technology is hard on its heels, and will remain a viable contender for years to come. Parabolic trough systems, by comparison, have the highest LCOE of any CSP plants due to their expensive capex, and high operation and maintenance costs. PV systems currently trail the pack on LCOE due to relatively high capex and mediocre performance.

Monday 24 January 2011

Aviation Fuel from Algae

Although they still have to overcome some problems to be feasible, researchers have implement new production study

Liquid biofuels seem to be a good alternative to conventional aviation fuel. In fact, testing conducted by Airbus, British Airways, Rolls Royce, etc. suggest that biofuels from microalgae are the future. However it is necessary to improve the production system to lower (52.3 € / gigajoule), improve technological and scientific level (metabolic diagnostic techniques) and make it competitive. By John R. Coca

At present, the constant change in environmental conditions in climate change, makes it imperative that all sectors of industry (and the air navigation sector is not going to be less) to take action on the matter and reduce their environmental impact.

Algae 'Incubators'
In the latter regard, during 2010 there have been a series of tests to verify the feasibility aircraft biofuels derived from algae oil. In fact, the company EADS announced in mid-year test flight of a plane loaded with biodiesel derived solely from microalgae oil.

Towards the end of the year has created a consortium of aerospace companies and research centers to implement, among other things, the use of fuels derived from microalgae, according to EIT . Airbus, British Airways, Rolls-Royce, British Airways, Gatwick Airport, IATA and Cranfield University have formed a consortium whose main purpose is research, improvement and implementation of biofuels such as obtained from microalgae.

As stated in Renewable Energy Focus, Cranfield University has a pilot plant cultivation and processing of microalgae for the production of biofuels for aviation. However, the main objective is the establishment of a marine center for sustainable production of commercial quantities of algae biomass.

Although these tests are very encouraging feasibility can not forget that the production system still has deficiencies which must be corrected for the viability of these fuels in the sector of aviation.

With the aim of improving the production system have recently published a series of articles in magazines such as Bioresource Technology, Trends in Plant Science yBiotechnology Advances. They all give us an idea of the importance of researchers and companies give to the potential use of microalgae for biofuel obtaining a viable and profitable.

New techno-scientific research

In one Campbell and colleagues analyzed the environmental impact and economic viability of microalgal biodiesel.These authors found that emissions from microalgae, compared with those from rapeseed oil and diesel ULS (ultra low sulfur content). They saw that the emissions of greenhouse gases algae varied in the range of -27.6 to 18.2 (g of CO2) compared to 35.9 for rapeseed and 81.2 for diesel. Despite these positive data, production costs are not as favorable as the algae range from 2.2 ¢ ($ / liter) to 4.8, compared with rapeseed oil (4.2) and ULS diesel ( 3.8).These data show, according to the authors, the necessity of having a high rate production of biofuels to be economically attractive results.

Another relevant text they have written mutans and colleagues which examines the possibilities for developing a bioprospecting of microalgae to detect lipids of these organisms in different media. This will facilitate the development of optimal laboratory conditions that allow these organisms to grow the best possible way, thus keeping a large amount of lipids that will be used in the production of biodiesel.

In addition, Norsk and colleagues have published in the journal Biotechnology Advances an article analyzing the patterns of production of microalgae more employees today: open ponds, horizontal tubular photobioreactors and type flat panel photobioreactor. For the three sets of results were 4.95, 4.15 and € 5.96 / kg respectively.Suggesting that the production model is the cheapest of horizontal tubular photobioreactors.

Skepticism and doubts

Stacey Feldman writes an article which states that Mary Rosenthal, the representative of the 170 members of the Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) states that within 7 years the fuel obtained from biomass microalgal compete with the price of oil. In fact, Rosenthal said that between 2017 and 2018 will reach price parity.

This opinion is skeptical about the increase in the production of this biofuel when compared with other more optimistic positions. For example, Dan Simon, president and CEO of Heliae, microalgal technology company based in Arizona, believes the industry could offer a competitive product in about 3 years.

Also, Kaloustian the director of a company focused on Argentina culture of these microorganisms: Oil Fox, also defends its production and viability. In fact, as we saw him speaking on a visit to Spain, Kaloustian advocated immediate and effective production of these biofuels. Indeed, the company opened in August this year its first production plant of biodiesel made from algae oil.

This more or less optimistic stance contrasts with the great skepticism of techno-scientific research. In fact, as reported by Feldman, a report from the University of California, Berkeley 's Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) states that it would take a decade of tests to determine if companies could produce a massive microalgal biofuels may well be used in air transport.

This seems to be the big question, will there be sufficient capacity to produce biofuels for aviation, given the amount of fuel it uses?. In this sense, David Biello wrote that this is the big challenge is to develop a biofuel production that is sufficient to supply even a fraction of the more than 60 million gallons of fuel used in aircraft annually.

However to achieve this objective, the main difficulty that point in the report of the University of California is focused on finding the right strain of algae that allows a high yield production. This problem is taken by scientists from the Spanish universities with whom we have contact (and not allowed us to give his name) working on algae research.These people have great doubts about the short-term viability of biofuels or because still, they say, do not have adequate strain and problems in the production system.

Real possibilities and challenges

The cultivation of microalgae seems to become one of the new international bunker fuels. In this sense Biofuels International magazine reported that the Alternative Energy Resources Company (ANR) plans to start building a biodiesel plant microalgal production in February.

In Spain there are various companies that are already producing this type of biofuel, with one of them and Aurantia Bio Fuel Systems. All of them are extremely optimistic about the possibilities of these new fuels.

The reluctance comes mainly processes and production costs. In this sense, one of which believes that business can not be permanently subsidiaries of government subsidies for these fuel prices do not rise excessively. In this regard, the Website Wageningen UR (University & Research Centre), published an editorial in which it was stated that the cost of biodiesel production from microalgae is, at present, from 52.3 € per gigajoule of energy, compared with 36 € for the rape and only 15.8 € for oil.


The algae are microorganisms photoautotrophs (thanks to the light obtained their metabolic products) and single cell of variable size and can live in various habitats. Most of them are aquatic but also live on land, and their number is extremely high because it was considered that 90% of the planet's photosynthesis is carried out by these microorganisms.

Although microalgae have many years with people, because in Mexico have for years been feeding products made from biomass deu na microalga Spirulina call. On the other hand, other algae such as Chlorella, Dunaliella and Haematococcus are useful in cosmetics, food, pharmaceutical, etc.

Not long ago the idea of making fuel from oil obtained from them and found that it was possible. In this sense, there are (among others) a number of candidates who seem to be the best: Scenedesmus obliquus, Scenedesmus dimorphus, rheinhardii Chlamydomonas, Chlorella vulgaris, Dunaliella tertiolecta, Nannochloropsis sp., Schizochytrium sp., Etc. However, the development of microalgae biofuels has several difficulties because of the industrial production system. Hence, as we see, today this is one of the great techno-scientific research efforts in the sector.

Basic ideas of cultivation of microalgae

Microalgae photosynthetic organisms need to be light, CO2 and water. Through photosynthesis, convert the energy captured from light (sunlight or tanning lamps) into chemical energy (CO2 + H2O + light → Carbohydrates + O2). This physiological process is conducted in the chloroplasts, organelles of great importance and that in species such as Dunaliella salina may require as much as 50% of cell volume. Thus we see that the light is one of the key factors in the cultivation of microalgae, together with the agitation of these organisms and nutrients. For this reason, scientists are testing various systems of microalgal growth in order to improve production, but as we saw the horizontal tubular photobioreactors are most suitable.

As we have seen, for the production of biodiesel is important for the species chosen have within them the greatest possible amount of usable oil. Therefore it is essential to choosing a species or a variety capable of providing high rates of this product. The problem is that species to generate a higher fat content are not precisely those that reproduce faster.

However, when selecting the best possible candidate we have to take into account the growth rate (μ) and productivity (P = μ • Cb), tolerance to radiation and temperature extremes, the selective advantages (tolerance high or low pH, salinity, high irradiance, N2-fixing capacity of the atmosphere, etc.), the high content of certain proteins, carbohydrates, lipids or selective accumulation (or excretion) of a specific compound of high value, and the ease of harvesting. All this makes the production system becomes a highly complex process and very difficult.

For this reason, an interdisciplinary team of Cornell University, has developed some techniques, based on the use of mass spectrometry, to diagnose the situation of the crop. This makes it easier to change the culture conditions of the increasing productivity.


Wednesday 5 January 2011

Solar Trough Air Con/Pool Heating System

System Flow Chart: Solar Assisted Air Con via Domestic Heat Network

Hitachi Plant Technologies has combined solar heating (not Photo Voltaic -PV - electricity) with with its plentiful expertise in air conditioning, accumulated over many years, in the development of the Solar Activated Air Conditioning System.

This system is designed to drive a refrigerator directly with thermal energy (Heat) generated from the solar energy collector to obtain chilled water for air conditioning.

high-efficiency parabola trough-type solar energy collector
As the key to this system, Hitachi Plant Technologies developed its own original designed high-efficiency parabola trough-type solar energy collector* (see picture). The collector is improved through design features such as its simple and easily-handled structure, and the use of computer simulations to develop a design for control of displacement of the focal point in the presence of wind and other factors.

Hitachi Plant Technologies supplies a total system incorporating the solar energy collector, as well as presenting proposals for combinations of energy-efficient technologies for air conditioning systems, and water treatment technologies.

This system also has application beyond air conditioning systems, and future development is expected to involve wider application in a variety of heat sources.

Press Release:

  • Tokyo, January 5, 2011 --- Hitachi Plant Technologies, Ltd. (President and Representative Director: Toshiaki Higashihara) has recently developed an environmentally-friendly Solar Activated Air Conditioning System employing its own developed solar energy collector. The system reduces consumption of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions remarkably.
  • Hitachi Plant Technologies is actively expanding its marketing activities, targeting at local-air conditioning in buildings or district cooling facilities for the regions of the Mediterranean, the interior of North America, Western Asia, and Australia, “Sun Shine Belts” which are sufficiently exposed to huge amount of sunlight. The company expects to break in its sales up to 5 billions yen in FY2015.

Solar (concentrated thermal) power is increasingly in focus as a source of renewable, sustainable and efficient energy, thus significantly displacing the use of fossil fuels. Hitachi Plant Technologies has considerable experience in a wide range of plants employing solar energy for power and heating. Typical electricity saving with such as system could be as high as 50% dependent of design.

Whilst other companies have used solar thermal tubes, or even thermal flat plate type collectors, the use of a "mini-parabolic Trough" is a nice twist. This allows higher operating temperatures to improve energy distribution efficiencies.

The system displaces electrical energy required to do the same 'work' in terms of air conditioning. Ideally suited to hot sunny climates where air con electricity loads can be large and cause major grid problems. So in effect the utilities ought to be promoting this too to balance their power demands in the day. Also interesting is the apparent modular design of the 'Troughs' so that multiple collectors can be used for larger installations or to balance the energy input needs of a designed air con system with the square 'meterage/footage/acreage' of collectors.

All the more strange is that these types of systems are not more common. So what have the air con installers been doing over the years? I guess they thought that air con units were just an 'electrical device'.