Sun, Wind and Fire – renewable positioning in a policy trilemma

Sun, wind and Fire is not a story of the Gods – except you could draw a conclusion there is a battle for policy supremacy as a renewable energy source. There is a very rapid growth in renewable energy deployment in recent times, driven by rapidly increasing costs of fossil fuel stocks, and the movement to a low carbon energy system and improvements in the renewable technologies and materials. Are there problems? Yes, the elephants in the room are obvious but largely ignored. Some examples: Solar requires rare earth materials for the products, as does voltage batteries storage systems, and wind needs magnets produced in such a way that land contamination is a major drawback. Ironically, fire can be a battery of capacity and availability and utilise only common earth materials and most importantly make use of waste – and there is more – even revert waste to original elements and products.  Of course the bigger elephant for Solar and Wind is when it comes time for decommissioning. Why is this so, the analogy could be asbestos and who is paying for the removal programs – you.   Few if any governments want that issue known as it would require a future funds program as an assurance when only the positives of the now conditions are ‘sold’ as policy.

If you did not know, renewable energy technologies differ greatly from one another, and a range of issues has arisen that are common to most. This could be taken back to the problem that these tend to be dealt with on a renewable energy industry level forum basis rather than accepting that the problems are technology by technology issues in their battles for policy gods acceptance. Rarely, do you see the fora of the renewable industry admitting to issues to include large deployment growth rates, intermittency with respect to electricity production requirements, distributed rather than centralised deployment and scheduling of loads, the relatively immature supply chains & support networks, the quality issues of the production points, the land use changes for the provision and production of the materials needed, and the need to update regulatory frameworks & institutional inertia outside of our current frameworks.

On that later point, A report prepared for the Consumer Action Law Centre by Allan Asher, Foundation for Effective Markets & Governance November 2012 on http://femag.anu.edu..org.au/ , reads as: “The title of the report—”A policy trilemma: creating an affordable, secure and sustainable energy market”. “Identifies the central challenge facing the energy market—the need for it to deliver affordable, secure and sustainable energy services. The report draws on international developments, particularly from Europe and the United Kingdom, where there has been acknowledgment that, in energy markets, the goals of efficiency and competition have not necessarily ‘trickled down’ to satisfy the needs of consumers in these three key areas. Throughout, the report makes a number of recommendations to inform a policy and regulatory framework that has a more rigorous focus on the interests of consumers. Following publication of this report, Consumer Action will engage politicians, policy makers, regulators, and representatives of industry and consumers on reform measures that will best serve the long-term interests of consumers”.

Co2Land org notes that the messages of the ‘trilemma’ is the view of innovation needs to be incorporated into the ‘system’ where technical and commercial innovation encouragement through: Incentives, responsibility passed on to third parties for their delivery, and building on low carbon funding models. The point is also made that a capacity mechanism or system be incorporated for incentives through both generation and demand management as one of the key elements of the energy market reform (EMR) package.

Fire, has extraordinary abilities to be all that is needed, and as it only requires either common materials or waste to be reformed and it has the capacity to act as a bridging technology it is increasingly likely policy will need to take stock of the realities of the ‘sustainable’ attributes. In terms of the energy market fire products can be assembled as a “package” that compliments a range of utilities and could be deemed part of strategic infrastructure. With advances in ‘smart grid’ systems this is more likely as before the requirement of a high level of automation and remote management on the system was a detractor. Now it is a positive.

This idea is particularly attractive for biomass plants, as the advances and the idea would be to differentiate biomass plants from normal generators and that they can be regarded as “load following batteries” as integral parts of the grid infrastructure, rather than a separate input to it.

Why not call your local member of parliament or future hopeful to discuss innovative restructuring. Think of the idea of how a fixed return on biomass power plants is a true renewable and how other network upgrades can be addressed to accentuate ‘sustainable’, and the capacity requirements of balancing the system infrastructure.

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Fit for Purpose – assumptions in MSW and WtE

End to end solution for treating Metropolitan Sewage and Waste (MSW) is a hot topic, and very much in the fore of forums for 2013. So enthusiastic are the players it is very difficult to differentiate the fact from the ideals. Look and you will see a lot of justification and more than adequate presentation of the material. What is more difficult is to get a clear indication of the capability and improvements over current practices.

The culprit may be assumptions, and they are widely used under management scenarios. If we define assumptions as a statement that is assumed to be true and from which a conclusion can be drawn. It might even be that as we rely more on big data an omission from the assumption can lead us to ignore the obvious. Take this example statement – Our machine can undercut all other in terms of power costs. Then if we find published a number of a competitors, but necessarily the same technology, we can quote that number and assume ours as similar or superior. Yet, as was said it is not the same technology.

Recently a post was read and it said in the US, under US Average Levelized Cost for Plants in the Annual Energy Outlook 2009 and 2010 and 2011, a typical generator running on Biomass has net requirement for a price of 11 c kWh to break even. Then came an assumption from the author that as these tables have no values for Advanced Plasma Conversion it is assumed a value of  $0.044/kwh is the value that you add for comparison. The difficulty is the published number for biomass is taken from experience and certain modeling under a list of data sources. The advanced plasma conversion unit was then part of a hypothetical assessment according to mathematical values that commence with an assumption, and will be correct until proven wrong. The fatal flaw in this is that facts are with the biomass and its testing included load scenarios and importantly it has a generator (that thing that produces electromotive force – electricity) attached. What is obscure is whether the Advanced Plasma Conversion unit is connected to a generator, or whether it needs one. For an investor this is a matter of concern, and for a professional in the industry it says embarrassing!

Another major issue is the maturity of the solutions put forward for you to make a project decision.  At program level you can take liberties and shuffle as you need to, at a project level on time and on budget can be you nemesis if you make the wrong assumptions – as said earlier – assumptions are a management scenario. CO2Land org assumes four scenarios are possible for waste handling solutions. It can be put forward to consider: Business as Usual, Gasification, and Pyrolysis, Plasma conversion.

  1. Business as usual (BAU) is an option fast running out, and in areas of rapid urbanization and rapid growing economies the time has already arrived that it cannot continue, not just because of the carbon issues but because it is an economic cost. This does not discount the importance of carbon, but indicated that developing countries needs the resource recovery as much as it is in need to develop.
  2. Gasification is an effective incineration tool, and innovations are proving to be effective in optimizing syngas recovery and returning additional products from the process for agriculture and raw material recovery.
  3. Pyrolysis is also an incineration tool, albeit at higher temperatures with the added benefit of being able to produce syncrude and chars to order. The process needs to be well managed to avoid the possibility of producing dioxins.
  4. Plasma conversion has been around for some years and has chequed history as an incineration method. Two particular issues have dogged the traditional designs. High and constant power requirement, and not being able to control temperature and ionizing across the plasma bed. Considerable claims are being made of advances in the technology. Confidence is continuing to grow on the refinement of the equipment and a number of sites across the world are being implemented.

The Cost benefit of each scenario indicates:

  • Point one is clear – the high cost of resource recovery weighs heavily when the budget is restricted for an authority and they would promote BAU until an incentive was put forward.
  • Point two and three are relevant and in more recent times the marrying of the two according to need is seeing this technology develop into a useful cost effective solution and should be the method of choice in most instances for the next 7 to 8 years.  By this it is meant it is the best technology to implement for most scenarios now and into the future in that time frame and it useful life for many more.  It also has an advantage of being complimentary to most commercial activities, and the ability to be scalable as required.  The strong point potential is to return a number of waste materials, especially plastics to virgin materials.
  • Point four will be the technology of the future; it has the potential (ideal) and the hopeful expect an almost unending product potential from this technology. The next generation is expected to be approved and producible in around 5 years. The scale of the projects required to cover the capital costs is the biggest limiting factor for future projects.

In more detail is this information the current Waste to Energy scenario suggests the difficulty is with the techno-commercial format. That comparing apples with apples may not be possible. An example is given by 
William G. Acker (http://www.ackerandassociates.com) where he looked for Advanced Plasma Conversion tables in the U.S. Annual Energy Outlook 2009 and 2010 and 2011. In these tables there are no values for Advanced Plasma Conversion. So he then said he must assume that what was claimed by another company representative was a value added to the values. He himself then assessed the closest estimate to which the technology is closest to be the figure for Biomass. This is not his definitive position, all he asks is someone to provide a value to share that is more accurate. However, in the mean time we make the assumption it must be correct until refuted

Then CO2Land org decides to ask a question in a forum on Waste to Energy (WtE): “Excuse the confusion, a lot of justification and adequate presentation of the material is provided. What is not clear is the capability from the production of an energy source to the actual electromagnetic force. In other words: what are the source, type and cost of the generator machine? Or, is your Plasma machine also a generator of electrical power in its own right without the need for other equipment?  The response: Good question!  The discussion then centres on whether matters were assumed or simply relayed on what was actually said on the capacity and nothing more.  Being that capability was not addressed is not the domain of the engineers for not giving you correct info, or how confidential agreement might stop you providing information. It may well be a simple case of the enquirers having no idea on what to ask. They do not ask because it was not obvious or lost in techno-commercial format of the communications.

In the quest for comparing apples to apples, and ignoring that baseline quotes may be flawed. To compare the possible in WtE from our view (to which we will assume you will be at odd. Information supplied illustrated:

A hearth gasifier with a reciprocating low Btu engine and conventional generator can be leased in Australia with an operating cost of 8.2cents per kilowatt-hours, with a 25,000 hours maintenance requirement. These costs are worked assuming a 1MW net unit and economies of scale suggest lower costs for larger units. If I combine the capability of the unit with a pyrolysis retort and produce syncrude and biochar, the offset pricing suggest a decrease in generation capacity will result, but the operating costs will settle at around 5 cents a kWh. The number will vary according to the feedstock quality.

Very recently an indicative quote that asked for capacity to handle MSW with1750 kcal as feedstock and input 300 tonnes per day for using advanced plasma conversion. What would be the project cost? The answer came back in the order of  $6.5m plus the cost of shredder activity and generator sets required – that is the cost to add capability is not in the cost mix.  The difficulty now is the assumption that must be made in the numbers.

In another example of a project where the project is not only proposed, is financed (and currently on hold to commence), is again supplied by William G Acker, of the MSW Plasma Gasification Facility for St. Lucie, Florida. This facility would use 686 ton per day of MSW and would produce 22 MW Gross and 18 MW Net of electricity. The installed cost came to $190,000,000. Amortized the project over 30 years with the Levelized Capital Cost alone (no maintenance cost, no labor cost etc.) comes to $0.0922 per kWh. If we add labor and maintenance costs the total may be ‘assumed’ to be around $0.14 per kWh. Then we must consider the money made for taking the waste off the hands of communities, or business that are paying to, landfill it we then could subtract around $0.03 per kWh from the operating cost resulting in $0.11 per kWh.

This results in CO2Land org asking: Will the actual plasma price to generate electricity please stand!  So we know without assumption forming the core costing criteria a project cost is capable of producing electricity for approximately 11 Cents per kWh, and the example hearth gasifier somewhere from 4.4 to 11 cents per kWh. Albeit other examples might swing wildly towards higher costs depending on the operating and technology vintage.  That said there is no doubt that given time and R&D plasma conversion in whatever form will be the way forward. In other examples plasma systems are doing OK for the job required, but academia and those in the industry say it is some way off being perfected and as efficient as it should be.

If we go back to the influence of assumptions the problem for the industry is that laboratory results and mathematical equations don’t often become reality, as not everything is scalable. In the mean time it is “danger danger, Will Robertson” as borrowed from ‘lost in space’ which was entertaining series a little while back. We also need to be fully aware of the smoke and mirrors approach that do a wonderful job with customers who are not normally that knowledgeable.

Another factor of our times is that despite each supplier wanting to win each job, they are fighting for funds within an economy where funds requiring $50M or more are highly competitive. In these instances those projects where the technology is still to be proven it will take second place to those known to do the job.

Evidence of uncertainty in the accuracy of a useful lifecycle may lead you to consider that you might want to lease the plant, it could be a lower risk in these times. The more popular in these circumstances are suggested as those that offer an operational lease rather than a financial risk.

We trust that has covered off on the choices – if you feel too much assumption is made or if you know better – please show yourself!

encouraged to submit an EOI – but!

We have spoken with our contact, and we are encouraged to submit an EOI for the CRE Grants program. Given that everybody else is submitting EOI’s for Wind and Solar systems, we may be in with a good chance.  This is a response sent in after it was posted Closing 21 Feb – excluded, on February 13, 2013 by co2land

In fact three relevant responses came in and each had a story that you might be interested in:

Renewed Carbon – Have a BioHub design. They have a set of engineering firms in Newcastle ready to: Design the plant, Build the plant, Run the plant for 12 months, Take all the start-up risks, Sell the operating plant to the eventual owner.

All they need is about $12m !!!

They are working towards a pre-feasibility study to establish whether they are just dreaming (They believe such a study will a green-light the project). But the study will cost several hundred grand!

It is matter of hurdles (one at a time) and a simple process of: let’s get the money for the Pre-Feasibility Study and work from there.

Part of the reason for their enthusiasm is they are aware of working Pyrolysis plants in several places in Europe, as such they are confident the ‘Commercially Available’ constraint in the EOI closing 21 Feb 2013 should not be a problem.

With that said, I wonder if many are aware of the more sophisticated Veolia WASP project at Woodlawn, via Tarago in NSW. This project has been held up in NSW Planning approvals for some time now and as we have spoken to the engineers at the plant – it is a source of great frustration.

Then a more detailed retort from Peter and Kerry Davies of Real Power Systems (who have built their gasifier and Pyrolysis retort machine in Australia and demonstrated its commercial application in Australia) lament the issues they have had since showcasing the capabilities on the grounds of Parliament House in 2009). In this response they are responding not only the Closing 21 Feb story they are also referring to happenings in the prickly exchange between www.newmatilda.com  and City of Sydney Tri-generation project, and the general stonewalling they have encountered with their offering in the quest for a commercial outcome.  In direct quote:

“Thanks for the link, we just read through the three associated articles:

The attacks are coming from the green’s associates and heavily rely on BZE, a Melbourne University academics club who want Oz to go solar thermal immediately and trust that in doing so costs will fall and engineering problems overcome. This involves putting several thousand square km’s of solar arrays down in adjoining rural areas…

The core arguments against the renewable component of the plan centre on biogas, which is produced using anaerobic digestion and therefor predominately methane (85% CH4). We would consider these arguments to be largely valid although they don’t go far enough, the cost of efficient closed cycle anaerobic digesters is millions of $ per MWe of capacity and are prone to significant operational problems. In the EU it has been found engines running on biogas have difficulty meeting emission guidelines as some fuel is not burnt (escaped methane) and running excess oxygen to correct this then results in NoX emissions rather than CH4, there is a lot of work being done to overcome this limitation.

These arguments though are not valid at all for gasification whose output is “producer gas”  which has <1% methane and the fuel gas component is CO & H2, much cleaner in combustion and not subject to “methane leaks”. Gasification also is far more flexible in its feed stocks which can readily include waste paper with plastics contamination, and is easily topped up with solid fuels produced from plantations, crop residues or RDF pellets.

NoX  is easily managed in a properly engineered system running on producer gas since its formation is temperature and free oxygen dependent. Modern “lean burn” engine technologies combined with rapid exhaust cooling (via cogen) readily address the emission concerns. Direct combustion systems are more difficult, the critics seem to be confusing the two.

Trigen should be eminently suitable for Sydney so long as it genuinely includes absorption chiller technology for the building climate control required in warmer months. We don’t believe waste heat and inversion layers should necessarily be an issue so long as the trigen plant is not using fossil fuels or high methane biogas. Indeed with some lateral thinking and applied engineering the waste heat from higher rise buildings could be used through thermal siphoning to alleviate air pollution at street level.

We are aware of some very clever “Urban food production” systems that can produce very high outputs from small areas using aquaponics (fish and hydroponics). The rooftops of many high rise buildings would be eminently suited with proper planning to include these which then turns the total system into a “Quad generation”, utilising CO2 from the engine exhausts in the greenhouse above and providing local restaurants with fresh fish and vegetables grown in their own inner city building or precinct! Such innovations are we believe relevant now and can only become increasingly important for the future of sustainable cities.

Heightened ambient noise is an engineering/$ issue. A couple of years ago we responded to a request for tender for a cogen plant at a public swimming pool. The EPA imposed a noise limit of 32 decibels (it turned out there were dwellings within 20m of the installation site…). To put this in perspective such a noise limit can be exceeded by the act of sitting down in a country library and opening a hardcover book… We found a solution with pre-cast acoustic chambers from a Sydney supplier which added about $80,000 to project cost (yes you can also cast in situ). You could rev a Harley at full throttle inside one and not exceed the 32DB limit outside. To give you some idea of what this means in practice the fan running on the RPS system demonstrated at Bungendore for REDay generates 55DB.

Finally Origin/Cogent might consider the following: The RPS plant being commissioned at Sutton at the moment just took delivery of 80m3 of sawdust for further client trials. This plant when operational in the next week or so will consist of:

Gasifier – clean fuel gas and high temperature treated biochar output.

This char output can be used for water filtering and odor control amongst other external applications before going off to be added to compost for final recycling & CO2 sequestration.

Integrated pyrolysis retort – operates off a portion of the gasifier output so as to be more consistent, controllable and able to handle high/variable feed stock moisture contents, capable of sustained temperatures >650oC. Outputs biochar or torrefied biomass depending on temperature/residence time profile selected so effectively could replicate any typical biochar specification required or alternately pre-condition solid fuels for the gasifier.

Also can provide process heat for a range of purposes.

Electricity generator (20kWe) – Dual fuel diesel & producer gas from the gasifier . Typical diesel displacement when the gasifier is running would be 85% (reduction in normal diesel use). Later we will trial recycling a portion of this final exhaust back through the gasifier to re-crack some carbon dioxide (CO2+heat= 2CO) further reducing nett emissions.

We are also currently refurbishing a 50kWe straight gas industrial genset to add later in order to achieve 100% organic power.

Briquette press – for hot briquetting product directly out of the pyrolysis retort. (This is part of RPS’s R&D looking at subsequent material handling/transport/application strategies).

This briquette press is a proprietary design that we own the rights to and is able to be locally fabricated by any competent engineering shop so is not a high cost imported item.

So it is really a combination proof of concept/commercial plant that goes beyond just a functional bioenergy/char retort design and looks more at a whole of system farm scale factory with core components equally at home in the basement of a building in order to give flexible outputs that maximise benefits. This plant is readily brought up to the scale some companies have received offers of multi-million dollar public grants to build…but still haven’t been able to do so.

All of which has been done not only in the absence of government grants or sucking in market venture capital but also in spite of direct obstruction and commercial bastardry by vested interests. What might be described as “Success against Uncommon Odds”.

If the City of Sydney/Origin/Cogent trifecta are genuine they need to stop playing around the edges and get serious with some sort of supportive funding delivered through a credible pilot plant trial to publicly validate what we already know, instead of waiting for people like ourselves with real solutions to solve their problems for them entirely at our own expense.

Best Regards,
Peter & Kerry”

Then from George Paulos, where is writes of his IMPLETERRA new Plasma Gasification System:

“Thanks for connecting with me.

And as you have already pointed out: YES I love my work !

Hopefully we can be of fruitful service to one another.

I would like to move some things in Down Under with you.

For example: Our new Plasma can extract precious metals from ore.

This is currently being tested in our lab in the US.

Thus all these hazardous chemical for extraction get needless AND

of course the overall calculation for the mining company gets CHEAPER In this sense its a win-win for all parties involved: We and our environment and the company and the economy ! And also: These Plasma devices cannot be sold, only leased based on Power Purchase Agreements. Thus no investment necessary ! “

On reflection of what George has said, and repeated by Real Power Systems: The way grants programs are administrated may be what is wrong with the industry, in this it is meant: Why do you need $XXk grant to write a pre-feasibility study and then go to a prospectus costing $XXXXXXK in order to persuade $XXm from investors given that the askers apparently already know the outcome of a larger feasibility study, or learnt from past mistakes…. Would it not be more sensible to do as the UK Government do – have a department and a fund set –up that is open to all, rather than a select few. The caveat is if you can prove the need, that sufficient testing is done and you can show it could work, and the ability to be an entrepreneur – be a doer not just a talker. You will be asked how much do you need and so on. No nonsense approach that makes the bankable process much more streamlined.

CO2Land org thank each for their encouragement. Clearly these are also worthy of encouragement because they each solve real problems to what we have now, WHAT TO DO to turn waste to energy and take the pressure off virgin materials being required every time!

 

 

Closing 21 Feb – excluded

Closing 21 Feb 2013, Community Renewable Energy Projects: Message  – Innovations excluded and technology chosen must be commercial. This is despite many innovators being able to prove an environmental benefit at least cost.  It is not a new issue it is a matter that is a symptom of measures providing a pathway regardless of the evidence. Albeit, justification for this approach can be found by some oblique reference to some far away story.

As the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory explains “One of the most serious (and valid) criticisms of subsidies for “renewable” energy is that they heighten the perception (but not the reality) that wind and solar are less expensive and more energy efficient than conventional fuels”.

If we single out the NSW Renewable Energy Precincts Program and the expression of interest for funding the wording says “EOIs will only be accepted for projects proposing to use renewable energy technologies that are commercially available and have been demonstrated in operation at a similar scale generation capacity for 12 months or more. Solar photovoltaic technology and wind are the two most common, and commercially available, renewable energy technologies. Most CRE projects internationally use one of these two technologies”. This is interesting as world wide, and in Australia, there are technologies that offer a better power capacity ratio. It is also interesting that in Australia at least one public entity has taken legal action to restrict (Suppression) the opportunity for a commercial opportunity with alternative renewable energy. When the reference is made to power capacity ratio it simply means – coal fired can be replaced by this technology as base load. It should also be said at a lower cost than wind and solar. AKA – cost benefit is superior.

It is difficult to understand why a ‘community’ program is directing a bias in this way towards wind & solar. CO2Land org feels this is a shame because more than a few communities would be able to scratch together sufficient green waste and other biomass resources to run a genuine base load or peak lopping plant, from what is waste with the added advantage of also having very useful co-products and creating more permanent local employment.

It follows that local government have obligations for services and various industry is within the boundaries they manage. Industry does two things: 1) They tend to consume more of the fuel resources available in the geographical area, and 2) Produce waste that is often toxic or hazardous in the environment.

In a growing trend around the world (being a reference was made in the NSW REP EOI), and since 1980, as far as CO2Land org can see, major industry is increasingly looking at methods for recovering the fuel value from many wastes.

CO2Land org can identify some of the different methods to do so and each is superior in their own way, and certainly make use of existing problems of waste and remove much of the need for virgin material in the products they offer. The point is made – not one product such as electricity generation of wind and solar, but also other products that make up the needs of society.

To give examples: Gasification, Pyrolysis, Plasma conversion are increasingly being piloted or in production in other parts of the world. Not surprising is that many of the leading work was from Australia, then ‘discovered’ by America, India, China and other countries determined to solve their resource and waste problems. If you were to argue it is cost that is the problem. As a single product produced wind and solar can argue they the high ground. “But consider this case of cement kilns converting waste: The ash in waste fuels becomes part of the cement product in a cement kiln, this system is one of the very few that actually consumes all of the waste material – both organic and inorganic turning all of the waste into product – no ash, no change in emissions and no impact on product quality”. Patent Number 8268073 System and method for making cement and cement derived therefrom

Inventors: Burton J. Kunik, James C. Berns, David G. Gossman

More recently, engineered fuels (Synfuels) are carrying on to advance the latest step in the process that started over 30 years ago. Some might even recall or have read that in World War 2 years the need to ‘invent’ devices to get the family car around as fuel was rationed. The new advances present the real potential for using a wider variety of waste materials, including treated medical wastes, to consume waste materials instead of coal and other natural resource based fuels in the manufacturing process.

Then there is products from the treatment of medical waste including sharps: Embodiments of this invention provide methods for converting a used healthcare material including a complex mixture of components including pulp materials, polymer materials, metal materials, and/or other material such as ceramic materials, ash materials, etc. directly into a burnable fuel, Without the need for component separation. Patent Number 8163045 Method and system of making a burnable fuel Inventors: Burton J. Kunik, James C. Berns, David G. Gossman

Still struggling in Australia is Real Power Systems. Peter and Kerry Davies have built a considerable amount of bench testing conducted (circa 2009 to now) and are successfully testing, including onsite pilots of their gasifier and pyrolysis retort and this success continues to lead to product identification not previously considered. They started being most interested in bio-char production for agricultural purposes, and the range of fuels that can produce and the range of waste they can treat under various water saturation condition is striking. And, they can produce syngas, synfuel, syncrude and have solved problems such as “Cavitation Phenomenon at the Reactor Chamber” that plaqued or was the reason for more expensive offering in the field.

If you can consider the cost savings when compared with traditional fuels it can be enormous. The environmental saving through the use of engineered fuels (syfuels) is a significant reduction of GHG emissions. So much so that engineered fuels, are getting overseas regulatory approvals and are meeting EPA definitions for “sufficiently processed”.

We are saying we should compare complimentary and alternative solutions to our energy problems, and being we should be very conscious of the traps involved in the development of technology, It can be very hard to stay focused when development is proving there is so much flexibility and opportunity in direction.

Possibly this is why the 21 Feb 2013 closing EOI has chosen to stay focused on wind and solar, but then something more needs to be done in keeping with the developments and as such building on advances to ensure uniform characteristics can be judged to gain a higher level of understanding and open whole new avenues for applications of otherwise problematic materials. What could be better than the local government waste dump having onsite production capability of syncrude made from waste tetra packs and plastics? it does make things oddly enough, a tad more difficult…but not impossible.

Bioenergy policy – case for clarification

Two important statements: Coal is not a sustainable option for energy production. Energy production ‘product substitution’ could result in the use of higher carbon alternatives. Do we need to educate policy makers on what this means?

During 2011, a company called Carbon Innovation had high hopes that bioenergy projects would form part of its sustainability platform. The platform built on biomass for energy production and biochar products. It was a noble cause and the indicators were it could be a success. Like so many innovators, the fight became not about the quality of product, but of policy, and waiting for the strategy to be formed and implemented. All this takes time. Time is money and for a business case to be proven it needs to be bankable.  To be bankable requires metrics and measure of product approval.

In the debate of climate change verses global warming it should be clear-cut: The former is trends and the later is shorter-term rises. But somehow, deniers fixated on the later, media adopted the term as a de facto for sensationalism and controversy. The result what was a genuine cause becomes ‘issue’.

Let me put Carbon Innovation’s cause to you first: Forrest floor waste has many negative consequences and the bioenergy potential was a focus towards truly sustainable inputs.  Sufficiency reports advises any further investigation into waste products for energy use, such as wood waste from forestry was a sensible alternative to coal burning, and a very good global warming mitigation.

Representation to ABARE questioned if there was an accurate accounting system. Whether the systems were capable of raising awareness of carbon debt and material substitution, or whether it merely found a ‘lumping in ‘ approach easier. The argument being it is a lazy way and the approach fails to be robust and in all likelihood would lead to a challenge of the effectiveness of genuine environmental benefits. It should be clarified what was asked was for waste to be used as the fuel, not the deliberate destruction of a carbon sink.

Carbon Innovation Pty Ltd is now in the process of a ‘Strike-Off Action In Progress’ with ASIC – as a volunteer action by the management.

The CO2Land org notices a number of stories now circulating on Biomass for energy production and finds some interesting foes for the concept. Albeit it might be again the problem of ‘lumping in’ and things being taken as a ‘broad brush’ statement and failing to see the wood for the trees – not original but illustrated the problems very well.

While Carbon Innovation was trying for a favourable policy position in Australia, to offer a carbon neutral renewable resource, the UK government supports this shift through subsidies on biomass to combat climate change. However, some environmentalists label these subsidies ‘climate fraud’. Background stories:

Bioenergy policy

“The UK Bioenergy Strategy published earlier this year, aims to support sustainable bioenergy in order to reduce emissions. With this goal in mind, the UK plans to continue subsidising the use of wood for large-scale power generation. The strategy makes it clear that the use of wood, in comparison to coal, will result in emission reductions. As a result, several British power companies are actively following this directive”.

Dirtier than coal?

“A new report challenges the assumption that biomass is carbon neutral. ‘Dirtier than coal?‘, a combined effort between RSPB, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, goes so far as to say that replacing coal by burning whole trees would increase emissions by 49% over the next 40 years. The report identifies two key critiques of the assumption that wood is a carbon-neutral energy source.

1. Wood is inefficient

Stuart Housden, Director at RSPB Scotland, explains that the aim of government biomass subsidies is to shift towards lower carbon intensive inputs. Housden argues that replacing coal with wood will not have this outcome.

“When trees are burnt in power stations, CO2 comes out of the chimney, just like it does when you burn coal. The difference is that wood is less energy-dense and is wetter than coal, so it takes a lot more energy to harvest, transport, process and finally burn it…

Transport emissions are likely to rise as the UK will be forced to import wood in order to meet rising demand. On a local scale, as demand and price rises, industries using wood may be pushed into using cheaper options. This ‘product substitution’ could result in the use of higher carbon alternatives.

2. Carbon debt

Advocates of biomass argue that losses in carbon storage from harvesting of wood is compensated by regrowth. This leads to the second ‘accounting error’ of the bioenergy strategy. It fails to recognise the time lag between initialising regrowth and mature, carbon sequestering ecosystems. This issue of ‘carbon debt’ is one of the most serious criticisms of biomass for energy production. Housden goes on to point out that,

(It can take decades, if not centuries for the trees to recapture that carbon, leaving us with more emissions in the atmosphere now – when we least need it).”

 To put into a summary:

They are correct in these main areas:

  • There is the need for an accurate accounting system that avoids ‘lumping in’ one size fits all
  • Accounting systems should factor an awareness of carbon debt and material substitution
  • Bioenergy should refocus towards truly sustainable inputs
  • Further investigation into waste products for energy use, such as wood waste from forestry would be a very sensible strategy
  • There must be continued discussion over biomass as a renewable resource, and the classification of carbon neutral
  • Carbon neutral must be clarified in a policy context, as should other loose terms such as sustainable, real, even carbon (see footnote).

Many groups and governments agree coal is not a sustainable option for energy production. What is not clear is the question of the assumptions that surround policy regarding biomass as a product substitution. However, CO2Land org cannot support claims of ‘climate fraud’ by some environmentalists saying Governments practice it. We claim it is more akin to ignorance and under resourcing of responsible units, and that need to be addressed to get effective actions from government.

Footnote: Carbon – the word confused in CFIPosted on August 2, 2012 by co2land .