Coach House Geography

Interesting Geography stuff for InterHigh

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Archive for the ‘nonrenewables’ Category

UK’s Drax Coal Plant Eyes Biomass For Greener Future

Posted by Lindy on March 7, 2011

Date: 07-Mar-11

Britain’s biggest coal-burning power station, Drax in North Yorkshire, generates 7 percent of the UK’s electricity — a sizeable chunk of that from biomass.

“Twelve percent of the fuel that we can burn today is biomass so that means 12 percent of the electricity comes from biomass which is a renewable fuel,” said Peter Emery, production director at Drax.

Drax has the world’s biggest coal and biomass co-burning facility, able to use 1.4 million tones a year of plant material to drive a steam turbine and generate electricity.

“We tend to burn material that is already produced but is not being put to good use,” said Emery. “That is how you industrialize this process and how you keep it cost effective.”

The power station is burning four main types of biomass, forestry waste, agricultural waste, some wood waste and energy crops. It sources these from the UK and overseas. Around 100 local farmers have entered into contracts with the power station to supply one kind of energy crop, Miscanthus, or Asian elephant grass. Chris Bradley owns Whinney Moor Farm in East Yorkshire, and says Miscanthus grows 3 meters tall and thrives on poor soils.I think putting this on grade one or two land is probably not an option and possibly not even morally right …But certainly on the lower grade soils like I’ve done — it is a good option.”

Energy crops are often blamed for pushing up world food prices. Drax said it would not contract farmers planning to convert from cereals such as wheat and added that Miscanthus was unlikely to be economic on high-grade land, given currently high grain prices. Miscanthus is being promoted alongside willow, sawdust and straw as biomass for producing heat and power when burned, without causing net emissions of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.


Posted in Appropriate technology, Bio-enenrgy, Climate change, Global warming, IGCSE, nonrenewables, Renewable, Solution to problems, Sustainability | Leave a Comment »

The world gets ¼ of its energy from renewable resources

Posted by Lindy on October 26, 2010


In spite of the economic crises of 2007-9, renewable energy sources continue to grow. Close to one quester of the energy supply generally and approaching 20% of the electricity comes from renewable resources. And all this is despite low oil prices and the poor performance of the Copenhagen  Summit in Dec 2009.

The prime movers are photovoltaic and wind power. China is in the lead, have added 37GW last year, of which 13,8 GW was wind power.

Germany is top of the PV market having added 3.8GW. Biomass power plants exist in over 50 countries around the world with Austria and Finland forging ahead with this.

One of the reasons for this growth, is that you can start small and cheap, unlike hugely expensive fossil fuel or nuclear power stations.

For more information on renewables:

Posted in Appropriate technology, Bio-enenrgy, Economic geography, Global warming, IGCSE, nonrenewables, Renewable, solar, Solution to problems, Sustainability, Wave, Wind | Leave a Comment »

Louisiana Oil Spill pictures

Posted by alec8c on April 29, 2010

BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform exploded last Tuesday killing 11 workers

Posted in Fragile environments, Hazards, nonrenewables | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

China Outpaces U.S. in Cleaner Coal-Fired Plants

Posted by Lindy on June 22, 2009

May10 2009  New York Times Link

China electricty graphIANJIN, China — China’s frenetic construction of coal-fired power plants has raised worries around the world about the effect on climate change. China now uses more coal than the United States, Europe and Japan combined, making it the world’s largest emitter of gases that are warming the planet.

But largely missing in the hand-wringing is this: China has emerged in the past two years as the world’s leading builder of more efficient, less polluting coal power plants, mastering the technology and driving down the cost.

While the United States is still debating whether to build a more efficient kind of coal-fired power plant that uses extremely hot steam, China has begun building such plants at a rate of one a month.

While construction has stalled on a new generation of low-pollution power plants that turn coal into a gas before burning it in the US , China has already approved equipment purchases for just such a power plant, to be assembled soon in a muddy field here in Tianjin.

Western countries continue to rely heavily on coal-fired power plants built decades ago with outdated, inefficient technology that burn a lot of coal and emit considerable amounts of carbon dioxide. China has begun requiring power companies to retire an older, more polluting power plant for each new one they build.

This is not to say that China has got it all right. There are still old inefficient power stations producing electricity and some of the better ones are not being used to their best effects. Only half the country’s coal-fired power plants have the emissions control equipment to remove sulphur compounds that cause acid rain, and China has not begun regulating some of the emissions that lead to heavy smog in big cities.

After relying until recently on older technology, “China has since become the major world market for advanced coal-fired power plants with high-specification emission control systems.”

Recent international reports have cut its forecast of the annual increase in Chinese emissions of global warming gases, to 3 percent from 3.2 percent, in response to technological gains.

But by continuing to rely heavily on coal, which supplies 80 percent of its electricity, China ensures that it will keep emitting a lot of carbon dioxide; even an efficient coal-fired power plant emits twice the carbon dioxide of a natural gas-fired plant. So the next step is who will be first to remove all CO2 from thermal energy production? Many countries, including the UK, say they are investigating it strongly. But China has just built a small, experimental facility near Beijing to remove carbon dioxide from power station emissions and use it to provide carbonation for beverages, and the government has a short list of possible locations for a large experiment to capture and store carbon dioxide.

But it does not stop there. China is making other efforts to reduce its global warming emissions. It has doubled its total wind energy capacity in each of the past four years, and is poised to pass the United States as soon as this year as the world’s largest market for wind power equipment. China is building considerably more nuclear power plants than the rest of the world combined, and these do not emit carbon dioxide after they are built.

Posted in Appropriate technology, Development, Economic geography, Global warming, IGCSE, nonrenewables, Solution to problems, Wind | Leave a Comment »

Reconsidering Nuclear Power

Posted by Lindy on April 29, 2009

If you are still not sure whether nuclear power is a good thing, or even if you are fairly convinced it isn’t, this is a must read article before you finally make up your mind.

ABC Unleashed article on IFR by Geoff Russell (Geoff is an unpaid committee member of Animal Liberation SA, also long standing member of Amnesty International, Australian Conservation Foundation and Oxfam. He is a computer programmer and mathematician who earns a living writing computer software in the transit scheduling industry. He is also a keen cyclist and food grower and and has written for The Monthly, Dissent, Australasian Science and the Independent Weekly).

I was a long-haired 18-year-old hippie student activist in 1972 and cheered loudly when Greenpeace sailed into the French nuclear pacific testing zone. A few years later I studied nuclear physics at Macquarie University as part of an Arts degree. Know thine enemy has always been a favourite motto of mine.

Decades later, I sneered at the Howard/Zwitkowski nuclear plans but still read the background report by Manfred Lenzen and the Institute of Sustainability Analysis (ISA). I ho-hummed my way through Tim Flannery’s nuclear pages in The Weather Makers. There was nothing in any of it that made me regret donating my old physics books to a trash and treasure sale.

But back in August 2008 my world view got a little nudge. NASA climate scientist James Hansen circulated a report in which he discussed a draft of a book by Tom Blees called Prescription for the Planet. Blees outlines an ambitious plan built around Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) nuclear technology. For reasons that will become obvious, this technology didn’t rate a mention in the Howard/Zwitkowski review.

My considerable respect for Hansen left me just a little shaken, but definitely not stirred. Blees must surely be a force from the dark side. But just when I thought it safe to re-enter the water, Barry Brook, the Professor of Climate Change here in Adelaide started to discuss the Blees book and the technologies on his blog, BraveNewClimate. I’ve worked on a few things with Barry and figured I really had no alternative now but to read the damn book. What a bloody nuisance.

So what’s it all about? Ask yourself these questions.

1) Are you worried about nuclear waste?

2) Are you petrified at the thought of nuclear proliferation?

3) Would you like to close down all uranium mines?

4) Would you like to shut down all China’s coal fired power stations (and those in the rest of the world) but save the power generation infrastructure?

5) Do you really believe that we only have a few years to tame our climate?

6) Do you want to both tame the climate and give those in the developing world a better life?

If you answered Yes to all (or even most) the questions in the previous paragraph, then you need to rethink your nuclear views, regardless of how deeply ingrained they are.

IFR reactors can be powered by that very waste which the nuclear industry just can’t seem to get rid of. They can digest it and burn it until it is just a shadow of its former self. The result is a tiny amount of much more manageable waste.

Once IFR reactors have finished cleaning up the mess left by current reactors (which includes the types advocated by Howard and his mates), they can run on depleted uranium – this is, among other things, a by-product of making fuel for current reactors and we have enough of the stuff to power the planet for thousands of years. Not just enough to power the rich world either, enough for everybody. All this depleted uranium is currently not doing much except hardening munitions. It badly needs a better job description and saving the climate fits the bill.

Once we have enough IFR reactors up and running, we can shut down all our uranium mines. Of course, you have to understand my very real fear of ‘being disappeared’ for making this suggestion in South Australia and you will understand why the Howard/Zwitkowski tag team conveniently forgot to mention it.

Factory-built IFR modular batteries can even be hooked up to existing coal power generation facilities so that this huge mass of infrastructure isn’t wasted.

Is IFR pie in the sky? Is it a magic bullet? Neither. These reactors have been built and operated. A US research reactor, which demonstrated most of the technology, was closed down by the Clinton administration in 1994. This reactor wasn’t just a lab toy, but big enough to demonstrate the viability of the technology.

The Russians ran a variant design for a couple of decades as did the Japanese. As for this being a magic bullet … there are no magic bullets, we still need all the renewables and efficiencies we can muster. If you want a pie-in-the-sky, dead-risky, totally unproven technology then you can’t go past attempting to bury the carbon dioxide from coal fired power stations.

Now get ready for a shock, what you are about to read represents the best available science, but is not well understood by politicians fixated upon emission reduction targets. Read the next sentence very carefully. Then read it again.

It doesn’t matter what greenhouse gas emission reduction targets we make, even if we meet them. If we don’t also leave most of currently known coal reserves in the ground, then our children’s children will be toast.

James Hansen gives the full explanation here. You need to reflect on this as you attempt to place your nuclear fears into context.

When I introspect my previous anti-nuclear position I realise it was based on two things.

First, a general distrust of big business ethics. Younger readers will not recall that the French secret service blew up a Greenpeace boat in 1985 killing a photographer, Fernando Pereira. The conspiracy machine is still making money out of that one, but you’d get good odds on the orders ultimately coming from a suit with a paunch on a nuclear board somewhere.

My view of big business hasn’t softened over the years. Having read Blees, a look at the relevant sections of the Howard/Zwitkowski report, Uranium mining, processing and nuclear energy, confirms that this was nothing more than a jobs and money exercise for mates. Greenpeace turncoat Patrick Moore similarly spruiks for nuclear but, as far as I can see, only for the problem-creating forms, not the problem-solving forms.

My second basis for opposition was based on risks, and while I had a reasonable understanding of the nuclear risks, I knew little about many other things that kill people on a daily basis, and nothing about global warming.

Global warming has changed the game and my knowledge of other risks has increased. Australians, for example, eat red meat and about half a million of the current population will get bowel cancer as a result. Note that I said will and not may.

Nuclear risks are different, they are all of the may variety and the only one worthy of a little paranoia is the risk of a nuclear war. A reactor accident, even a shocker like Chernobyl, simply doesn’t cut it beside the daily global carnage of malaria, typhoid, dirty water, car accidents, tobacco, hunger, meat, obesity and alcohol or beside the certainty of a bird flu pandemic which will kill tens or hundreds of millions. Many virologists regard this as a certainty, with the only uncertainty being when it will happen.

I don’t view my reassessment as a cop-out. Most of the current nuclear industry, the uranium miners, the coal lobby and the politicians in their sway, will fight IFR tooth and nail. But we need it, not just in a country blessed with sunshine, land and hot-rocks, but globally we need it.

Posted in IGCSE, nonrenewables | Leave a Comment »

Power Station had a leak for 14 years – operators fined

Posted by Lindy on February 17, 2009

Bradwell Power Station, a MAGNOX station which was closed in 2002 had bean leaking radioactive waste from a sump for 14 years.

Tests showed that the radioactive waste had seeped into soil under the plant and would not spread outside the site, limiting the environmental damage.

Magnox Electric Ltd said it had inherited the faulty sump from previous owner the Central Electricity Generating Board but it was “deeply embarrassed” by its failure to identify the problem.

Martyn Bowyer, for Magnox, told the court: “The contamination has effectively remained within the footprint of the building. There is no significant risk either to workers on the site or, more importantly, to the general public.”


Posted in IGCSE, nonrenewables | Leave a Comment »

2 questions – one answer!

Posted by Lindy on February 11, 2009

Where did oil come from? Bacteria used carbon di oxide/photosynthesis to make it. They died taking the oil to the bottom of the sea where it became overlaid with sediments which eventually became rocks with oil trapped beneath.

How do we sequester (trap) carbon dioxide produced by coal fired power stations? Collect the CO2 and pass it through a medium containing bacteria and let them turn it into oil to be used as biodeisal, plastics and other oil based products! This is what MPX Energia, are doing in Brazil with the help of the local university, to see which bacteria will be the most effect in these conditions. It should be on-stream by 2011

Link to article.

Link to map

Posted in Bio-enenrgy, IGCSE, nonrenewables, Renewable, Solution to problems | Leave a Comment »

Yet another scarey one!

Posted by Lindy on August 17, 2008

Posted in nonrenewables, Transport | Leave a Comment »