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Loudoun gas power plant application review this Monday

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Loudoun gas power plant application review this Monday

Post  Admin on Sat Mar 06, 2010 3:11 pm

There is a gas power plant application coming up for Board of Supervisors review this Monday, with public input starting at 5PM. So that you have an understanding of this application, here are some key points;

1. (From the PEC) The location of this industrial use conflicts with the County's Comprehensive Plan. The Comp Plan currently calls for low density residential development (1 unit per 10 acres) at the location being considered, not an industrial power plant. This was a deliberate decision to protect cultural and natural resources in the immediate area, including the Goose Creek Reservoir which provides the surrounding region with drinking water. The public emphatically reaffirmed the vision for the entire Transition Area and this area in particular in a series of public hearings between 2005 and 2008.

2. The plant is primarily full-time (baseload) electricity generation (approx. 600 MW), with some peak-load (approx. 300 MW). The solar component is only 1 MW capacity (when the sun is directly overhead), so that is roughly equal to .25MW actual generation. Hence, the energy generated will be roughly 99.98% from fossil fuels. So the "hybrid" moniker is misleading at best.

3. Virginia imports almost 60% of it's natural gas, producing 128,454 million cubic feet and consuming 300,000 mcf. So any claim of energy independence is unfounded.
http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_gas/data_publications/natural_gas_annual/current/pdf/table_073.pdf

4. The US peaked in natural gas production in 1973. While various current estimates purport large potential resources of shale-bound natural gas in the US, like other energy investment schemes, there has been a significant overestimation intended to bolster the stock value of the main holding company.



From The Oil Drum article "ExxonMobil’s Acquisition of XTO Energy: The Fallacy of the Manufacturing Model in Shale Plays";

The manufacturing model developed in the Barnett Shale play (Fort Worth basin, Texas), where almost 14,000 wells have been drilled. The greatest number of commercially successful wells are located in two core areas or "sweet spots," and results are not uniform or repeatable even within these core areas .

The overriding problem with most U.S. shale plays is the lack of any elements of natural reservoir rock. Shale typically has no effective (connected) porosity, and have permeabilities that are hundreds to thousands of times less than the lowest permeability tight sandstone reservoirs. Unless siltstone or sandstone interbeds are present within the shale that have better matrix porosity and permeability, all reservoir is artificial--it must be created by engineering brute force.

Much progress has been made with completion methods, but unless stimulation produces an extensive, micro-fractured rock face, long-term production at commercial volumes is unlikely.

The mainstream belief that shale plays have ensured North America an abundant supply of inexpensive natural gas is not supported by facts or results to date. The supply is real but it will come at higher cost and greater risk than is commonly assumed.

5. Any power generated by this plant will not reduce coal-fired power generation, as that production is cheaper and will continue to be utilized until caps on carbon emissions are instituted.

6. Natural gas combustion in a 60% efficient combined cycle generator (like one of the ones proposed) produces about 40% of the carbon emissions that a typical coal plant produces.

7. Green Energy Partners has claimed 90% efficiency with their main combined cycle, though this presumes they would export the excess heat to nearby buildings. There are no buildings nearby that can readily take advantage of this potentially wasted heat (the Wegman's complex over 2 miles away already has new, efficient HVAC systems that would hardly be ripped out and replaced).

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natural gas energy gen

Post  uuplink on Sat Mar 06, 2010 7:15 pm

The post above was so one-sided it might have been posted by Dominion Resources or Peabody coal (Sorry Will).

To state that shale gas plays are over-rated as a source of gas ignores the large reserve additions that have occurred and the hundreds of drill rigs that are currently operating in shale gas areas. I don't believe that these companies are flushing their money down the drain because they don't know what they are doing. There is a lot of shale gas economically available in the $4-5 per MMBTU cost range and that will significantly affect the gas supply picture for at least a couple decades. Some of this gas will be sold for prices less than this especially during the summer months (see below).

Natural gas can (and frequently has) displaced coal for baseload electrical generation, particularly in the non-winter months when gas prices and transportation costs are reduced. The ability to displace one fuel with another is related to several factors--not just the well-head or mine-mouth price. For example, consider the Mirant coal plant across the river from Loudoun County. It is single cycle (relatively inefficient) and requires on coal that must be transported a considerable distance. A combined cycle (efficient) gas plant that has very low transportation costs can displace this coal generation because the cost per unit of electricity produced is less for the gas plant. There is abundant documentation of this actually occuring throughout the US in 2009 (see the Energy Information Administration web site).

Finally, I hope Sustainable Loudoun participants realize that having a local generation source on a suitable site does have very significant benefits. Local generation reduces the need for new long-distance transmission lines that effectively subsidize coal generation. As we all know (assuming one has followed the recent PATH transmission case) such coal generation relies on mountaintop removal mining practices for their "cheap" coal. Furthermore long distance transmission lines actually decrease the reliability of the grid and at the same time cause enormouus uncompensated economic impacts on affected landowners.

I am an ardent supporter of energy efficiency, offshore wind and distributed solar alternatives to fossil fuel usage. But I also believe that a really good approach for weaning ourselves away from coal is the increased use of local natural gas generation.

Jim Crowley

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Re: Loudoun gas power plant application review this Monday

Post  Sustainable Loudoun on Sun Mar 07, 2010 6:34 am

uuplink wrote:The post above was so one-sided it might have been posted by Dominion Resources or Peabody coal (Sorry Will).

No need to apologize, I'm very amused. I don't think you'd find anyone in the county more opposed to coal than I am. After all, most of my electricity comes from my PV array, and most of my heat comes from my home's passive solar features I designed into it

uuplink wrote:To state that shale gas plays are over-rated as a source of gas ignores the large reserve additions that have occurred and the hundreds of drill rigs that are currently operating in shale gas areas. I don't believe that these companies are flushing their money down the drain because they don't know what they are doing. There is a lot of shale gas economically available in the $4-5 per MMBTU cost range and that will significantly affect the gas supply picture for at least a couple decades. Some of this gas will be sold for prices less than this especially during the summer months (see below).

I'd be very interested in seeing any real evidence you have to support your projections of shale gas economically available in the $4-5 per MMBTU cost range and how much of this gas will be sold for prices less than this especially during the summer months. Simply stating so doesn't make it so.

From the Financial Times;

...To their credit, gas prophets such as Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corp, have been saying that gas at $5 per thousand cu ft is not sustainable. In their laudable enthusiasm for their business, though, they may have understated just how unsustainable the price is.

Ben Dell of Bernstein Research in New York who has, so to speak, done some of the deepest drilling into the shale gas industry numbers, believes that the full cost of finding, developing, and operating shale gas wells , and paying an average return on capital to investors, requires a spot gas price of $7.50 to $8 a thousand cu ft.

And from the Energy Tribune;

The recent data shows that the average IP of Haynesville Shale wells is starting to fall and increasing the number of fracture treatments in each well is not helping to improve their output. While the basin’s production has grown dramatically since 2008, it now appears to be holding steady, which obscures the fact that the leading E&P companies are experiencing declining IP’s.

Based on the well production data, both analysts conclude the core of the Haynesville Shale will be smaller than for the Barnett Shale and with worse well economics. They question whether wells located outside of the core area will be economic at today’s natural gas prices. They also question whether wells will produce the volume of gas initially predicted. If so, the Haynesville Shale will not be as large a gas field as suggested by early entrant explorers.

So this subject is not as cut and dry as Exxon/Mobil would like us to believe. I, for one, do not hold them as reliable arbiters of the future energy strategy of this country.

uuplink wrote:Natural gas can (and frequently has) displaced coal for baseload electrical generation, particularly in the non-winter months when gas prices and transportation costs are reduced.

Should we replace one unsustainable fossil fuel with another? I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone promoting sustainability and renewable energy sources would even consider this. I personally believe we need to reduce our energy wastefulness and promote clean renewable energy sources. Granted, wind and solar have variability and intermittency concerns, though these can be addressed through smart grid techniques (real time pricing, etc), effective use of energy storage, and highly dispatchable generation sources. Natural gas can fall into the last category, and as I noted in the article, is an excellent complement to wind and solar as a 'peaker' addition.

uuplink wrote:Local generation reduces the need for new long-distance transmission lines that effectively subsidize coal generation.

The only way we as a country are going to grow and sustain a renewable energy industry is to steadily transition over to more and more renewable energy supply. Adding more fossil fuel generation is not the solution. And the only way we are going to do that effectively is to bring in supplies of wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, etc, as our county is not well suited to bulk generation of the above. Hence, the new Smart Grid will allow us to decrease the influence of coal in our power mix.

uuplink wrote:Furthermore long distance transmission lines actually decrease the reliability of the grid

I believe this couldn't be further from the truth. Having more sources of energy to choose from, and greater connectivity to other control grids would provide far more stability, especially in the event of an unscheduled shutdown in the event of a component malfunction, natural disaster, or terrorist attack on critical infrastructure.

Will Stewart

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gas gen continued

Post  uuplink on Sun Mar 07, 2010 11:12 am

Hello Will,
I'm traveling today and don't have time to address all your points, however:

1. If exploration companies had overly relied on the advice of financial analysts regarding economics of any fossil fuel exploration program we would still be using whale oil (or long ago run out). The companies currently engaged in drilling programs are refining their methods, improving efficiencies, understanding the geology in more detail, and applying rapidly developing new technologies to the extraction of shale gas. Costs are coming down, and production volumes are rising. Any long term price estimate is highly speculative, but the price trend is downward. Doesn't matter if the core areas are smaller in the Barnett or Haynes shales than some of the initial hype. The best areas will be found in those basins and elsewhere, and optimal techniques will be applied to their development. I will find the citations to $4-5 MMBTU gas, which is due to several additional driving forces, including excess LNG capacity. Improving weatherization and energy efficiency is another driver by the way. The bottom line is that gas prices will eventually stabilize at lower levels--the companies that figure our how to earn money at those levels will do so.

Lets not confuse smart grid with long distance transmission lines connected to coal generators. There was ample testimony by nationally regarded technical experts in the PATH case that increased transmission is not a panacea for improving grid reliability, indeed they considered transmission likely to decrease reliability. (See testimony by the Sierra Club and SCC Staff expert witnesses). This has to do with the dynamics of the grid under stress situations. Transmission lines can be a direct source of problems (trees causing failures etc., as in the 2003 blackout) . However, the main problem is the need to get energy into load pockets with deficient generation. When those load pockets experience voltage collapse they can initiate a cascade effect that brings down much larger areas. Local generation in the load pockets is the best defense against this.

In a perfect world we would all agree that fossil fuels should be quickly abandoned and renewables rapidly be developed to take their place. I do believe that this is technically feasible and that in the long term would actually be a cheaper solution to meeting energy needs. Realistically, there will be a transitional period spanning a number of decades as we move in the renewable direction. We've all seen the obstacles, political and economic, that are in the way. So my advocacy for local gas generation is based on recognition of this reality and the need to find a transition path that makes at least some sense.

Jim

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Re: Loudoun gas power plant application review this Monday

Post  Admin on Sun Mar 07, 2010 10:03 pm

uuplink wrote:Hello Will,
The companies currently engaged in drilling programs are refining their methods, improving efficiencies, understanding the geology in more detail, and applying rapidly developing new technologies to the extraction of shale gas. Costs are coming down, and production volumes are rising. Any long term price estimate is highly speculative

Indeed, and most of what you are providing is third hand anecdotal, so I look forward to a reliable reference from you.


uuplink wrote:Lets not confuse smart grid with long distance transmission lines connected to coal generators.

My reference was to the former. The smart grid will be made up of long distance transmission lines, of course, to bring in wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal energy sources.

uuplink wrote:When those load pockets experience voltage collapse they can initiate a cascade effect that brings down much larger areas. Local generation in the load pockets is the best defense against this.

I don't see this as being a problem in our area. Indeed, as this is a very rare occurrence in the US overall, this doesn't really rate much of a mention.

uuplink wrote:In a perfect world we would all agree that fossil fuels should be quickly abandoned and renewables rapidly be developed to take their place. I do believe that this is technically feasible and that in the long term would actually be a cheaper solution to meeting energy needs. Realistically, there will be a transitional period spanning a number of decades as we move in the renewable direction.

If we chose to build more fossil fuel facilities, then yes, there will be a long transition period. A self-fulfilling prophecy is not a proof. My house is powered by renewabl energy in two different forms - I could have said that it wasn't realistic and just did what everyone else did. Actually taking the right step is not always easy, but we should be the model for others, not simply another beast in the herd that is heading toward the cliff.

Will

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