Observing the world of renewable energy and sustainable living

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Shale Gas In The Netherlands

gaskaart_nl[source][pdf with detailed map]
The Netherlands is a natural gas country. Nearly all 7.1 million homes are connected to the natural gas grid, that to a large extent is being fed by a giant gas field near Slochteren, discovered July 22, 1959. Original total content was ca. 2.8 trillion m3 or 96 trillion ft3. By 2008 these reserves had decreased to 1.1 trillion m3. It will not be long before the impending end of Slochteren will make itself felt, energetical… and economical, as the original amount of gas represented 1.5 trillion euro against present day consumer prices. So what’s next… shale gas? Much is unclear about the potential of shale gas/oil in the Netherlands.

[] – August 19, 2011: shale gas reserves in The Netherlands range from a few hundred to 3000 billion m3. A lot of questions arose after the documentary Gasland was released. Frank de Boer, director of Cuadrilla Resources acknowledges that a lot went wrong in the US but that that is not bound to happen in the Netherlands.

[] – British company Cuadrilla wants to carry out probe drilling in Boxtel but meets fierce local resistance. The status as of September 2012 is that Cuadrilla still needs to wait for the results of a study by the Dutch government.

[] – The Netherlands has approximately 19 trillion cubic feet (540 billion m3) of technically recoverable shale gas reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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EU Says Shale Gas Needs Regulation, Not Ban

The European parliament wants to regulate, not ban shale gas. The prospect of large scale shale gas development in Europe is complicated by land ownership rules, higher population density and environmental concerns about the fracking process used to extract natural gas from shale. The EU clearly did not want to embrace shale gas as a critical instrument of solving future energy problems, but wasn’t prepared either to dismiss this form of energy. Praise for the EU attitude came both from fracking proponents as well as environmental organizations.


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High EROI Values for Shale Gas

Mike Aucott shows us that the EROI value of shale gas could be much higher than is assumed by many, namely in the range of 70-100+. He arrives at his conclusions by making use of CO2 emission data related to drilling for shale gas, which he uses as a measure for the amount of energy used to extract the shale gas. Energy necessary to produce the drilling hardware and related equipment is included as well. Aucott estimates the total energy cost for a shale gas well at 30 billion Btu. Another method of calculating the energy cost is to start from the financial cost of a well and translate that cost into energy cost, using the average amount of energy associated with a dollar of gross domestic product (GDP). Result: 35 billion Btu. A typical Marcellus well yields an estimated 2.9 billion cubic feet and thus Aucott arrives at EROI values of 70 or higher, which is extremely good. Aucott concludes that shale gas is not a bubble, but here to stay. And that gas is bound to overtake petroleum in the years to come. But at the same time he doubts that shale gas reserves are big enough to replace oil in the role it plays today. At the same time he points at dangers: gas leaks and its effect on global warming, surface water/drinking water well pollution by flowback fluids and/or gas itself, explosion hazards.



Record Number of Schiphol Passengers in 2012

Crisis, what crisis? Another record number of passengers from Schiphol, where 2010 constituted the only dip in the history of Schiphol/Amsterdam, Europe’s fourth airport. 50 million passengers and the year is not over yet. Reports about the impending collapse of the European economy are exaggerated.

[wiki – Schiphol]


There is a new European consortium called SmartBatt that endeavours to achieve a breakthrough in lightweight battery technology for vehicles. In their own words: “The objective of SmartBatt is to develop and proof an innovative, multifunctional, light and safe concept of an energy storage system which is integrated in the pure electric car’s structure.” SmartBatt is made up of nine partners, including Volkswagen, from five countries. The group is working on battery pack design and optimization processes that could deliver a 20-kilowatt hour, 200- to 400-volt pack with a 15-percent reduction in weight compared to current systems and that can deliver a continuous power rating of 36 kw. The consortium says that its concept exceeds the capacity target by more than 10 percent, providing a total of 22.92 kwh of energy storage.


Farming Defies Economic Downturn

Against the general economic trend Dutch farmers had a good year in 2011 as a consequence of rising food prices. Incomes increased from 62,000 to 78,000 euro. Winners were greenhouse, chicken and crop farmers. Farmers with livestock did less well, due to increases in cattle feed prices.


Netherlands To Install 6 GW Wind Capacity By 2020

The Dutch government decided to accelerate the application of windenergy from currently 2 GW to 6 GW by 2020. Most turbines will be located in Flevoland and coastal regions, mostly Groningen and Zuid-Holland. 16% of the electricityproduction should be renewable in 2020. The current capacity of 2 GW is realized by ca. 2000 turbines.


In related news, two ‘superturbines‘ of 6.15 MW each and 177 m height, are to be build in the Eemshaven for testing purposes in preparation for a German offshore windpark.

Organic Solar Cells

Organic solar cells (plastic solar cells) have been around for ca. twenty years. The photovoltaic effect is not realized in semi-conductors but in organic material. These cells are cheap but have relatively low efficiency. The bottleneck regarding this low efficiency has to do with the fullerene applied in these kind of cells. Scientist have found ways around this limitation.


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40 GW China’s New Solar Target for 2015

This is big. Since 2011 China has adjusted its solar target for 2015 with a factor of 8, from 5 to 40 GW. This could help boost their ailing solar industry and push it towards a certain threshold, beyond which benefits of economy of scale could start kicking in. To put things in perspective, here is the situation by the end of 2011:

1. Germany — 24.7 GW
2. Italy — 12.8 GW
3. Japan — 4.9 GW
4. Spain — 4.4 GW
5. USA — 4.4 GW
6. China – 2 GW

It is obvious that most of the renewable action is in Europe, but that China at least intends to try to keep up, where the US seems insistent on poisoning their entire continent with this fracking business.


IMF Taking Peakoil Seriously

Well, at least Michael Kumhof, deputy chief of the modeling division at the research department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Last month we already reported that the IMF had acknowledged that she at least understood what the word meant, now one of their employees takes the concept seriously, without wholeheartedly embracing it, yet. Kumhof is looking into the matter for ten years now and still has difficulty deciding whether the world has arrived on a liquid fuel production plateau or not and if, but it is certain that crude oil production is stable since 2005, without being certain whether this is due to geological or financial constraints. Kumhof nevertheless takes the idea of peakoil very serious as he is convinced of the very grave consequences. His models reveal that a continuous decline in production of 2% per year would lead to a price increase of oil of 800% after 20 years. Kumhof is not that convinced of the impact of shale oil. Further he refers to the ‘best peakoil study to date’ [pdf] investigating when the beginning of the production decline is to be expected. After 228 pages the study concludes that we don’t know, but almost certain before 2030 and ‘with a significant probability that it might happen quite a few years before 2030.’ Kumhof admits that his work has not yet arrived at the chef etage of the IMF and no official position has been taken. To sum it up: ignoring the possibility of peakoil would be irresponsible. Well, that’s a start, albeit a bit late.


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The Real State Of Western Finances

The German MSM newspaper Die Welt published a financial Nachhaltigkeitsranking (sustainability ranking) of EU countries and the US. This not just encompasses national and private debt (dark blue), but also all promises made into the future like pensions and medicare (light blue). A value of zero means you have to do nothing and can continue behaving like before. The higher the value the more drastic the countermeasures need to be to avoid financial ruin. It turns out that the three largest European economies Germany, France and Italy are in relatively good shape and that Greece and the US are worst off, meaning they both have to undergo drastic measures to escape financial ruin/default. Greece can be saved, as proposed by the Deutsche Bank, because of the recent gas and oil finds to the tune of 600+ billion dollar, an amount in the order of total public debt. As far as the US is concerned, it does not mean that the ruin is inescapable, but that very drastic measures need to be taken to avoid a meltdown. Candidate measures: tax increases to European levels, dismantling of all 800+ foreign basis and scutling of all 12 carriers in the mid Atlantic. That would be a start. Ron Paul would have been the right president to implement these measures, but alas. The US triple-A status is dubious, to say the least.

Concentrating for a moment on the situation in Europa, surprisingly it turns out that Italy has the most solid finances. Mind you: not the state, but society as a whole. Reason: real estate. The total amount of Italian mortgage is relatively low in international context. It also shows that the overall financial situation of the Netherlands is hardly better than that of Spain. The Dutch trapped themselves in buying real estate for too high prices, caused by lax too liberal financial rules by the government, which caused a bubble in the housing market, which is deflating now, with 1 million households currently ‘under water’. It is not entirely clear why Spain has financial status BBB and the Netherlands AAA.

Looking at total debt (figures in % GDP), excluding future obligations, than the differences between the states of the western world are not that dramatic, excluding Japan, Ireland and the UK.

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Gargantuan 32 GW Wind Projects Underway in the UK

The carbon fuel era began in Great-Britain and maybe that was the reason that until now the British were lagging behind with the introduction of renewable energy. But that could change soon as very ambitious projects are underway in the realm of offshore windfarming. Windfarm developers have acquired licenses in order to develop potentially up to 32 GW of wind power, about twice the power consumption of the Netherlands, eclipsing anything we have seen so far. The largest area would be situated at the Doggerbank (13 GW), to be developed by Forewind. The UK has the biggest wind resource in Europe. The London Array wind project currently under construction already is the largest project to date (630 MW). The Doggerbank project will dwarf anything we have seen so far.

[Forewind 15-11-2012 update]


Global Wind Map

To follow up on our previous post it must be remarked that Denmark is a very advantageous area to harvest these kind of financial gains from windenergy. Which places are most suitable for windturbine construction? From the map (click on map, next click on link 3443 × 2200 and next click on enlarged map again to see very detailed 4 MB map) we learn that Greenland, Patagonia, Somalia, Western Sahara, Ireland, the UK, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Nova Zembla and areas in the US mid-west are the best on-shore locations.

But the highest wind speeds are off-shore, with the disadvantage of higher installation and maintenance cost.

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Cash Cow Wind Energy

In 2010 four windturbines placed near Rønland in NW Denmark were the recordholder in generating energy: 63.2 GWh each since 2003, the year of installation. In market electricity prices at 20 euro cent per kwh, this equals to a yield of 12.6 million euro each to date. Extrapolating this over the total life expectancy of 25 year, this amounts to 45 million euro. These are 2 MW windturbines with an estimated price of 2 million euro, excluding maintenance. In financial terms these figures are fantastic. And after 25 years the cost of the tower and foundation is definitely not written off and they could last centuries, think Eiffel tower, built in 1889. Or this still functioning Dutch windmill, dating from ca. 1630. Expect this record to be broken soon. Considering these figures one cannot escape the conclusion that our energy situation is far from hopeless and that the energy transition is mostly a question of awareness and rethinking old assumptions as well as breaking vested interests of the gas & oil industry.


Turkey Pays Iran Billions in Gold for Gas

Turkey is now under threat from the US but is not impressed. “Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, fresh off his unsuccessful attempted visit to Iraqi Kurdistan, shrugged off the threat insisting that the US can’t sanction trades of gold for natural gas and that Turkey is just going to keep doing it no matter how much the US complains“.


The Economy Of The Future

Let’s pause for a moment and think about the consequences of resource depletion for the future organization of society, caused by a blogpost titled “Why We Need a Planned Economy”.We are not convinced that will be unavoidable. The basic question is not how to save the market economy, let alone how to erect a socialist planned economy, but how we can save civilization under the new reality of resource depletion. The big contours of this new reality can already be discerned:

– Reverse globalism in favour of local production and trade. Protectionism is no longer a dirty word.
– Energy saving on all domains of private and public life.
– Stimulated if not obligatory investment in local energy production, that is wind, solar, bio, hydro and geothermal. Tell communities they have to bevome energy independent in a timeframe of say 10-15 years.
– Prioritize application of remaining fossil fuels: agriculture comes first, car production and aviation comes last.
– Replace wellfare partly with a kolchoze idea: you can get food in return for work at a community farm. No more free handouts.
– Increase retirement age. Flexible arrangements enabling to work longer but ever less hours.
– The internet is going to be the backbone of economic life and will play an ever greater role in information exchange, work organization, education, transactions, buying and selling, auctions, etc. Consider for example a typical day in the office, regardless whether in LA, New York, London, Amsterdam, Berlin or Moscow:

– Drive to your work.
– Fetch your badge to enter building, greet security.
– Take the elevator to the correct floor.
– Sit behind your desk and switch on computer.
– Walk to coffee machine and get your first cappuchino of the day (with many to follow).
– Daily meeting with collegues; tell how the work is getting on, what you intend to do today.
– Sit behind the computer for the rest of the morning, fetch 2-3 more capuchinos and go to the toilet at ca. 11:00.
– Lunch break, discuss soccer game of last weekend, avoid politics.
– Back to the computer, fight sleep caused by too heavy lunch. Two more coffee.
– 15:00 collegue has cake because of his birthday. 15 people standing around the table next to the coffee machine, thinking of what to say next.
– 17:15 switch off computer, time to go home.
– Greet security again, use your badge to open the door and drive home.

This is the office reality of (out of the top of my head) 60% of the total workforce of a modern economy.

Observation: nothing in this setup is essential to actually be in the centralized office, certainly not with modern means of communications like broadband telephones, internet, webcams, headsets, conferencing software, cloud. The work can be done from home as well or if necessary from a local office at walking distance from the workers home, harbouring people of different organisations, who have nothing to do with each other apart from sharing a toilet and offering each other cake celebrating a birthday.

Big advantage: the car is no longer necessary for office workers. Realizing that a car is mainly used for commuting, this means a big relief for the family budget in a declining economy.

Russia Likely Able to Stay on 10.7 mbd Plateau Until 2020

Unclear what happens after 2020.


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VW Plans 313 MPG Car for 2013

That’s 133 km/liter for this diesel-electric hybrid.

[] – test March 2013

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