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Category Archives: Distributed power

When Carbon emission is high and the globe is warming due to such emissions then the simple and immediate solution to address this issue is to convert Carbon into Hydrocarbon, and the simplest Hydrocarbon is Methane (CH4).By simply introducing Hydrogen atom into Carbon atom the entire fuel property changes. For example the heating value of coal is only 5000-6500 kcal/kg at the maximum while the heating value of Methane (natural gas) increases to 9500 kcal/m3 by the above conversion. It means the same power generated by coal can be generated by using almost half the quantity of natural gas. Converting Carbon into substituted natural gas (SNG) is one way of addressing climate change in a short span of time. By switching over the SNG from coal will cut the CO2 emission almost by 50%.

Global warming due to GHG emission has become a serious environmental issue in recent times and more and more investments are made on renewable energy projects such as solar and wind etc. In spite of the major thrust on renewable energy projects the main source of power is still generated around the world  using fossil fuel especially Coal  due to its abundance and low-cost. Moreover the investment already made on fossil fuel infrastructures are too big to be ignored and investment required to substitute coal-fired power plants by renewable energy are too large and gestation periods are too long to maintain the current electricity demand and to meet the future demands. The cost of renewable energy also is high and there is great resistance by consumers to switch over to renewable energy. Many Governments are reluctant to subsidize renewable energy due to their financial constraints. That is why countries like China which is growing at the rate of more than 8% pa are trying to decrease the ‘Carbon intensity’ rather than closing down the coal–fired power plants by setting up SNG (synthetic natural gas) plants by gasification of  coal . This will cut their Carbon emissions almost by 50% surpassing all other countries around the world in short span of time, thus meeting their emission targets agreed in “Kyoto protocol”. They can also meet the increasing electricity demand by using “syngas” generated by coal gasification plants, while reducing the Carbon pollution. They will also be able to produce Diesel and Gasoline from coal similar to the “SESOL” plant in South Africa which is already operating successfully for the past 50 years.

“Leveraging Natural Gas to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions” – a summary report by Center for Energy and Climate Solutions (C2ES) have highlighted the following in their report.

“Recent technological advances have unleashed a boom in U.S. natural gas production, with expanded supplies and substantially lower prices projected well into the future. Because combusting natural gas yields fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal or petroleum, the expanded use of natural gas offers significant opportunities to help address global climate change.

The substitution of gas for coal in the power sector, for example, has contributed to a recent decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas, however, is not carbon-free. Apart from the emissions released by its combustion, natural gas is composed primarily of methane (CH4), a potent greenhouse gas, and the direct release of methane during production, transmission, and distribution may offset some of the potential climate benefits of its expanded use across the economy.

This report explores the opportunities and challenges in leveraging the natural gas boom to achieve further reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Examining the implications of expanded use in key sectors of the economy, it recommends policies and actions needed to maximize climate benefits of natural gas use in power generation, buildings, manufacturing, and transportation. More broadly, the report draws the following conclusions:

•The expanded use of natural gas—as a replacement for coal and petroleum—can help our  efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the near to mid-term, even as the economy grows. In 2013, energy sector emissions are at the lowest levels since 1994, in part because of the substitution of natural gas for other fossil fuels, particularly coal. Total U.S. emissions are not expected to reach 2005 levels again until sometime after 2040.

• Substitution of natural gas for other fossil fuels cannot be the sole basis for long-term U.S. efforts to address climate change because natural gas is a fossil fuel and its combustion emits greenhouse gases. To avoid dangerous climate change, greater reductions will be necessary than natural gas alone can provide. Ensuring that low-carbon investment dramatically expands must be a priority. Zero-emission sources of energy, such as wind, nuclear and solar, are critical, as are the use of carbon capture-and-storage technologies at fossil fuel plants and continued improvements in energy efficiency.

• Along with substituting natural gas for other fossil fuels, direct releases of methane into the atmosphere must be minimized. It is important to better understand and more accurately measure the greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production and use in order to achieve emissions reductions along the entire natural gas value chain.”

Countries like India should emulate the Chinese model and become self-sufficient in meeting their growing energy demand without relying completely on imported Petroleum products. Import of petroleum products is the single largest foreign exchange drain for India, restricting their economic growth to less than 5%. Countries that rely completely on coal-fired power plants can set up coal hydro-gasification and gasification plants to cut their Carbon emissions in the immediate future while setting up renewable energy projects as a long-term solution.

Transiting Carbon economy into Hydrogen economy is a bumpy road and it will not be  easy to achieve in a short span of time. The logical path for such transition will be to switch coal based power generation into gas based power generation for the following reasons.

The largest Carbon emissions are from power generation and transportation. Transportation industry is already going through a transition from fossil fuel to Hydrogen. More future cars will be based either on Fuel cell or Electric and in both cases the fuel is the critical issue. Battery technology also will be an issue for Electric cars. It is more practical to generate Hydrogen from natural gas and to set up Hydrogen fuel stations than generating Hydrogen from solar-powered water electrolysis. With improvement on Fuel cell technology it is more likely that PEM Fuel cell may be able to operate on Hydrogen derived from natural gas that is completely free from any Sulphur compounds. Even for Electric cars, natural gas will play an important role as a fuel for power generation and distribution in the near future as we transit from Carbon economy to  full-fledged Hydrogen economy.

Countries like India with highest economic growth will have to be pragmatic by setting up more SNG plants with indigenous coal than depending on imported LNG. India has only two LNG terminals now in operation but do not have gas transmission infrastructure. With increasing demand for natural gas from all over the world and lack of LNG receiving terminals, India will have to face a serious fuel and power shortage in the future. By installing more coal gasification and SNG plants with down-stream products like Diesel and petrol, India can overcome the fuel and power shortage. In fact India set up the first coal gasification and Ammonia and Urea plant in Neyveli (Neyveli Lignite Corporation) way back in Fifties after her independence and it is time to visit the past.

Renewable energy is certainly the long-term solution for energy demand but we have to consider the amount of GHG emission associated with production PV solar panels, wind turbines and batteries. There is no easy fix to cut GHG emission in short span of time but switching Carbon to hydrocarbon will certainly reduce the emissions scientists are advocating and water (steam) is the key to introduce such Hydrogen atom into the Carbon atom. That is why we always believe “Water and Energy are two sides of the same coin” and renewable Hydrogen will be the key to our future energy.

For more information on the above topic please refer to the following link:

Source: Harvard University

Link: Coal to Natural gas Fuel switching and Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction.

Date: Apr 2011.

Author: Jackson Salovaara.

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There is a raging debate going on around the world especially in US about the global warming and its causes, among scientists and the public alike. When IPCC released its findings on the connection between greenhouse gas emission and the global warming and its disastrous consequences, there was an overwhelming disbelief and skepticism in many people. In fact many scientists are skeptical even now   about these findings and many of them published their own theories and models to prove their skepticism with elaborate ‘scientific explanations’.   I am not going into details whether greenhouse gas emission induced by human beings causes the globe to warm or not, but certainly we have emitted billions of  tons of Carbon in the form of Carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since industrial revolution. Bulk of these emissions is from power plants fueled by Coal, oil and gas. Why power plants emit so much Carbon into the atmosphere and why Governments around the world allow it in the first place?  When the emission of Oxide of Nitrogen and Sulfur are restricted by EPA why they did not restrict Oxides of carbon? The reason is very simple. They did not have a technology to generate heat without combustion and they did not have a technology to generate power without heat. It was the dawn of industrial revolution and steam engines were introduced using coal as a fuel. The discovery of steam engines was so great and nobody was disturbed by the black smoke it emitted. They knew very well that the efficiency of a steam engine was low as shown by Carnot cycle, yet steam engine was a new discovery and Governments were willing to condone Carbon emission. Governments were happy with steam engine because it could transport millions of people and goods in bulk across the country and Carbon emission was not at all an issue. Moreover carbon emission did not cause any problem like emission of oxides of Sulfur because it was odorless, colorless and it was emitted above the ground level away from human beings. However the effect of Carbon is insidious. Similarly, power generation technology was developed by converting thermal energy into electrical energy with a maximum efficiency of 33%.This means only 33% of the thermal energy released by combustion of coal is converted into electricity. When the resulting electricity is transmitted across thousands of kilometers by high tension grids, further 5-10% power is lost in the transmission. When the high tension power is stepped down through sub stations to lower voltage such as 100/200/400V further 5% power is lost. The net power received by a consumer is only 28% of the heat value of the fuel in the form of electricity. The balance 67% of heat along with Greenhouse gases from the combustion of coal is simply vented out into the atmosphere. It is the most inefficient method to generate power. Any environmental pollution is the direct result of inefficiency of the technology. Governments and EPA around the world ignore this fact .Thank to President Obama who finally introduced the pollution control bill for power plants after 212 years of industrial revolution.  Still this bill did not go far enough to control Carbon emission in its current form. Instead of arguing whether globe is warming due to emission of Carbon by human beings or not, Scientists should focus on improving the science and technology of power generation. For example, the electrical efficiency of a Fuel cell is more than 55% compared to conventional power generation and emits reduced or no carbon. Recent research by MIT shows that such conversion of heat into electricity can be achieved up to 90% compared to current levels of 35%.Had we developed such a technology earlier, probably we will not be discussing about GHG and global warming now. MIT research group is now focusing on developing new type of PV and according to their press release: “Thermal to electric energy conversion with thermophotovoltaics relies on radiation emitted by a hot body, which limits the power per unit area to that of a blackbody. Micro gap thermophotovoltaics take advantage of evanescent waves to obtain higher throughput, with the power per unit area limited by the internal blackbody, which is n2 higher. We propose that even higher power per unit area can be achieved by taking advantage of thermal fluctuations in the near-surface electric fields. For this, we require a converter that couples to dipoles on the hot side, transferring excitation to promote carriers on the cold side which can be used to drive an electrical load. We analyze the simplest implementation of the scheme, in which excitation transfer occurs between matched quantum dots. Next, we examine thermal to electric conversion with a glossy dielectric (aluminum oxide) hot-side surface layer. We show that the throughput power per unit active area can exceed the n2 blackbody limit with this kind of converter. With the use of small quantum dots, the scheme becomes very efficient theoretically, but will require advances in technology to fabricate.” Ref:J.Appl.Phys. 106,094315c(2009); http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.3257402 Quantum-coupled single-electron thermal to electric conversion scheme”. Power generation and distribution using renewable energy sources and using Hydrogen as an alternative fuel is now emerging. Distributed energy systems may replace centralized power plants in the future due to frequent grid failures as we have seen recently in India. Most of the ‘black outs’ are caused  by grid failures due to cyclones, tornadoes and other weather related issues, and localized distribution system with combined heat and power offers a better alternative. For those who are skeptical about global warming caused by man-made greenhouse gases the question still remains, “What happened to billions of tons of Caron dioxide emitted into  the atmosphere by power plants and transportation  since industrial revolution?”.          

Distributed  generation system, is a system that generates power at the point of usage; unlike the centralized electricity generation, where power is generated at a remote place and then distributed to various locations using Power transmission  grids. The centralized systems became popular, due to its convenience, to transmit large power over long distances, under high voltage. However, there are several disadvantages, in centralized power generation and distribution. Most of these power generation plants are using fossil fuels, like coal, oil and gas, whose efficiency is only about 40%; which means, only about 40% of the heat value of the fuel used is converted into electricity, and the balance is a waste heat, discharged in the form of greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere. That is why; power station are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, in the world. These plants are  not only the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, but also a very inefficient, because bulk of the fuel is simply combusted and discharged into the atmosphere. With ever-increasing cost of oil and gas, these power plants are ‘white elephants’ that drain the oil and gas resources in the world and turn them into greenhouse gases. Such inefficiencies drive the cost of power high, and also increase the pollution levels. This unabated emission of greenhouse gas has to be curtailed.

At this juncture of global warming, and increasing energy cost, Governments and companies, should encourage distributed energy systems. The advantage with distributed energy systems is, when we generate energy  on site using a fuel, we can use the waste heat  in a productive way, thus increasing the power efficiencies from 40% up to 80-85%.This increase in efficiency, will result, is the reduction in the cost of energy. The power savings from distributed energy system varies  from 10% up to 80%. Industries and business who use continuous processes (24×7) and whose energy bill is substantial, are the ideal candidates for distributed energy systems. It is easier to adapt distributed energy system, with gaseous fuels, like natural gas and Hydrogen, than with liquid fuels such as diesel or solid fuel such as coal.

Distributed energy system can even be installed, using ‘Biogas’, where large quantity of  organic waste or waste water is available throughout the year, like dairy plants, breweries, municipal sewage systems etc.The power generated in DES system, is invariably a direct current (DC), which is usually converted into alternating  using rectifier,   before usage. But, part of this DC load, can be used directly in the form of Dc current, wherever necessary. For example, many consumers are using Light-emitting diode bulbs for lighting, to save energy. In distributed energy system, it is possible to use direct current for these applications because you can save a certain amount of energy in the process of converting DC to AC, and then again AC to DC.In fact, we can connect number of appliances directly  to  direct current.

In addition to the above advantages, we can utilize the waste heat  to generate steam, hot water, chilled water or space airconditioning.For example, if a distributed energy system generates  500 kw Electric power using natural gas, with an efficiency of 30%, the gas consumption will be about 1666 Kws.The remaining waste heat available is about 1166 Kws, which is equal to about 300 TR chilling capacity. This chiller can be used to air-condition an office space. The total efficiency of such system can be as much as 80%.We can reduce the cost of energy as much as 60% or more, in some cases.

Distributed energy system, is the best and cost-effective system to cut energy bills as well as to reduce Greenhouse gas Otherwise the power for air-conditioning has to come from the grid. It is a win situation, for everybody involved. Such system can also be used, with Hydrogen. In fact, the heat value of Hydrogen is much higher than any other fuel, such as coal, oil or gas. Hydrogen is the energy of the future that is not only clean but also sustainable.

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