Adam Sieminski Wins Award
Adam Sieminski, former USAEE president and James Schlesinger Chair for Energy and Geopolitics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), was honored as Champion of the Year at the 37th Annual Gala of the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment on March 14. The Champion Award honors individuals who have been important mentors to women in the energy and environmental sectors.
NCAC Tour of the National Energy Technology Laboratory and Longview Power Plant
By Joel S. Yudken
One of the perks of belonging to the National Capital Area Chapter of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics (NCAC-USAEE) is the opportunity to participate in organized visits to major energy installations in the mid-Atlantic region.
In early March this year, I went on another exciting overnight field trip that took us to Morgantown, West Virginia, where we toured both the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and the Longview Power Plant in nearby Maidsville. Longview is a 778 MW facility billed as one of the most highly efficient coal-fired generators in North America.
On Wednesday, March 7, at 2 p.m., twenty of us, mostly NCAC members and a few non-members, met at the Shady Grove Metro station, in Gaithersburg, Maryland. We picked up our tour bus, which would transport us to Morgantown. The trip took four hours. After settling into our hotel, most of us went in smaller groups to enjoy the nightlife downtown.
Several of us went to a very good Italian restaurant, while others went to dinner and drinks at a nearby pub. A small group went after dinner to the Morgantown Brewing Co., where we were entertained by a local band. This informal time together is an important part of every NCAC tour. Together with the long bus rides, it gives members a chance to network and get to know each other.
Our bus picked us up at 8 a.m. the next morning, for the short ride to the NETL. Chris Nichols, an analyst in NETL’s Systems Engineering and Analysis (SEA) Directorate, and a USAEE Pittsburgh member, greeted us with an overview of NETL’s operations and work. NETL is one hundred years old; it’s one of 17 Department of Energy laboratories, and the only one dedicated to the research, design and analysis of coal, oil, and gas technologies.
The West Virginia site is one of five NETL labs—the others are in PA, OR, AK, and TX. Chris also described the work he does in the SEA directorate, which includes economic analysis, design and cost estimation of energy processes, energy systems, process engineering and energy markets.
We then visited several individual onsite research labs, where NETL scientists described and demonstrated their research on improving the efficiency and cutting emissions of coal technologies. For example, the Cold Flow Circulating Bed houses a 12-inch diameter, 50-foot tall circulating fluidized bed used to improve the knowledge of gas/solid flows with applications to gasification, combustion, carbon and chemical looping.
At another lab, we learned about the Carbon Capture Simulation Initiative (CCSI), a partnership of five national laboratories, industry, and academic institutions, focused on advanced computation modeling tools to accelerate the development and deployment of carbon capture tools.
After a very good lunch at the lab, our bus drove us to the Longview power plant. We again were greeted with an overview presentation. It was given by the plant’s chief executive officer, chief operating officer and VP for energy management. This was followed by a tour of several parts of the facility, mostly in-doors, where we saw turbines, boilers, piping, and control rooms.
Longview, a new plant which started operations in 2011, is the cleanest, most efficient coal-fired power plant in the 13-state PJM Interconnection. Its heat rate of 8,700 Btu/kwh surpasses that of other comparable coal-fired plants in the country. Several technologies—an advanced supercritical boiler, a new pollution control system, and other efficiencies—account for the dramatic high efficiency-low emissions (HELE) levels of the Longview plant. It is the lowest-cost deliverer of electricity of any coal-fired plant in the region, and among the lowest pollution emitters in the nation among coal plants.
Another advantage is the plant’s tight relationship with Mepco, the sole supplier of the power plant’s coal, which is transported from its underground mine by a 4.5-mile conveyor, minimizing transportation costs and avoiding the local impact of trucking coal.
I was greatly impressed by both places we visited. There are a few caveats, though, such as learning that all the steel and the state-of-the-art boiler at Longview were made in China. I also learned that NETL’s research funding is not as stable as might be desired, and money for other energy research, such as biomass energy, has dried up.
Unfortunately, a recent news article revealed that Longview’s economic situation is uncertain after its coal provider, Mepco, recently closed the mine that supplies the plant. Finally, although the current Administration has revived support for fossil fuels at a time of great public concern over climate change, I felt an undercurrent of uncertainty at the sites about the future of coal technologies.
That future is especially contingent on the price of natural gas, more than renewable fuel sources. Nevertheless, both NETL and Longview present the most optimistic case for future deployment of advanced, high-efficiency, low-emissions and cost-effective coal energy technologies.
Click here for more photos of this event
Joel Yudken, Ph.D., is a Principal, High Road Strategies, LLC and NCAC Treasurer
NCAC Technical Tour - National Energy Technology Laboratory and Longview Power Plant
By Janine Finnell
I participated in our technical tour to the National Energy Technology Laboratory and saw several research projects being conducted on methods to capture carbon through more efficient fossil energy combustion and post-combustion processes.
The benefits of the trip included meeting the researchers and being invited to follow up with them in the future. It was also valuable to exchange knowledge with other energy professionals in an experiential-learning environment, and to network and build friendships during the bus ride and meals. There were several international participants on the trip, and it was interesting to hear their perspectives based on energy research in their countries.
The NETL research project highlights included advanced combustion research such as Chemical Looping Combustion (CLC). CLC is a transformational technology that shows great promise for drastically reducing the cost of capturing carbon. We saw a Chemical Looping Pilot-Scale Reactor that is helping to accelerate the scale up from lab-sized units to industrial-sized units. Details on CLC are available in this NETL factsheet and video below.
Post-combustion processes that enhance and enable the use of advanced solvents to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from power plants are being examined in the “Micro-Encapsulated Carbon Solvent” (MECS) project. Further details are available here.
A Carbon Capture Simulation for Industry Impact (CCSI2) toolkit is used to apply cutting-edge computational modeling and simulation tools to accelerate the commercialization of these carbon capture technologies, from their discovery to the development, demonstration, and ultimately the widespread deployment to hundreds of power plants. We heard that over 50 personnel from 5 national laboratories are involved in this effort to spur an industry-wide revolution in carbon capture technology development. In addition, numerous universities and private sector companies are involved. A 3-minute video with NETL’s David Miller provides a great description below.
Chris Nichols at NETL, who is also a USAEE member, mentioned the important complementary role of policy with technology advancements to make inroads into a low-carbon future. Chris touched on several scenarios in NETL’s models. He discussed one that involves renewable energy technology, including biomass carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, in combination with a carbon tax to reduce carbon emissions by 80% in the power sector by 2050.
The tour also included a visit to the Longview Power Plant, which is one of the most efficient coal-fired power plants in the US. The advanced environmental control technology and high efficient low emissions (HELE) plant improves its emissions profile considerably over the standard coal fleet. Longview is currently obtaining coal from techniques using longwall and “room and pillar” mining versus surface mining techniques encompassing mountain top removal.
Additional details on the technical tour are also available in an extended article on the Leaders in Energy website.
Janine Finnell is a NCAC-USAEE member and Executive Director, Leaders in Energy.
The Net-Zero Carbon Home Experiment – Highway to the Future?
By Ben Schlesinger
My wife and I are building a home in St. Michaels, Maryland, that will balance three basic goals – beauty, functionality, and environmental compatibility. In that order. The beauty part means living by the open water in a Charles Paul Goebel-designed home with an Erin Paige Pitts interior – among the best designers in the business. The functionality goal drove us to our wonderful designers, but also to local builder Brent Paquin and his experienced, practical, dogged crew.
For environmental compatibility, we had only ourselves to turn to. With helpful tips from our designers and builder, mentors to the project, we set out on a series of steps, always considering the three sometimes inconsistent goals – beauty, functionality, and environmental compatibility.
We purchased a lot in St. Michaels with an older home already on it, which had been owned by the late Rev. and Mrs. George Evans. Rev. Evans served as chaplain of the U.S. Marine Corps, and we wanted to honor his service and homesite. Rather than tear it down, we sought to deconstruct the house, literally dismantling it down to (but not including) the floors, siding and rafters. All the building refuse was donated to the Choptank Habitat for Humanity.
Deconstruction is a pretty new field, and practitioners are hard to find, and harder to schedule. This process took up about a month, which we’re told is fast, thanks to local contractor Pete Bailey.
- Geothermal – drilling 8-12 wells to a 250-300-foot depth
- Ground-source heat pumps, SEER 45, about as efficient as the market will allow
- Rooftop solar – 50 Sunpower high-efficiency 360-watt panels, thus 18 kw.
- Battery storage – 3 Tesla Powerwall batteries, enough to power the home through the night and, together with the solar panels, hopefully beyond, in emergencies
- Battery electric cars (not hybrid) powered
- Biodiesel motor for boating
Disclaimer: I’ve been a natural gas expert and enthusiast for decades – none of the zero-carbon features I am putting into this house diminishes that background in the slightest. Natural gas will be around for decades, powering our homes, buildings, factories and cars. We’re only trying to move the ball down the field!
Ben Schlesinger is President, Benjamin Schlesinger and Associates (BSA).
The United States Exported More Natural Gas Than It Imported In 2017
By Tom Russo
This marks the first time since 1957 that the US has been a natural gas exporter. Since January 2018, natural gas production increased from 72 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) to 78 Bcf/d. Most of the increased production is coming from the Marcellus/Utica shales in Appalachia and associated gas from crude oil production in the Permian and Eagle Ford shales in Texas as oil prices have increased.
US imports of natural gas from Canada actually decreased. At the same time, exports of pipeline gas to Mexico averaged 4.1 Bcf/d and liquefied natural gas exports averaged 3.1 Bcf/d from Cheniere’s Sabine Pass Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Export terminal on the US Gulf Coast. LNG exports from the new Cove Point Export terminal in Maryland have just begun. However, LNG exports may triple after four other LNG terminals become operational in 2019-2020.
The continued growth of US natural gas exports may be affected by NAFTA renegotiations and Mexico’s upcoming presidential election in July, especially if the newly elected president does not support the current energy sector reforms. LNG exports are also facing stiffer competition from solar, wind and electric storage projects as costs decline for these technologies. Finally, in some shale plays, the cost of water for hydraulic fracking and treatment/disposal of flowback water is driving up production costs.
Tom Russo is President, Russo on Energy LLC.
Economic Optimism and Energy Security
By Sarah Ladislaw
Economic optimism continues to stand in stark contrast with a precarious geopolitical landscape. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) now estimates that global output grew by 3.7% in 2017, faster than they believed earlier and forecasts for 2018 and 2019 have been revised upward by 0.2 percentage points to 3.9%. Positive economic signs rightly bring a degree of comfort given the political havoc that the financial crisis and economic downturn wreaked on countries around the world. If for no other reason, governments, investors, and corporations alike can breathe a small sigh of relief that efforts to boost growth and break the cycle of downturn has worked, to an extent. This optimism is tempered, however, by warnings that near-term growth is masking threats to longer-term sustainable economic growth and the heightened geopolitical risk environment.
This atmosphere pervades the energy sector as well. Right now, the near-term upbeat economic assessment is reflected in global oil markets with Brent crude oil prices nearing 70 dollars per barrel last month. After several punishing years of low oil prices, oil markets are closer to rebalancing thanks to a stronger economy, several years of lower investment and the emergence of a new alliance between OPEC and Russia to keep 1-1.5 million barrels per day of crude oil off the market. And yet while prices are higher and the worst of the price downturn appears to be behind us, the oil market price recovery is fragile and prices could easily fall again if the surge in U.S. tight oil production hits the highest production estimates or if the OPEC alliance falters, or the world suffers an economic shock to the downside.
And that’s just the downside price risk, which is a significant consideration for many countries that rely on oil to fund their governments and economies. There is upside price and energy security risk as well – physical infrastructure disruptions throughout the energy sector, economic shocks to the downside, cyber disruptions, and more. For several years now, low energy prices and technological advancements have obscured the potential threats to global energy security. The energy world should not become complacent about potential threats and should instead use this time to bolster resilience and devise new strategies and understanding for how to plan for continued energy security. The new U.S. administration should lead the international community in an assessment of its preparedness and ability to withstand these threats through policies that encourage fuel diversity, efficiency, and appropriate levels of strategic reserves.
Sarah Ladislaw is Director and Senior Fellow, Energy and National Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).