Alternatives magazine - Issue 19 - Extreme oil

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Alternatives magazine - Issue 19 - Extreme oil

Alternatives magazine - Issue 19 - Extreme oil

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  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
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  • Are you guys seriously suggesting that the politicians will find a way out of this looming mess?
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  • If you re-read the above comments, at the beginning of Start Upgrading old oil boiler to NTI Trinity Ti-150 natural gas boiler, don't you notice that you are arguing the same point but differently (I'm referring to gas oil boilerand therefore contradicting the main point and making this a lot less pertinent? I will come back next Tuesday to see how this has evolved.
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  • I agree with most of the thoughts on:Start Upgrading old oil boiler to NTI Trinity Ti-150 natural gas boiler about oil boiler to gas boiler but must admit I find your idea a little challenging as I have been visiting this since last Monday and am not sure whether I agree with your thoughts... : )
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  • I think that 90% of what is written above, in Oil Fired boiler, is quite well research and makes perfect sense: it's not that easy to find relevant info on oil boiler. I would love to have the time to refute the last bit as, if you spent just a little more time doing the research, you would immediately notice that there is plenty of room for refutation but I can't seem to be able to find the quotation I'm looking for. You know, the one from the famous French author who says the exact opposite of your last point and spends about 5 chapters explaining, in painful details, why it's impossible for you to be right. Can anyone help me please? I think the title had Monday somewhere.
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  • You do express your point pretty well, as do a lot of blogers on: Oil Fired boiler, but I wish you could add a little more references on oil boilers as I find some of your points a little 'unconventional' and would appreciate to know of documented similar opinions. I<m not asking that you do research until next Monday but ...
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  • 1. CONTENTS FEATURE EDITORIAL BY OLIVIER APPERT, IFP Chairman and CEO (Institut français du pétrole) EXTREME OIL 04 “WE ARE ENTERING AN ENERGY TRANSITION” With the price of oil averaging four times more than in 2002 on an annual basis, exploration and recovery methods are improving by leaps and bounds. VIEWPOINT 10 T echnological advances are helping us meet a trio Is the green bubble The result: a new race for black gold, with oil companies looking at deposits about to burst? of challenges: rising demand, climate change, and the non-renewable nature of most energy, almost 70% that, until recently, were considered impossible to operate. A tour of the new It bears no resemblance to the Internet bubble or real of which emits greenhouse gases. We are entering estate speculation. For Dr. Robert Bell, the future of oil landscape. renewable energies is assured. The technologies are an energy transition that we hope will lead us from continually improving and have practical applications. our present unsustainable situation to a more “carbon light” economy by 2050. Electricity and transportation are major targets for improvement. Electricity is not an issue in terms of primary energy resources, since it can be generated by nuclear power, renewable energies, ✔ Cover 15 natural gas and coal. On the other hand, it will require considerable 12 Offshore oil, such as capital, whether for power generation or electricity transmission at this oil platform in the North Sea, and distribution. represents one third Transportation is virtually dependent on oil (95%) and accounts of world production PERSPECTIVES today. DECODING ( ( Electricity: for about 60% of total oil consumption. Here, the focus is primarily alternatives 3 rd quarter 2008 V Biomass: energy in the making hunting down line losses Improving Europe’s power grids, whose weak on improving energy efficiency – of privately owned vehicles, the road transportation industry and dedicated fleets – to reduce Publication Manager: Michel-Hubert Jamard. Wood, straw, agricultural residues, organic waste… consumption and thus dependency on the OPEC oil producing Editors: Thierry Piérard, Virginie Lepetit. interconnections and line losses consume excess biomass is everywhere you look. But the efficient use countries. Unconventional sources of oil, such as deep offshore Photos: Keith Wood/Gettyimages® (cover), IFP (p. 3), fuel and emit more CO2, means maximizing energy Larry Lee Photography/Corbis (p. 4), Jiri Rezac/ Réa of this source of green electricity requires optimization efficiency and better flow management. A closer look. oil or oil sands, are another path to dependency reduction. (pp. 6-7), Étienne de Malglaive/Réa (pp. 6-7), Technip In these fields, significant progress in exploration and production (pp. 8-9), Éric Nocher (p. 10), Paul Langrock/ Zénith- of biomass collection and combustion processes. Laïf-Réa (p. 14), Lester Lefkowitz/Corbis (p. 15), techniques has pushed back the limits for reaching reserves Médiathèque RTE/Favier Gilles (p. 16), Hein van that were, until recently, unusable. To achieve the diversification den Heuvel/ zefa/Corbis (pp. 16-17), Gina Le Vay/ 18 19 IN BRIEF KIOSK A selection of books and of energy supplies so necessary to the transportation sector, we need Gettyimages® (p. 17), Morgane Le Gall “Nature versus Technology” designed by Arik Levy and Research, environment, transportation: websites for more information on to develop new fuels – first generation biofuels now, second genera- produced by Saazs (p. 20). tion biofuels later – such as lignocellulosic biomass or municipal Illustrations: Mr Suprême (p. 11), A. Dagan (p. 12). energy news clippings from Alternatives. the topics discussed in this issue. Design and production: : 8192 waste, or synfuels made with gas or coal, none of which compete with food applications. Ultimately, we can expect to see synergies emerge between oil and nuclear power, with the latter helping to optimize energy-greedy oil production and refining operations. ■ The opinions expressed by the authors of articles in this magazine are their sole responsibility and do not necessarily reflect AREVA’s opinions. ISSN 1637-2603 In accordance with the French law of January 6, 1978 on Data Processing and Civil Liberties, as amended by the law of August 6, 2004, any person has the right to request the correction or deletion of his or her AT A GLANCE Greenhouse gas reduction personal data. This right may be exercised by letter posted to T.M.S. objectives in Europe 107 ,000 km 2 2,000,000 metric tons 4,244 4,151 Mt CO2 eq 4,000 3,924 3,602 ■ EU-15 ■ EU-10 Paper (novatech gloss) certified from mixed FSC and elemental chlorine- That’s the total surface area of Brazilian oil grants covered by a request That's the threshold crossed for the first time on 3,000 CO2 emissions free pulp, ISO 9706, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, as per EC directive for proposals to be launched in December. All of the grants are located on land. September 23, 2008 in the European carbon market, 2,000 in the European Union 10 and 15, 98/638 on heavy metals content and EEC standard 89/109 regarding contact with food. Environmentally friendly ink (100% plant-based). In September, Brazil also kicked off oil extraction from ultra-deep sea deposits. where CO2 emissions permits are traded under the Kyoto 1,320 979 1,388 in metric tons 1,000 849 equivalent of CO2. © 2008 AREVACOM The offshore reserves, located 6,000 meters beneath the sea under a 1,000-meter Protocol. Daily trading averaged 1.251 million metric salt layer, are estimated at 5 to 8 billion barrels of recoverable light crude oil. tons during the month of September, setting a new record 0 Energy is our future, At present, Brazil's reserves total 14 billion barrels. and topping the monthly average for August by 47%. 1990 2006 Kyoto objective 2020 objective, assuming the distribution emissions emissions (2008-2012) of emissions between EU-15 and EU-10 don’t waste it! remains the same Source: Mission Climat - Caisse des dépôts. Data: European Environment Agency, June 2008.
  • 2. FEATURE An overview of challenges tied to energy With the price of oil four times more than in 2002 on an average annual basis, exploration and recovery methods are improving by leaps and bounds. The result: a new race for black gold, with oil companies looking at deposits that, until recently, were considered impossible to operate. A tour of oil’s new frontiers, from the oil sands of Canada’s Far North to the ultra-offshore depths of the Brazilian coastline. F acing the potential depletion Petroleum Institute, IFP, “the majority of Bituminous sands cost almost of their conventional fields, unconventional crudes are degraded crudes five times as much to extract the oil companies are rushing found at shallow depths in loose, highly per- as Middle East oil towards unconventional meable sands. These crudes have been altered Prices required for profitable oil production, including costs associated with CO2 emissions crudes. These are oils formed by water seepage and bacteria. The lightest by dense, high-viscosity molecules were destroyed in the process, while in dollars per barrel hydrocarbons that must be the oil was artificially enriched in asphaltenes Bituminous sands 70 EXTREME OIL made lighter and more fluid before they can be extracted cost effectively in sufficient quantity. Unconventional crudes also include oil found in deep offshore fields. With the price of crude still averaging 40% more than and resins. They also contain heavy metals, nitrogen and sulfur, which require special refining treatment.” Using current production methods and re- covery rates (the amount of oil that can be Arctic oil Extra-heavy oil (Canada, Venezuela) Ultra-deep offshore 40 40 60 last year on an annual basis and four times extracted from the deposit) in the 20-50% Deep offshore 35 higher than eight years ago, every method is range, Canada can claim 152.2 billion barrels 15 Middle East being used to recover the black gold, even if of recoverable reserves with these resources. it means extracting oil from depths of more That is second only to Saudi Arabia, which than 2,000 meters or operating oil fields where has 264.2 billion barrels in reserves1. At an Source: IEA, 2007. the raw material is more tar than liquid. average recovery rate of 10%, the Orinoco Belt Operating these fields can help to push back contains about 50 billion barrels of extra-heavy per barrel in Venezuela, and exceeds $40 in Peak Oil, or the point in time when global oil crude. Canada; this compares with $5-8 for new production will begin to decline. First stop on The industrial development of these hydro- conventional crude extraction projects in the our journey: Venezuela and Canada, world carbon deposits requires considerable capital Middle East. champions of extra-heavy crudes. and expertise due to their extraordinary size. The Athabasca and Orinoco oils are very The average production cost for deposits dissimilar. A cold extraction process can be 150 billion barrels may under development ranges from $20 to $30 used for Orinoco oils. A diluting agent, be recoverable in Canada The term “extra-heavy crudes” refers to cer- tain types of oils, such as high-density crudes Natural gas: the Alaskan dream from Venezuela and crudes from the bitumi- nous sands of Canada. Strictly speaking, the Oil companies looking for new resources are willing promise in this respect. Nearly 15 billion barrels of to pay top dollar to access as yet unexploited recoverable oil reserves and more than 2 trillion bulk of extra-heavy oils is found in Venezuela, areas, as they did for ultra-deep offshore fields cubic meters of natural gas are believed to be in the Orinoco Belt of the Orinoco River basin. in the Canadian Far North, or in sub-arctic regions located in this area. Despite opposition from Bituminous sands, on the other hand, are such as Snovhit in Norway or Stockman in Russia. environmental associations, the U.S. administration ✔ A platform in the far north found mostly in the Athabasca region of The Chukchi Sea deposits of Alaska are full of granted hundreds of exploration permits in February. Oil companies looking for new resources are ready to pay top Alberta, Canada. According to the French dollar to access as-yet unexploited territories. The far north of Norway, 04 / ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES Russia and Alaska are the most coveted regions. ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES / 05
  • 3. FEATURE naphtha (the very light component of crude One third of world oil rigs, which became taller and taller. Floating oil) is injected into the bottom of the well and production is offshore systems were used when the construction of at the well head to facilitate oil flow and extrac- Another oil frontier is located more than 1,500 fixed platforms became impossible. Only a tion, which is also stimulated with pumps. meters under the surface of the sea, where dozen fields are operated at a depth of more Naphtha is used again to transport the crude oil is extracted from ultra-deep offshore fields. than 1,500 meters. Oil companies use float- by pipeline to refineries some 200 kilometers According to the French Petroleum Institute, ing production, storage and offloading away. IFP, offshore crudes of all types platforms (FPSO) moored Athabasca crudes are practically solid; they currently account for one with cables to ensure the sta- are extracted from wells or from open pit fourth of the world's proven Only a bility of the rig above the drill mines. Although oil companies identified the fantastic potential of this region decades ago, reserves and one third of glo- bal oil production. Ultra-deep dozen fields point, even in strong winds or currents. the operation of bituminous sand deposits is fields (1,500 meters or more) are operated relatively recent. The high cost of separating represent only 3% of the world's at depths of Pipes: too heavy the oil from the sand was a barrier to the devel- reserves and 0.5% of its more than for their own good! opment of these deposits, since the price of production. Oil can now be Operating costs – exploration, crude didn’t cover operating costs. Fluctu- extracted at depths eight times 1,500 meters. development and production ating oil prices are not the only reason for the greater than the early offshore – have risen from about $10 proliferation of this type of project in Canada: wells – from 312 meters in 1978 to 2,540 per barrel in 2000 to as much as $20-30 today. at long last, proven extraction processes are meters in 2007 (see chart) – and the 2,700- Going to such extremes to look for oil is still now available to operate these deposits. meter threshold is expected to be crossed this far from easy. Deepwater projects are fraught year. Geologists are presently focusing on a with difficulties, stemming mostly from water Bituminous sands: half-dozen major basins: the Gulf of Guinea, temperatures and equipment weight. At thirsty for water ✔ Canada the Gulf of Mexico, the northern part of the depths of more than 2,000 meters, traditional Two main mining methods are used for bitu- Bituminous sand mine pits North Sea, the Brazilian and Australian coast- pipes connecting the rig to the ocean floor are are always very extensive, minous sands, depending on the depth of the like this one operated lines, and the China Sea. Enormous progress unable to support their own weight. Manu- by Shell Albian. deposit and other features. has been made in offshore oil exploration and facturers are working to develop pipes made The traditional open pit mining method, production, particularly in seismic research. with metals that are lighter than steel, or with which requires enormous mechanical shov- ✔ Canada Production rigs have also improved greatly. composite materials. Below 1,500 meters, els, is used in areas where the sands are less This huge truck can carry Initially, the fields were operated from fixed water temperature is only 4°C. The oil is 400 metric tons of sand than 70 meters below grade. Huge trucks or containing 200 barrels conveyor belts move the sands to a process- of oil. ing facility that uses hot water to strip the The depth of offshore operations has risen eightfold in 30 years oil, which is then recovered by dilution in light crude. This process accounts for two- thirds of Canada’s production. It requires large quantities of water, which must be filtered after use. The spent sands are stripped sever- al times and then returned to the mine. 312 m In the steam flooding method, steam is injec- 540 m ted into the sands through a horizontal well. 752 m The resulting heat decreases the viscosity of 1,027 m the oil, which is recovered in another well. This is expensive technology. Huge amounts 1,650 m 1 - Location of water and a lot of energy are needed to 2 - Operator 1,709 m 2,540 m supply the steam injected into the deposit. 3 - Rig 1,853 m The process also generates large amounts of 1978 1989 1991 1994 1997 1997 2000 Oct. 2007 greenhouse gases. All of these factors raise Cognac, Jolliet, Marlim, Marlim, Mensa, Marlim Sul, Roncador, Gulf of Mexico, operating costs. Environmental constraints 1 Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Mexico, Brazil Brazil Gulf of Mexico, Brazil Brazil at water vortex also affect overall project economics. The United States United States United States 2 steam flooding method will be subject to CO2 Shell Conoco Petrobras Petrobras Shell Petrobras Petrobras Anadarko 3 Fixed Tension leg Semi- Semi- Underwater FPSO* FPSO* FPSO* taxes, increasing the cost of the oil produced. platform platform submersible submersible connection * FPSO: Floating Production Ultimately, operators will have to invest capital platform platform from a Storage and Offloading platform. satellite field to capture and sequester the gases produced. 06 / ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES / 07
  • 4. FEATURE EXPERT OPINION THIERRY PILENKO Thierry Pilenko is Chairman PEAK OIL: and CEO of Technip, a world leader pumped at temperatures of 80 to 100°C, OIL DENSITY: word for word in engineering, technologies and Oil density is expressed in degrees of API gravity, projects in the oil, natural gas and and must be kept as hot as possible to pre- a measure of the American Petroleum Institute. Oil petrochemicals fields. Technip designs vent paraffin or hydrate buildup in the pipes. is “light” at an API gravity of greater than 31.1°, and manufactures flexible flowlines The pipes must therefore be kept at strictly “medium” if it is 22.3° to 31.1°, “heavy” if is it 10° and platforms, and has a dedicated controlled temperatures and pressures. to 22.3°, and “extra-heavy” if it is less than 10°. fleet of specialized vessels for subsea construction and pipeline installation. How deep can oil extraction go? Because the deepwater oil fields being explored are increas- ingly smaller, scattered, or far from shore, By way of comparison, North Sea Brent sweet crude, the standard for oil traded in London, is a light oil with an API gravity of 38°. when will it happen? oil companies are faced with new challenges. At current consumption levels, oil reserves are expected Oil quality can vary. It is often heavier and more deltas such as the Niger, the Mississippi, the to last about 40 years. Gas reserves are estimated at 65 years. viscous, and is sometimes deposit-prone. Volga and the Ural, or beneath ancient basins in the North Sea, Algeria or the Middle East. But each additional percentage point in recovery postpones Ultra-deep fields: Such deposits represent a colossal challenge the deadline by two years. the new frontier for engineers. Pressures and temperatures are Not all ultra-deep fields are found offshore. very high at such depths2, and existing tools While there are no oil fields in operation today and methods are either unsuitable or com- ccording to the BP Statistical ONLY ONE THIRD at depths of more than 5,600 meters, many geologists believe that additional oil and gas reserves lie even deeper (6,000 to 8,000 pletely ineffective. At depths of more than 4,000 meters, exploration is difficult and drilling is very expensive. Nonetheless, gas is A Review of World Energy, there are 1.39 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves1. This compares with one trillion OF ALL OIL DEPOSITS meters underground) in specific geologic configurations, such as the piedmont areas being pumped in the North Sea from approxi- mately 5,500 meters below the ocean floor barrels consumed since the beginning of the oil era. Reserve estimates have risen con- are actually exploited of the Andes or Central Asia, in major river in the Glenelg, West Franklin and Elgin Franklin fields, at temperatures approaching 200°C. This is a feat, since electronics have stantly, thanks to the discovery of new de- posits and, more recently, the extraction of frontier oils. Another opportunity exists to a short lifespan above 170°C. Obviously, postpone Peak Oil: increasing the recovery Alternatives: What are the personnel for onshore facility How many more years will When oil drillers must use different equipment under rate at existing fields is as good as discov- ✔ SparGulf of Mexico. the platform in main technical limitations construction in some regions technical advances contin- and nuclear power these circumstances. Also, the deeper the geo- ering a new deposit. to exploiting unconven- of the world? ue to push back Peak Oil? logic strata, the poorer the seismic image, as Approximately 35% of the oil in the ground tional deposits? T. Pilenko: Innovation work well together image quality deteriorates with distance. is recovered, meaning that an average of two additional 10% in the recovery rate – admit- Thierry Pilenko: On the technical level, is has enabled us to push back Technological advances continue to push barrels of oil is left in the ground for each tedly a very favorable scenario – would We have to find solutions there anything we don’t the decline in the North Sea The rush for Canada’s bituminous sands back Peak Oil. Oil may be a fossil fuel in finite barrel brought to the surface. Exploiting a recover 600 billion additional barrels from for the extreme conditions know how to do yet? by ten years or so. And we is a boost for nuclear power. Enormous quantity, but the age of oil is not over yet! field to the maximum requires advanced global reserves. present in ultra-deep waters, T. Pilenko: We know how shouldn’t forget that only quantities of power are needed to heat the Every day, oil company engineers look for recovery techniques. The primary recovery Tertiary recovery begins when a deposit such as temperature and pres- to drill 3,000 meters below 30 to 40% of all oil deposits sands to extract the oil. The current sources new ways to postpone the terminal decline, rate from light crude deposits (the percen- approaches the end of its operating life. The sure. But the magnitude of sea level, but we still don’t are actually exploited. of power – gas- and oil-fired plants – relea- so that the oil we cannot recover today will tage of oil surging naturally to the well viscosity of the oil is lowered by injecting the projects on an economic, know how to pump the oil. Exploitable reserves would se large quantities of CO2 and are thus a be accessible in the future. This is a must if head) is often about 25%. Even in liquid polymers, carbon dioxide or steam into the environmental and human Another example: we’re well practically double at a recov- major source of pollution. In early 2008, we are to continue to provide power to some form, oil contains dissolved gases that are deposit. In situ burning is another method: scale also raises crucial versed in synfuel production ery rate of 60%. Upstream, Bruce Power, a private nuclear utility that sectors which, unlike the fuel sector, have not released when the reservoir's pressure drops some of the oil is burned in the deposit itself concerns. How does one mine processes – GTL (gas to the advances in seismic supplies one fifth of Ontario's electricity, yet found an industrial-scale substitute for due to drilling, or when oil surges to the sur- to heat the surrounding rock. The heaviest the oil sands of Canada while liquid), CTL (coal to liquid), research are helping us to applied for a license from the Canadian black gold. ■ face. Operators always try to regulate the oil components are burned in the process limiting CO2 emissions? How etc. – but we have yet to discover deposits that weren’t Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to build pressure of the reservoirs and the output of (5 to 10% of the crude content). The tempe- 1. BP 2008 Statistical Review. does one sustain local econom- achieve fully satisfactory visible before, as happened in four nuclear power plants in Alberta. The 2. At a depth of 4,500 meters, the temperature is about 150°C the wells to extract the oil and the dissolved rature reaches 600-800°C, pushing the oil ic development in producer energy yields. I am convinced Brazil recently. The issues are application follows a decision by the and the pressure is 500 bar. Beyond 6,000 meters, the tempera- gases simultaneously and for as long as towards the production wells. ■ ture is around 300°C and the pressure is 1,000 to 1,500 bar. countries? How does one that research and develop- inescapable over the relatively Canadian federal government to prohibit possible. 1. Including bituminous sands. adapt solutions proven in the ment will take us beyond long term for all non-renew- the construction of new coal-fired plants Significant progress has also been made in Gulf of Mexico to environ- our present limitations. For able natural resources, which beginning in 2011, unless their green- all methods of secondary recovery. Solutions ments as demanding as those of the Arctic Circle? During example, we’ve developed solutions that will make it by definition are finite. And in them converge house gases are captured and sequestered underground. That requirement increases @ • U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA): • Institut français du pétrole (French Petroleum Institute): to increase the recovery rate include the injection of gas or water into the reservoir. the design phase, how does possible to liquefy natural scientific, technical, societal, the cost of the megawatt-hour from coal • Bulletin de l’Industrie pétrolière As Nathalie Alazard-Toux, Director of (Petroleum Industry Bulletin, in French): one factor in pressures gas at sea, turning resources economic and geopolitical by 50% compared with nuclear power, Economic Studies at the Institut français du on the equipment market, that weren’t exploitable considerations. ■ according to Bruce Power CEO Duncan P_22Jan2008.pdf pétrole, explains, “each additional percen- • International Energy Agency - Oil Market Report: or the availability of qualified before to good use. Hawthorne. tage point in recovery for all known deposits increases global reserves by two years.” An 08 / ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES / 09
  • 5. VIEWPOINT IS THE GREEN BUBBLE ABO UT TO BURST? It bears no resemblance to the Internet bubble or recent real estate speculation. For Dr. Robert Bell, author of The Green Bubble, the future of renewable energies is assured. These technologies are continually improving, producing practical applications and laying the foundations of our future. with cellulosic ethanol (produced with the entire plant) is the real key ZOOM W ith some 55 prepared to announce specific goals to a transition to electric vehicles. Recent billion euros for 2009-2011. Because hybrids are clearly the so- financial invested The landscape was different for the lution for the future. I truly believe bubbles worldwide photovoltaic sector. Price/earnings that in ten to fifteen years more than • The Internet and telecom bubble burst in 2007, in- ratios, or the ratio between a com- 70% of all automobiles in the United after five years of cluding pany’s market capitalization and its States will be hybrids. The exact tim- euphoria, from 1995 46% in wind earnings, were soaring just before ing of the switch depends on to 2000. The first signs power 2, the green energy market the crash. In July, U.S. companies government action, but we’re headed of the bubble appeared in 1995, when the stock has surpassed investment in the First Solar and SunPower had P/E in that direction. Climate change price of Netscape Internet and will soon overtake that ratios of 100 and 255 respectively. Wind power doesn’t have this prob- ty on a single site in Texas, to be combined with the economic crisis tripled on the first day of the telecom market. While the fi- These levels are consistent with a lem, and the main obstacle to completed by 2014. The project gives governments a tremendous of trading after the nancial crash of the fall of 2008 may speculative bubble. On October 23, photovoltaic solar energy will soon is expected to cost $10 billion, or opportunity to push in this direc- initial public offering. Investors went on to slow things down, there can be no their P/E ratios had dropped to disappear, with the price of silicon, $2.50 per GW. This is a rather tion, no matter what the price of buy up new technology doubt that the market is close to its 42 and 52. the main component of solar cells, attractive capital outlay compared oil may be. We’ve seen this already: stocks indiscriminately, peak. A speculative bubble is un- about to drop. At least, that’s what with more capital-intensive projects for the second year in a row, regardless of the avoidable at the end of the game: Recent technical innovations the CEO of Q.Cells said to the like nuclear power plants. Will this gasoline consumption was down company’s revenue or profits, which were financial markets in the United States are very promising Financial Times in late June, predic- give wind power an edge in the 4% in California in 2007. This trend often zero. THE OPINION OF always generate unsustainable bub- Financial experts continually cite ting that the market would be awash current economic crisis? Only time will continue. • The subprime crisis. bles. But we’re not there yet. Far these P/E ratios to compare what is with silicon. Soon, we’ll also be able will tell. All of these technologies are just A real estate bubble ROBERT BELL from it! Hedge funds liquidated their happening in renewable energies to store electricity on a large scale, entering a period of growth. We’re succeeded the Internet bubble in 2000. A lot Robert Bell is Chair of “green investments” to raise cash in today with the Internet bubble. They which is necessary to make up for America is switching not on the eve of a green bubble, of investors, a lot the Department of Economics October 2008, causing an even har- forget that photovoltaic cell manu- the intermittent nature of green ener- to hybrids but rather at the start of a period of money to invest, der crash for these stocks than for facturers doubled their sales each gies. NGK Insulators of Japan is now Biomass has a bright future as well. similar to what the French call “the easy credit (the now at Brooklyn College, New York. the rest of the market. But they’ll year before the crash. In my opinion, capable of manufacturing sodium- Installed capacity quadrupled last Glorious Thirties”. This may not infamous subprime In his previous books, Dr. Bell rebound quickly. I don’t expect to it’s completely wrong to believe that sulfur batteries that can store large year, if one includes energy from prevent crises from happening, or loans)… all the ingre- explained how new technologies dients were there for see a “green bubble” in the next few every new technology eventually amounts of electricity. I think this will waste incineration and biogas from periods of recession, but the gen- soaring real estate tend to fuel speculation. He authored years, at least not to the extent of means that the bubble must burst. cause renewable energies to take treatment plants. These resources eral trend will be upward. Green prices in the United The Green Bubble1 in February 2007, the Internet and telecom bubble of This is far from the truth. Some tech- off completely and even to surpass also offer a response to rising fuel energies are laying the foundations States during the first giving his explanation for the years of the century. the nineties. The main difference nologies do in fact change the world nuclear power. Just take a look at prices. First-generation ethanol of true industrial growth. ■ The bubble deflated stampede towards renewable today is that demand for green ener- in which we live. Renewable ener- the wind power projects announced fuel is available, and the controver- abruptly in 2007, energies. For him, climate change gy is real, rising, and a growth engine gies fall into this category. The only by developers in recent months. One sy over the use of corn as fuel or as triggering a global 1. The Green Bubble, Robert Bell, Abbeville Press, crisis. will turn our economies upside for manufacturing and production. question now is whether the tech- of them, Mesa Power, is about to food is overblown, in my opinion. 2007. down. We are about to enter an And demand for wind turbines is nologies being offered by companies build 4 GW of generating capaci- But second-generation ethanol made 2. Data from SEFI, New Energy Finance. era of intense capital investment still growing. In fact, it has been so can meet our needs today, not those and speculation surrounding green strong that the industry’s backlog we might have in forty years – or even energy. But the growth is not now represents two years of produc- in ten years. In this respect, fuel cells without basis, because it is these tion – or at least, it did before the don’t have a very bright future. Not technologies that will free us of our dependency on oil. financial crisis. Since then, Gamesa, a wind turbine manufacturer, has only is the technology too expensive, it needs coal, oil or natural gas to We’re at the beginning of a period similar halted production and is no longer produce the hydrogen it uses as fuel. to what the French call ‘the Glorious Thirties’. ” 10 / ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES / 11
  • 6. V DECODING A guide exploring a natural phenomenon, a technology, a mechanism… BIOMASS: ENERGY IN THE MAKING Wood, straw, agricultural residues, organic waste… biomass How a biomass plant works is everywhere you look. But the efficient use of this source of green Like other power plants, a biomass plant burns fuel. Instead of fossil fuels, it burns plant or animal residues and by-products: wood, straw, agricultural residues, organic waste, electricity – the world’s second largest renewable energy source – etc. Burning these fuels produces steam that drives a turbine connected to an electric generator. The turbine-generator combination, turning at very high speed, generates requires optimization of biomass collection and combustion processes. electricity. iomass is back on the political the European Communities: the amount of 1. Collection and preparation Biofuels can rarely be used in their natural state. More often than not, they contain too much water and are too diverse to be used in an industrial boiler. Once the wood, straw, agricultural residue or organic waste has been collected, it is processed and mixed for optimum boiler operation. 4. Turbine and electric generator The pressurized steam drives a high-speed turbine. The turbine in turn drives an electric generator, producing electricity in the form of alternating current. A transformer raises the voltage of this current so that it can be carried over the high voltage power grid. When the steam exits the turbine, it is converted back into water by a condenser B agenda. In mid-June of this year, the French government gave this renewable energy a boost by select- ing twenty-two projects to generate power and heat with biomass… though the decision came a year and a half after the request for proposals! The plants, to be com- electricity generated from biomass (including biogas, municipal waste and wood) has practically doubled in six years, rising from 40 to 80 TWhe between 2000 and 2005. This is an improvement, but it still only represents 2.5% of the electricity supplied to Europeans. On a global scale, biomass contributes just 1% and sent back to the boiler. missioned by 2010, will be located in eleven of total electric power generation. 3. Boiler different regions and will consume energy Yet biomass is an energy resource found all Inside the boiler, pressurized cold water flows from organic plant matter. The power gener- over the world, whether as agricultural waste, through a series of tubes. The heat released by combustion is used to heat the water flowing through ated will be bought at a firm price of 128 euros wood chips, or dried treatment plant sludge, these tubes, turning it into superheated steam. per megawatt-hour. Most of the fuel will come to name but a few. Biomass power plants from forest and paper industry waste, but straw have managed to gain a foothold mainly in and even grape pomace will be used in some countries that produce large volumes of cases. The plants will have a combined gen- organic waste, including waste from the erating capacity of 300 MWh, raising France’s paper and agri-food industries, household installed biomass capacity to a total of refuse, and biogas from the fermentation of 700 MWe. A drop of water in the ocean in the treatment plant sludge. At the top of the list: overall scheme of France’s electricity! the United States, which generated 56 TWh It is true that France has long neglected of biopower in 2005, and Brazil, which favors biomass. In 2004, electricity generated from bagasse from sugar cane and biogas from 2. Combustion chamber Pre-mixed biomass fuel is burned in the combustion biological resources represented a mere distillery effluents. chamber, releasing heat. The lower heating value 1.74 TWhe in France, just 0.3% of its power Generating electricity from biomass is a (LHV, or amount of heat released during combustion) varies according to the material and its moisture consumption. This will rise to 0.6% once the very simple process. It works on the content: 4.9 kWh/kg for wood pellets, 4 kWh/kg new plants have come on line. The trend is the same principle as any other thermal for straw, and 2.5 kWh/kg for wood. same in all of the EU’s 27 member states, power plant operating with coal according to Eurostat, the statistical office of or heavy fuel oil. Like those 12 / ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES / 13
  • 7. V DECODING (( PERSPECTIVES Insight into the energy outlook for the future ✔ Nawaro® biogas power plant in Penkun, TRUE OR FALSE? Germany This is the largest plant of its kind in the world; 40 separate facilities cover Electric power plants using more than 20 hectares [about 50 acres]. biomass do not release greenhouse gases False: The combustion of organic matter always emits CO2 and water. In fact, electricity generated with wood releases 1.5 metric tons of CO2 per MWh, or three times more than a com- bined-cycle gas plant. However, these CO2 emissions are part of the natural carbon cycle responsible for the green- ✔ A field of high voltage lines house effect that enabled life to develop 2.5% of the electricity transmitted over this type of line is lost due to power dissipation (the Joule effect). on Earth. Without the atmosphere, the average temperature on Earth would be -18°C instead of +15°C. In the case of biomass, since the atoms are reab- sorbed during plant growth, the CO2 footprint of industrial uses of biomass ELECTRICITY: is considered neutral, as long as natural resources are used rationally. metric ton of fuel oil. And wood is one of In addition to solid biomass, biogas can be hunting down line losses best fuels biomass has to offer! Another used to recycle liquid or wet waste that is hydrocarbons, organic biomass matter problem lies in the size limits of biomass difficult to transport. Biogas is produced by consists mainly of hydrocarbon molecules, plants compared with coal-fired plants, pre- the digestion of wet biomass such as treat- P ower generation represents a Energy flows are scattered as a result, gen- including carbon and hydrogen. The bond venting them from achieving the same ment plant sludge and animal dung (pig Power generators are little less than half of all CO2 emis- erating operating losses proportional to wheel- between carbon and hydrogen breaks down economies of scale. The electrical efficiency slurry), or of liquid biomass such as waste- trying a plethora of sions (41%, to be precise), mainly ing distances. In turn, more primary energy during the combustion process, allowing of a small biomass plant is 30% at best water containing sugar or starch from the technical innovations because of fossil fuels’ dominant must be burned in power plants, producing the atoms to combine with oxygen in the (35% with the best available technologies), agri-food industry. Bacteria break down the role, especially coal. This contri- additional CO2 emissions in the case of oil, air to form CO2, steam (H2O) and especially whereas coal-fired plants achieve about organic compounds in an oxygen-deprived to maximize energy bution is expected to increase to 44% by gas or coal-fired plants. This is another rea- heat. The heat is used to produce pressur- 45% efficiency and combined-cycle gas- environment during the digestion process, efficiency and reduce 2030 as electricity demand son why improving inter- ized steam to drive electric turbines (see fired plants hit the 55% mark. producing biogas containing 40% to 70% greenhouse gas emissions doubles1. Supplementing connections and transmis- diagram, pages 12 & 13). If the process is so simple, then why isn’t biomass massively employed to generate electricity? First of all, it produces a small amount of heat from combustion compared Another problem is the varying composi- tion of straw, wood or waste fueling the boiler, calling for robust, adaptable burn- ers, grates and fluidized beds. Either that, or the fuel has to be converted to produce methane. The methane can then be used to fuel a gas-fired plant. This is one of the best configurations there is, since the bio- mass comes directly from the final waste. It’s a good illustration of the “waste to as the planet's temperature continues to rise. Part and parcel of these efforts: progress on CO2 emission reduction, engineers are actively working on pro- grams to improve the energy supply chain “ An accumulation of minor mishaps can trigger a blackout. sion infrastructure has become a priority. The goals are to reduce losses, save fuel and lower CO2 emissions by optimizing with fossil fuels such as coal, oil and nat- ural gas. For example, a metric ton of wood represents 0.3 metric tons of oil equivalent, only one third of the energy contained in a standardized fuel such as wood pellets or dried sludge, which only ups the price of the fuel even more. Converting forest waste into wood chips, for example, costs 40 wealth” concept, which consists of recy- cling waste to produce energy. Biomass has been used for heat and energy since the dawn of mankind, and has an important improving power grids, where weak interconnec- tions and line losses downstream – the inter- connections within and between transmission systems (see “word for word”) – where better power flow manage- ” power flows, and to eli- minate the notorious bot- tlenecks capable of turning minor mishaps into full-fledged blackouts causing staggering to 50 euros per MWh of heat, whereas role to play in the global energy mix. ■ consume even more ment and reductions in line losses offer major financial and energy losses. BIOGAS PLANT: A plant in which wet or unprocessed sawmill residue costs 10 to 20 opportunities for productivity gains. Such gains fuel and emit more CO2. word for word liquid biomass (treatment plant sludge, euros for the same MWh. Another obsta- will have the effect of reducing the amount Power systems are already pig slurry, etc.) is converted into methane cle to developing biomass for power An inside look. of electricity to be produced upstream by saturated by anaerobic digestion. The methane is then converted into usable energy (electricity, heat). generation is the problem of collecting the raw materials from far and wide. Because @ • How biomass plants work: production/renouvelable/biomasse/ fonctionnement.html eliminating its dissipation as useless heat in conductors, transformers and switchgear. As demonstrated by the 2003 blackout in Italy and the November 2006 outage in Nor- ANAEROBIC DIGESTION: The decomposition of this, recently built biomass power plants thern Germany, which affected almost 10% of organic compounds in an oxygen-deprived • A primer for electric power generation environment through the action of bacteria. have been co-located with the industrial with biomass: Eliminating bottlenecks of the power supply in the western part of sites that produce the organic residues that Electricity travels from one point to anoth- the continent, European grids participating in The bacteria produce biogas consisting mainly essentials3.pdf of methane (CH4), which can be used as fuel. fuel them. er following the path of least resistance. the UCTE2 are vulnerable and their energy 14 / ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES / 15
  • 8. (( PERSPECTIVES ZOOM ces because it is too vulnerable to pro- is the cost of infrastructure (three cables INTERCONNECTION: word for word duction fluctuations. Prices would remain are required to transmit triphase current). Connection between two national power The cost of a blackout… grids or, in some cases, regional power high due to grid saturation and the con- Moreover, overhead lines are often a source grids, which are generally synchronous At dawn on September 28, 2003, an electric tinued operation of inefficient production of conflict with local residents and raise (50 or 60 Hz). Direct current is needed to arc formed between a power cable and a tree capacity in each of the energy regions with environmental issues. All in all, the connect two asynchronous grids, which is in Switzerland. Poor communications between insufficient interconnections. The risk of cost/benefit ratio decreases as the distance more complex and costly to implement. Swiss and Italian operators plunged Italy into darkness for several hours. The cost of temporary supply interruptions will remain increases. TRANSMISSION: this outage: almost 13,000 megawatts, high if power systems continue to operate In contrast, VHV direct current can carry The transmission of electricity from or the power output of 10 nuclear reactors! at their physical capacity limits year after up to 800 kV with very small line losses the power plant (nuclear, thermal, year. Lack of coordination in communica- over distances of several thousands of kilo- hydro, etc.) over long distances and on very high voltage, interconnected grids. tion procedures and a still incomplete Euro- meters, as in Brazil, India and China. For pean grid management system could shorter distances, as in Europe, VHV would amplify the consequences of any major dis- help eliminate bottlenecks at the border efficiency is patently lacking. Grid vul- ruption (see Zoom below). by creating “power line superhighways”, pean Union and reducing greenhouse gases nerability and poor energy efficiency are in ensuring voltage stability while promoting in the power generation sector. A third fact two sides of the same coin: each major Rising use of decision support exchanges between national grids. In prac- challenge would be to invest in this type grid disruption increases primary fuel tools by grid operators tice, the preferred solution would be to of infrastructure. But that’s for national consumption, thus raising costs and boost- Under these circumstances, the most urgent replace weak links in the grids or those governments to decide... ■ ing greenhouse gas emissions. In the pri- decisions are obviously political ones, par- with sub-par performance with new VHV 1. OECD-IEA, 2006, World Energy Outlook. ority interconnection plan it submitted to ticularly as regards funding for grid up - direct current infrastructure that could 2. The Union for the Coordination of Transmission of Electricity the European Council and Parliament in grades. In the meantime, R&D programs triple transmission capacity while sharp- (UCTE) was created in 1951 to promote grid interconnection in January 2007, the European Commission offer promising prospects for improvement. ly curtailing line losses and ensuring vol- Western Europe. It was the first step towards economic integra- tion in Europe, even before the European Coal and Steel indicated that, at its current levels of infra- First, information technologies are now pro- tage stability. At identical footprint, and Community (CECA). structure spending, the EU would not be viding a number of tools for real-time grid if only in the cross-border areas of the 3. Reactive power is needed to operate inductive equipment such able to establish a true single market for operations. These tools offer immediate UCTE, benefits expected from power flow as engines, transformers, fluorescent lamps and energy-saving light bulbs. It increases load on the grid and requires relay electricity that would help achieve its CO2 operational support for decision-making improvement include a 10% reduction in stations. emission reduction goals. For instance, the under both normal and off-normal opera- fossil fuel consumption, representing some 4. Source: RTE 2007. EU would not be able to add the neces- ting conditions, helping to maintain the sta- Wide Area Management Services (WAMS), 400 kV. This system is flexible and makes 16 billion euros per year, and a reduction 5. RTE/Technical results – French electricity supply industry 2006. sary power generation from renewable sour- bility and balance of flows. These include which are improving coordination between it easy to adapt the voltage upstream using in annual CO 2 emissions equivalent to operators using enhanced capacity chart transformers to meet the needs of final 100 million tons! Line losses: unnecessary, visualization and third-party grid intelli- gence systems relying on next-generation data processing equipment. Other systems users. But this comes at a cost: the Joule effect produces significant line losses pro- portional to the wheeling distance (see New technologies such as superconduc- tivity (see box below) may also contribute significant improvements eventually, albeit @ To learn more, read previous articles on the Alternatives website • “The energy highways”, expensive kilowatts that add to pollution are energy trading tools, which match sup- box). In addition, reactive power 3 must for limited applications. For now, VHV is Feature, Alternatives no. 10 • “Electrical power systems: balancing supply ply with demand and monitor changes in be offset when electricity is transmitted as clearly a mature solution capable of meet- and demand”, Feature, Alternatives no. 11 In France, line losses from Joule effect power generating costs in real time. Still others alternating current, impacting its energy ing two of our major challenges: maintain- • “Alternating and direct current: the dynamic involve the use of forecasting methods from efficiency. The footprint is also larger, as ing interconnection stability in the Euro- duo”, Decoding, Alternatives no. 12 dissipation on high voltage lines (50 kV or more) and very high voltage lines (225 kV–400 the world of finance. Together, these tools kV) averaged 2.5% of total power consump- will allow operators to coordinate emer- tion in 2006, or approximately 11.5 TWh per gency response and, more generally, to opti- year4. The loss rises to 32 TWh when the mize overall grid efficiency. First industrial application of superconductivity medium voltage and low voltage grids5 are included, i.e. 5.8% of all electricity used in the Substantial savings from very Long considered a lab experiment, super- and cooled with liquid nitrogen in an country. Based on an annual average spot rate high voltage conductivity has been implemented on airtight sheath. The cable can transmit of 49 euros per MWh for baseline production The development of power electronics and a production scale for the first time in a three times more electricity than an equiva- on the PowerNext international market, semi-conductors such as thyristors makes spectacular project: a 600-meter, 138-kV lent copper cable. But the prohibitive cost more than 1.5 billion euros were dissipated it possible, and often desirable, to imple- underground cable was installed in New York of this technology confines it to high-density uselessly as heat and 2.88 million tons of ment very high voltage direct current sys- City to transmit triphase current without heat urban environments requiring large quanti- CO2 were generated needlessly (all production tems (VHV-DC) wherever there is an advan- dissipation or line losses. This feat was made ties of power (New York City has one of modes combined), even though France pro- tage in doing so. possible by a so-called “high temperature” the highest concentrations of air conditioning ✔ Dambron-Villejust, France duces the least amount of emissions per kWh Today, the majority of European high vol- superconducting cable (-200°C, compared with units in the world), where the cost of real Repairing a 400-kV line of electricity in Europe, next to Sweden. protection cable. tage lines, such as those in France, carry absolute zero of -273° C) made with bismuth estate is highest. triphase alternating current at 225 kV and 16 / ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES / 17
  • 9. IN BRIEF KIOSK Read, view, discover PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR ENERGY DEVELOPMENT Plastic instead of mirrors Seawater desalination: INTERNET FOR MORE INFORMATION ON TOPICS DISCUSSED IN THIS ISSUE Can one capture the sun in a are both fragile and expensive. riding the waves Journey to the center of the electric grid The ultimate encyclopedia on energy plastic thread? That’s what lumi- Consisting of a plastic matrix This year, some of the drinking water world’s total water consumption, nescent solar concentrators (LSC) containing trace dyes, LSCs do not in Barcelona actually came from the almost half of the planet’s popula- Website in French and English // Website in French and English // are setting out to do. These new have such problems. The dye mole- sea. Container ships from Marseille tion lives on the coast. The number RTE, France’s transmission system operator, has given its This educational website – or should we say encyclopedia – devices have been developed by cules absorb solar rays and trans- and Southern Spain supplied water of countries betting on seawater website a more European angle. Now in French and English, by the French group Total offers “everything you need to know several laboratories across the mit them to the photovoltaic cell to the drought-ridden capital of Cata- desalination is multiplying. Leading the website provides a very detailed yet surfer-friendly about energy”. It sounds ambitious, but Total delivers on its globe, most notably at the Massa- via the plastic thread, just like opti- lonia, but this was perhaps the first the way is the Persian Gulf, which description of its operations within a European context, and includes in particular promise, offering a wealth of information in a user-friendly, ergonomic format. a brief but clear summary of its role in the Union for the Coordination of Computer graphics are used widely, and there are numerous videos. The quality chusetts Institute of Technology, cal fibers. With this breakthrough, and last time. As early as 2009, the already has huge plants that produce Transmission of Electricity (UCTE). Technical aspects, such as the development of the graphics is first-rate in terms of both simplicity and clarity. The same which has just published its results researchers believe they will be city will quench its thirst in the sea. half of the world's desalinated water. and maintenance of the power grid or its interconnections with neighboring level of quality applies to the commentary, which is also available in text form in the renowned journal Science. able to triple the efficiency of solar By this time next year, a huge sea- But Asia, Europe, Australia and the countries, are covered as thoroughly as societal issues, illustrating heightened upon request. Last of all, links to related topics – sustainable development, energy LSCs offer an alternative to the cells. Before this can happen, they water desalination plant will have United States are not far behind. awareness of environmental and health concerns. efficiency, expert opinions, etc. – offer a never-ending wealth of information. In the same spirit, RTE launched the website for the RTE Foundation This website alone could provide in-depth coverage of the topics discussed in many mirrors used to focus solar must work on the dye composition been built by Degrémont (Suez Envi- Worldwide, desalinated water vol- (, created in January 2008. this issue of Alternatives. A real treat! energy on photovoltaic cells, which to prevent energy losses. ■ ronnement) to supply the 1.3 million umes are growing by 15% each year. But it has not neglected its key mission: to provide load curves in real time people living in the Barcelona region. More than 100 million cubic meters and long-term power consumption forecasts. The more you click, the more And this is not at all exceptional! of seawater will have been conver- you’ll see just how complex it is to adjust supply to meet demand. The hard line in sustainable development Though the 51 million cubic meters ted into drinking water by 2015, of desalinated water produced world- according to analysts from Global Everything you always wanted Website in French // wide represents less than 1% of the Water Intelligence. ■ to know about biomass Robert Bell takes fiendish (yet always very well-informed) delight in debunking fashionable paradigms as well as blunders, fads and even the occasional sham in the choice of technologies. Website in English // It’s well worth taking a look at this aptly-named site. For “Geoconfluences” is indeed ENVIRONMENT The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) a gateway with a geographical approach to a range of themes, including sustainable website is probably one of the most comprehensive development. Though the site was designed by academics, hence its no-nonsense CO2 and ocean acidity sources of information on biomass, with detailed content on currently available technologies and how they perform, and a variety of links to other sites, both public (such as the Department of layout, it is nevertheless very easy to navigate. It will help you understand the geographical dimension of sustainable development in all its facets: scientific reports, documentation, glossary, know-how, interactive geography, resources, What is the biggest carbon sink what happens? The EPOCA project Energy’s biomass section,, references to programs, and the latest in international science and technology. in the world? It’s not our virgin launched by the EU last June in or private. The “Student Resources” tab (via The only thing left to hope for is an English version. forests but our oceans, which Nice is setting out to answer that gives a number of interesting examples and describes different biomass represent over two thirds of the question. With a 16.5-million euro technologies in a very educational manner, associating them with university-based programs. carbon dioxide transfers with the budget over four years, the 27 atmosphere. This balance is just project partners – including the © Image Courtesy/Nicolle Rager Fuller, NSF. as fragile as that of our climate. CNRS and the CEA – will be study- Since the start of the industrial revolution, our oceans have ab- sorbed 120 billion metric tons of ing the impact of acidification on marine ecosystems and micro- organisms, particularly plankton BOOKS Pioneering minds that see ENERGY CONSUMPTION CO 2. The excess carbon dioxide dissolves in our seas and oceans, and mollusks, whose calcareous skeletons are very sensitive to A comprehensive guide and create energy differently Have Europeans come raising acidity levels. And then water acidity. ■ to nuclear energy Le Tour du monde des énergies (Energy around the world) to their senses? All about nuclear energy, from Atom to Zirconium – Blandine Antoine & Élodie Renaud – Published by Éditions JC Lattès – May 2008, 428 pages, 19 euros Published by Éditions AREVACOM – 175 pages, with DVD. Sent on request to AREVA, Have Europeans really changed 2008. That figure nevertheless Corporate Communications Department – 33, rue La Fayette – 75009 Paris – France Two friends make a crazy bet: to “think differently about energy” by lear- their habits? Are industry efforts represents a 7% increase in energy ning all about the solutions to harness energy around the globe – in less starting to pay off? Or was it just consumption since 1996. It is Following on from the 2003 version, AREVA’s “little red book”, written by its than six months! These two former students from France's prestigious École the mild winter weather? Whatever also unfortunate that only 14% employees, reflects the new global energy context. Through a clear des- Polytechnique met with promoters of the most innovative energy applica- the case, EU energy consumption of the energy consumed comes cription of the fundamentals of nuclear technologies and their applica- tions. Their adventure reads like a novel: 17 countries on 4 continents, from remained stable from 2005 to 2006 from renewable sources. The 2007 tions, this handbook gives the reader all the facts needed to assess the Norway to Brazil, interesting characters, colorful dialogue, astonishing tales… always according to Eurostat, the EU figures have yet to be issued, advantages and understand the stakes behind the nuclear power “revi- while trying to understand and explain. Each meeting is turned into a case study: technol- Submersion of a sensor statistical office. The EU-27 con- but we all know what the EU is ✔ designed to monitor val”: global warming, proliferation, the vulnerability of fossil fuel supplies, the skyrocketing ogy, economy, environment, society, etc. The criteria for energy solutions are explained sumed 1.825 billion metric tons of targeting: a 20% share of the pressure, temperature, growth of energy demand in emerging economies... Completely sidestepping controversy and in their local context. Both adventure-seekers and educators, Blandine and Elodie have salinity, fluorescence, etc. oil equivalent (MTOE), according to energy mix for renewables bias, the well-illustrated, educational handbook and its companion DVD make it easy to find targeted a very broad public: from 12 to 120 years, or anyone who has the curiosity of a report published in early June by 2020. ■ © John Pusceddu/CNRS Délégation Côte d’Azur. information and provide full summaries of key points worth knowing and remembering. the young at heart! 18 / ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES ISSUE 19 / ALTERNATIVES / 19
  • 10. INTERACTIVE Answers … to your questions Uranium, plentiful but expensive… Coupling wind and hydro power Why have we seen such an increase in uranium prices over the last Has anybody ever thought of using variable-speed wind turbines to few years when: move water? Wind turbines are particularly inefficient because the 1/ uranium resources are sufficient for centuries to come; power grid runs at 50 Hz, limiting turbine speed. On the other hand, water 2/ unlike oil, uranium deposits are well distributed on the planet; turbines ─ between two dams, for example ─ would not necessarily 3/ new technologies, such as MOX fuel, can conserve resources; operate at constant speed. For some dams, the use of wind turbines is 4/ the geopolitical context is benign. limited to certain areas (Venturi effect). Even without a wind turbine Christian Amargier, 69100 Villeurbanne, France pump, it should be possible to use a separate, variable frequency Demand for uranium has exceeded chronic deficit will not abate any- power system that would continuously supply one or more pumps by supply since the end of the eight- time soon. automatically coupling turbines to a reservoir. Pumping the water ies. Mine production covers 64% In addition, trading companies and upstream would help maintain the dam’s energy inventory. Is this idea of the needs of the 435 commer- investment funds speculate on the already catching on? cial reactors connected to the grid spot price of uranium in anticipa- Laurent Cayssials worldwide, or about 66,500 metric tion of a “revival” of nuclear power Your question is quite timely. It the dam to the upper reservoir. tons of uranium each year. The rest and the construction of new power seems that a very promising solu- Conversely, water would be released comes mainly from defense inven- plants around the globe – in Europe, tion is emerging in Germany, which from the reservoir to operate a tories – in the wake of the 1994 the United States, Asia, South is on the cutting edge in wind turbine and generate electricity disarmament agreements between Africa, etc. This helps boost the power. To offset the irregular aspect when the wind is insufficient to the United States and Russia – and base price of multiyear contracts. of this renewable energy, an engi- meet demand for power. from used fuel recycling (MOX) and Current prices also reflect the mas- neer at Bochum University has This eco-efficient coupling between private inventories. With world- sive capital expenditures involved suggested coupling wind turbines wind power and hydropower would wide nuclear power generation in developing new deposits. to hydroelectric plants fed with reduce the use of conventional ener- expected to double by 2030, this (Source: World Nuclear Association, NEA/OECD). pumps. gies habitually used to offset wind The idea is to use the surplus power irregularity – natural gas, coal and Thermal power for peaks generated by wind turbines, i.e. power that is not fed to the grid, to fuel oil – by almost 80% in the win- ter and up to 90% in the summer. Could you tell us how much of France’s electricity pump water from a lower basin of (Source: Bochum University). is generated by fossil fuels? Richard Delaite, student teacher (question received by e-mail) Well behind nuclear power, which (39.4%), followed by natural gas accounts for nearly 77% of France’s (36.6%) – which has made signi- power generation, fossil fuels are ficant gains with the development WRITE TO US: used to fuel combustion plants of cogeneration – and finally fuel This is your space, send us your questions! (“conventional” thermal power oil (8.9%) We will respond in future issues. plants), mostly to produce peak Thermal power peaked at 15% of Magazine Alternatives // T.M.S. // power. In 2007, thermal power generated 10.7% of France’s elec- total power generation in Decem- ber 2007, the coldest month of the ? BP 71 - 93402 Saint-Ouen Cedex - France tricity (544.8 TWh). Coal represen- ted the bulk of this production year, and was down to 6% of total production in August. @ alternatives next issue… In the next issue… In the next issue… In the next issue… In the Einnovating for the future… E Research and energy: Where will our energy come from in the future? We already know that a combination of different resources and technologies will be needed. Fossil fuels, renewable energies, nuclear power… all will contribute to meeting growing demand. In addition to these existing resources, innovative initiatives to create or recover energy are proliferating in universities, laboratories and research centers. No single one of these is likely to be a solution for producing massive quantities of energy, ✔ The first light-emitting glass The sculpture was realized with the first light- but together they could constitute a viable alternative. The anniversary issue of our magazine, emitting glass Planilum that Saazs developed with alternatives 20, will feature a panorama of ideas for the energy of the future, including some surprising Saint-Gobain Innovations. It provides 50,000 hours or even outlandish concepts. of light, or 20 years of use under normal conditions.