Posts tagged ‘Global warming’

July 27, 2011

Carbon capture and utilisation could contribute in green economy

by Jasmina Nikoloska

Investing in techniques of utilising CO2 is nothing new and converting CO2 into commercially viable products such as bio-oils, chemicals, fertilisers and fuels could offer economic sense and possibility for reducing carbon emissions.

Carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) includes using waste CO2 as a chemical feedstock for the synthetics of other chemicals, as a chemical source of carbon for mineral carbonisation reactions to produce construction materials, and as a nutrient and CO2 source to make algae grow and supply fuels and chemicals.

Unlike US which is spending $1bn on CCU research, including a project at Sandia Laboratories to make synthetic diesel from carbon dioxide, and the German government is putting €118m into a project with Bayer to research the use of carbon dioxide as a raw material; Australia is seeking to manufacture cement using the carbon dioxide from power plants, and in several places around the world, algae is being cultivated that would absorb the gas and used as biofuels, UK currently has no plans for investment in demonstration scale of CCU technologies.

According to a report published by Centre for Low Carbon Futures, Carbon Capture and Utilisation in the Green Economy , CCU can be profitable with short payback times on investment, but UK is lagging behind most developed countries in terms of investment and focus on the technology with the majority of the research funding directed to towards Carbon Capture and storage (CCS).

Peter Styring, a professor at the University of Sheffield, one of the authors of the report said: “The UK government needs to invest in R&D for carbon capture and utilisation and investors need to be made aware of the potential benefits of the technology so that barriers can be brought down. Our report shows that all CCU options could be relevant to the UK and given its business-oriented academic community, the UK could benefit from the commercialisation of the technologies involved.”

He believes that there are real possibilities in CCU, although some of the technology has been developed, some is in the early stage and there are cases where a new chemistry needs to be developed.

In most conversion processes predicted for CCU is expected a high energy input but the report says that this could be provided by renewable energy, especially when wind or solar plants are producing energy at times of low demand.

However, the re-use of  CO2 will probably take years to adopt and suitable cost efficient technology to be developed, knowing that CO2 could be other than waste is worth to be investigated.

July 21, 2011

Green heating grants set for UK homes

by Jasmina Nikoloska

From 1st August, green grants up to £1,250 will be available for the householders across Britain¸ to help towards the cost of installing renewable heating systems such as biomass boilers, air and ground source heat pumps and solar thermal panels.

The ‘Renewable Heat Premium Payment’ £15 million scheme will provide funding for 25,000 homes, targeting around 4 million households not heated by mains gas, who have to rely on higher carbon forms of heating which also tend to be more expensive than gas, such as heating oil and electric fires to keep warm.

The Guardian published that Northern Ireland where 70% of households use heating oil is not included in the plans.

Applicants will need to deliver detailed feedback on their experience through a set of surveys which the Government could use to better understand renewable heat technologies. Manufacturers and installers’ information about performance will be monitored with additional meter heating equipment which will be provided for a significant sample of participants.

The grants will be set at £1,250 for a ground source heat pump grant (for homes without mains gas heating); Biomass boiler – £950 grant (for homes without mains gas heating); Air source heat pump – £850 grant (for homes without mains gas heating); Solar thermal hot water panels – £300 grant (available to all households regardless of the type of heating system used) and £3 million will be available for registered social landlords to improve their housing stock.

Energy Saving Trust will run applications and provide all the necessary information, but householders will need to ensure they have basic energy efficiency measures in place before applying.

People who have installed kit under the Premium Payment scheme, until March next year could receive additional funding through the Renewable Heat Incentive, which will be introduced from 30th September and offer financial assistance for industry and business, too.

Energy and Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker said:

“Today starts a new era in home heating because we’re making it more economical for people to go green by providing discounts off the cost of eco heaters. This should be great news for people who are reliant on expensive oil or electric heating as the Premium Payment scheme is really aimed at them.

“Getting money off an eco heater will not just cut carbon emissions, it will also help create a market in developing, selling and installing kit like solar thermal panels or heat pumps.”

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) currently half of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the energy used to generate heat.   The scheme could provide average savings between now and 2020 of 4.4 million tonnes of carbon per year. That’s equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 2 typical new gas power stations.

July 11, 2011

An ambitious Fourth Carbon Budget

by Jasmina Nikoloska

Chris Huhne, Energy and Climate Change Secretary has written about why the Coalition Government has set an ambitious fourth carbon budget. The article appeared in the Germany newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 4 July and the French newspaper Les Echos on 5 July.

In fifteen years’ time, the UK’s net carbon emissions will have halved.

This is no idle ambition: it is law. The Coalition Government has just committed the United Kingdom to the most ambitious act of environmental business planning in our history.

We have just set our fourth Carbon Budget, for 2023-2027. By the time it is complete, we will be responsible for 50% less greenhouse gas emissions than we were in 1990.

It was not an easy decision. No other country has binding legal targets into the mid-2020s. Environmentalists and sceptics alike have lobbied hard – for more ambition, or for less.

DECC

But amidst the noise, a simple truth has gone unnoticed: the path we have chosen leads toward growth. The fourth Carbon Budget sends a clear and cogent signal to investors: the
UK is now sure ground on which to build a sustainable business.

Why? Because we have established a clear line of sight to 2027.

The downward carbon trend is now written in law. Businesses can plan for the future. Nascent industries can grow; established ones can adapt. Our economy will be better balanced – and our consumers will benefit from clean, secure energy at the least cost.

Yet pervasive myths about controlling carbon persist, in the UK and throughout Europe.
It is uneconomic, say the doubters. It will curtail growth and ruin industry. Now is not the right time.

This is simply wrong. Decarbonisation need not mean deindustrialisation for the EU, or putting planet before profit. For us, it is about looking to the next global growth sector.

Let us take the arguments in turn – and put the tired myths to bed.

First, some claim ambitious emissions targets will make Europe less attractive to inward investment – damaging growth and risking jobs. Going too far too fast threatens our competitive advantage.

History suggests otherwise.

In the 1980s, billions of pounds – and hundreds of thousands of jobs – were invested in chlorofluorocarbons.

CFCs were used in thousands of products and processes; the alternatives were thought unworkable or wildly expensive. Industry lobbyists fought to maintain the status quo.
Yet before the decade was out, a treaty banning CFCs was in place, and the global economy was prosperous still.

Environmental regulation drove innovation; new products came to market that rendered the harmful gases economically irrelevant.

Many of the arguments deployed against the ban on CFCs are now being given a second hearing. Yes, change brings risk; and yes, some sectors are more exposed than others.

For energy intensive industries, the low-carbon transition must be managed carefully. Rising electricity costs pose a key risk to these sectors which are critical to our growth agenda. Known risks can be planned for, and government can help. We are drawing up measures to support those industries that face competition and fear ‘carbon leakage’. We will, by the end of the year, take steps to reduce the impact of government policy on the cost of electricity for these businesses, thereby allowing them to continue to play their part in delivering our green industrial transformation.

Longer-term, the picture is not one of destruction, but change. We see it on our own trading floors; many of the companies listed on the FTSE100 today did not exist twenty years ago. This natural churn is what drives the economy, not what threatens it.

The industries of the future are coming on strong. Globally, the low-carbon sector is worth over £3 trillion; it has been growing faster than world GDP.

In the UK, we believe that we can become a global hub for green investment – in wind, wave and tidal power – as well as carbon capture and storage. By investing in energy efficiency for our buildings and supply chains for low-carbon goods like electric vehicles, we can gain early-mover advantage.

The second line argument concerns not principle but timing: we cannot cut emissions now, the recovery is too fragile. It cannot bear the weight of another percentage point or two. We should act later, and trust in technology to save us.

But if not now, then when?

People have a tendency to discount the future: dividends today are more alluring than the promise of profits tomorrow. At this stage of the business cycle, it is natural to wonder where the growth will come from.

We cannot simply rely on old industries to pull us out of recession. It will be emerging industries that lead the way – just as it was in the 1930s, when new electrical goods and cars brought Britain back from the Great Depression.

In fact, now is the perfect time to set Europe’s economy on a more sustainable path.
That’s the approach we’re following in the UK. With a quarter of our existing power stations set to close before the fourth Carbon Budget begins, investment in clean energy and energy efficiency is as essential for energy security as it is for cutting emissions.

We want our economy to be less reliant on imported energy, less reliant on any single technology – and more resilient against fossil fuel price spikes.

By setting a long term target, we are giving business the time and space it needs to adjust to the changes the country needs. By showing ambition, we can delink carbon emissions from economic growth. Together with our neighbours and partners in Europe and the world, we can make the low-carbon transition an irresistible force.

The decisions the EU takes over the next few years will be central to determining how other major powers act. That’s why the carbon budget encourages the EU to raise its sights, and its emissions reduction target –  to 30 per cent by 2020, rather than 20 per cent.

When the UN meets to talk about climate change solutions, we can show through our actions that the low-carbon transition is not just affordable, but desirable.

This is not an altruistic gesture; nor one designed to give us a little extra muscle at the negotiating table. Instead, it is in our own naked economic self-interest.

For promise of the green economy is real and growing. From renewable energy to home insulation, dynamic new markets are emerging. The third Industrial Revolution is underway; we each stand to gain from it.

Fifteen years from now, we want the UK to have a vibrant, low-carbon economy – with more electric vehicles, more renewable energy, and more efficient buildings.

Some countries are further down the low-carbon path than us. But the fourth Carbon Budget is a statement of intent. It supports people, profits – and the planet. So forget the myths, and see it for what it is: a budget for growt.

Source: Department Of Energy and Climate Change

July 5, 2011

Is Thorium the right choice for our energy future?

by Jasmina Nikoloska

The question on what our energy future should be based on  is complex.

Currently one of  the biggest environmental concern  is global warming and therefore investing in renewables and sustainable energy sources is reasonable, but could we meet our energy needs without nuclear?

German MPs recently voted 513-79 in favour of renewables, approving plans to shut down the country’s nuclear plants by 2022.

After Fukushima disaster Germany shut down instantly eight of the older reactors but remaining nine reactors will be shut down in stages by the end of 2022.

Their ambition is to double the share of energy stemming from water, wind, sun or biogas to at least 35%.

Some argue that that  if we back up from  nuclear, it would be in favour of the coal, which will directly affect with more CO2 emissions and  more global warming.

According to the latest figures published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), a growth trend of renewables is not strong as it would need to be but unfortunately the use of coal increased for 7%.

With eight new nuclear sites revealed, Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Programme updated and consultation document on  the way on  how potential sites for geological nuclear disposal will be identified and  assessed, it is more than obvious that Britain  is pushing ahead  its nuclear plans.

The Chinese National Academy’s ultimate target is to develop a wholly new nuclear system that will be the future of advanced nuclear fission energy – a nuclear energy, thorium-based molten salt reactor system – Future nuclear technology with thorium?

Thorium - 350

Thorium - 350

India is presently further ahead than any other country in the development of the thorium fuel cycle, but even so the R&D has only progressed on  a relatively small scale.

As with India, Norway’s interest in thorium is because of the indigenous reserves and it is therefore clear why the level of investment and  recent interest has been shown.

For a country such as the UK, with neither thorium or uranium reserves, the incentive for thorium is much reduced, as in both cases it would remain dependent on overseas suppliers.

The thorium fuel cycle presents an alternative option  to the usual uranium plutonium fuel cycle that has long been advocated and researched, but which has yet to be adopted on a commercial scale.

The thorium fuel cycle is claimed to be advantageous in several respects, one of which is that it generates very low quantities of transuranic materials, including plutonium.

Although it is thought  that radioactivity reduction could be significant, still more realistic studies which take account of the effect of U-235 or Pu-239 seed fuels required to breed  the U-233 suggest the benefits are more modest.

Based on National Nuclear Laboratory’s (NNL) knowledge and experience of introducing new fuels into modern reactors, it is estimated that this is likely to take 10 to 15 years even with a concerted R&D effort and investment before the thorium fuel cycle could be established in current reactors and much longer for any future reactor systems.

While the thorium fuel cycle is theoretically capable of being self-sustainable, this is only achievable with full recycle.

According to the NNL economic benefits are theoretically achievable by using thorium fuels, in current market conditions the position is marginal and insufficient to justify major investment.

The conclusion of the NNL’s paper is that the thorium fuel cycle does not currently have a role to play in the UK context, other than  its potential application for plutonium  management in the medium to long term.

With the world’s population due to hit nine billion by 2050, it is unlikely that the pressure to reduce energy consumption is possible therefore we have to highlight every potential energy source.

On the other hand I can see a good point in the Jean McSorley’s, statement, senior consultant for Greenpeace’s nuclear campaign.

“Even if thorium technology does progress to the point where it might be commercially viable, it will face the same problems as conventional nuclear: it is not renewable or sustainable and cannot effectively connect to smart grids. The technology is not tried and tested, and none of the main players is interested. Thorium reactors are no more than a distraction”.

 

You can see the report here: 2010 National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) report (PDF)

March 3, 2011

Shale gas drilling a controversial energy alternative

by Jasmina Nikoloska

In my article Could shale gas become a new energy source for Britain’s energy needs? I’ am writing about UK plans to investigate and introducing shale gas drilling techniques, in a field near Blackpool in Lancashire.

Shale gas is nothing uncommon for the energy industry; it is the actual methodology and techniques for its extraction and use that are new. A US engineer, George Mitchell, developed the current technique, known as “hydraulic fracturing”.
To access shale gas, drilling must be downwards into the gas-bearing rock more than 3 kilometres below the surface, and then horizontally for thousands of metres more with a mixture of water, chemicals and sand being pumped in under high pressure to fracture the rock.

The water opens up cracks in the rock in which the sand grains then lodge, keeping them open and creating space for the gas to travel up and be collected at the surface.

While shale gas extraction in Britain is still in developing stage, the technique has already revolutionised US energy market.
But, environmental concerns have been raised in US related to several pollution incidents and potential contamination of water with methane, all of which were supposedly caused by shale gas drilling.

Also the quantities of water that would be needed during the process can’t be ignored.

The Tyndall Centre, a climate change research body, estimates about 2,500-3,000 horizontal wells spread over some 140-400 square kilometres would need to be drilled using some 27 to 113m tonnes of water in order to sustain production levels equivalent to 10% of UK gas consumption.

Mark Miller, chief executive at Cuadrilla Resources, the company responsible for shale drilling in UK, told MPs at the select committee hearing into shale gas that 99.8% of this is pure water bought from local supplier United Utilities. The rest is made up of two chemicals: a fluid to reduce friction inside the pipe and an unspecified additive, the Guardian wrote on Tuesday 1 March.

Miller also confirmed that only about a third of the water mix is recovered during the initial period, with at least half remaining underground and he believes that the solid rock in top of the aquifer would prevent the water mix contaminating it.

On top of it, the Guardian reveal that the results of the first attempt to extract shale gas in the UK using a controversial technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, will be kept secret for four years.

It was confirmed by the Government that according to the oil and gas practise it is not unusual for the industry to keep some information confidential for a period, in these case till 2015.

Energy companies are very much interested in exploring Europe’s potential for shale gas, because any kind of gas is a relatively carbon-friendly alternative to oil, and it could significantly affect the energy market.

 

Written by: Jasmina Nikoloska

February 17, 2011

Scientists linked increased flooding with climate change

by Jasmina Nikoloska

This week’s journal Nature published the results of two studies that find link between greenhouse emissions and the observed increase in extreme rains in the Northern Hemisphere as well the increased risk of flooding in the United Kingdom.

In the autumn 2000 were the highest rains in England and Wales since records began in 1766 and now the scientists say they are almost certainly caused by climate change.

UK’s wettest period affecting more than 10.000 homes and more than a billion pounds damage, so this paper shows that we already have climate change and it is not something that will happen in the future.

The results are based on a ran computer models of the atmosphere as it actually was, and parallel models of the atmosphere as it would have been without the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that had accrued from human activities..

A research team led from Oxford University came to a conclusion that the emissions substantially increased the odds of a flood occurring in 2000, with about a doubling of the likelihood.

If the risk of floods is increasing, policymakers will have to be ready to respond but unfortunately in the UK, the government has already made its mind by having cut the flood defence budget by 8% earlier this month.

However, there will be always someone how doesn’t agree with how the results are carried out.

Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish “sceptical environmentalist” told BBC News that society had to look at where and how people lived.

“But is the right way to handle future flooding by focusing on climate change? The answer is no – that’s an incredibly expensive way of making extreme flooding very slightly less likely in 100 years.

“We should focus on the simple ways – making better protection, making sure people don’t settle on flood plains, and that we have some places where rivers can naturally flood as they did in the past.” – published yesterday on BBC News web site.

Written by Jasmina Nikoloska