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let's get real about the future of electricty in Australia

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by ibast, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. OK I need to rant.

    To lay the cards on the table I have to let you know I work in the power industry. Despite this I consider myself a relatively green individual. I believe in global warming and the greenhouse effect and I think we are running out of oportunity to do something about it.

    But we need to be realistic about it. Basically our 5 most populace states all need to install 1 large coal fired power station in the next few years and NSW needs to install 2. And that's even if we explore alternative energies such as solar, wind, geothermal etc and we maintian our existing plant (something that is not being done).

    If we don't pursue those alternatives, you can double the number of stations mentioned above.

    We are seriously a peak season or two away from experiencing brown-outs in this country. the problem is it take up to 10 years to build a coal fired power station.

    See why I'm frustrated?

    Then I read this article today:


    Coal seam methane has virtually zero negative environmental impact, despite what this article is saying. In fact it has positive greenhouse effects in that it turn methane into CO2 which is less harmful to the environment. The truth is the the green group is really a handful of misinformed NIMBYs that live in the area.

    don't get me wrong. Wollombi is one of a few special places in Australia (my family comes from the other side of the range), but extracting Methane from coal seems should have next to no effect on the area.

    NSW should collectively tell this mob to "bite me" and get on with it.
  2. hmm, I'm confused.., the methane is in the ground?

    I agree with the sentiment, but not sure about taking something from theground, putting it in the atmosphere and calling it "less harmful" :)

    other than that, rant away
  3. I concure.
    Methane under ground and methaine (or CO2) released into the atmosphere are very diferent things.
  4. wasn't my strongest point but, 2 things to consider:

    firstly it has to stay there for it never to have an effect. the massive coal seem under the Sydney basin is largely interlinked. this means the methane often finds it's way out during mining operations anyway. even if it's in a completely different area it will eventually (very long term) just be flared under current arrangements.

    Secondly it's converted to energy. The alternatives are . . . .
  5. We need to get our A into G on sequestration - and to be fair, we already are. We have heaps of coal, and will need to use it unless we all rebuild every house in Oz for energy efficiency, so if we could sequester the CO2 output from power stations we'd be good to go. Quicker and cheaper than nuclear, too.
  6. Go nuclear.

  7. Well, I doubt if we'll ever get the full story from a newspaper article :evil: .

    I'm dimly aware of the potential for coal-seam methane as an energy source as I once designed some genset packages for a mine in NSW who were going to run them on their own, on-site gas. Apparently it's quite common.

    However, I'd want to know more about its extraction on a major, commercial scale before forming an opinion on this proposal. I suppose my main question, following on from Russ and F-L, would be, what is the natural rate of leakage of this methane into the atmosphere? I assume that there will be some. If the likely environmental effects of this leaked methane exceed those of the CO2 resulting from its extraction and use as a fuel in a generating plant, obviously we have a net improvement in terms of greenhouse gases. It goes without saying that you've got to look at the greenhouse gases resulting from construction, decommissioning, transportation etc. as well.

    That, of course, also ignores the potential detriment to the amenity of the area. As I don't know exactly what is involved in terms of plant and infrastructure, I can't comment there either.

    By the way, here in WA we've actually had what appear to be rolling blackouts for several summers now, although it's denied on an official basis. I just find it a bit coincidental how the power always goes off in particular areas at times of peak demand. Then again, maybe it's just crap, worn out infrastructure. So that's all right then :p .
  8. This winter you had the gas explosion and a steam turbine go down over there. It's a good example of how close to the wind we are sailing. You guys are building a significant coal fired plant over there that should be in commissioning by the end of the year. and your trying to get another back on line.

    so at least your government is doing something about it. In NSW and Victoria it's real head in the sand stuff.
  9. We need one, possibly two, new coal fires power stations here in Vic just to allow for future growth and for failures.

    We have heaps of coal in the ground, the seam they are mining in the Latrobe Valley from what I believe runs all the way to Bacchus Marsh in the west so we have enough to last us a long time.

    Yes it has emission issues but realistically solar panels just aren't good enough and with our current lack of water and lack of new dams hydro isn't really an option either.

    I still haven't seen enough proof that Global Warming is a real problem and have been around long enough to have seen this sort of thing bandied around every few years (remember acid rain in the late 70's).

    The whole carbon credit thing was created to make money for banks and other groups and screw over we the end users once again.
  10. NSW is broke. It, well, certain members of NSW's government are trying to flog off the generating and retail arms. Here in Vic we've sold everything. No private investor wants to build anything that can't recoup the capital outlay ten minutes after the plant starts generating.

    We have one power station, Hazelwood that by rights should have been shut down in 1995. But it was sold to an overseas investor which has been struggling with it ever since.

    Now, if the ETS comes into effect in 2010 then the imposte upon the private generators will be significant. So much so that probably two of our stations will close down because of it.

    Two weeks ago we had an incident where generating capacity was restricted from two power stations because of HV transmission line outages. Power prices went to maximum ($10,000 MW/hr). Now, the lost generation was equivalent to one of these stations closing. Double that effect for the second one, and you'd see very real long term power restrictions, and retailers having to more than double their tariffs just to break even.

    The last power station to be built (I'm not talking about pissy, highly inefficient gas fired peaking plant) was Loy Yang "B". It was intended to be a 4 unit 2000MW station. But the government, being broke only built the first two units. Had the second two been built we would have had a nice buffer. But it didn't and we don't.

    There's talk of that station even being shut down within the next 10 to 12 years. And it's the most modern and efficient of all the coal fired plant that we have.

    So folks, when carbon trading or whatever you want to call it, comes in, be prepared to forgo using your plasmas, your split system A/C and during winter, your gas fired central heating systems. Because the replacement generation will be sucking our limited gas fields dry and domestic consumers will have their usage curtailed.

    It's already happened once, last year, but for a short period, as the gas stations around the state slurped more gas in an hour than the entire state's domestic consumers would use in 30 years.

    And I kid you not.

    Bass Strait, 12 years ago had 80 years' worth of gas. Current estimates have it around 10-20 years based on currently developed fields and a couple of new ones that are set to go into production soon. This is because of the unprecedented demand that industry has had on gas supplies, as well as an evergrowing and expanding urban population and the proliferation of gas fired power stations (Jeeralang, Newport, Avalon, Bairnsdale, Valley Power and Mortlake in the west).

    Oh, this is for Victoria. I dunno what they have in NSW, QLD or elsewhere.
  11. Although I think it will be a good thing for the power industry. It will make providers make plants more efficient and put pressure on them to build more efficient modern ones.

    less emissions for the same power output is the assumed equations but the same emission for more power is a better one and most of the plants are in a position to go after the latter.
  12. In NSW we are installing a Gas Turbine station that was proposed as peaking. But evertime someone talks about it in the press it seems to get more relied upon.

    Gas (In HRSG form) can be more efficient than coal, but the problem is if we all start to rely on it then the price goes up and (as noted above) the supply dwindles, and prices go up.
  13. No, bacchus is a seperate seam. It's not as good quality as the three seperate seams in the LV.

    No doubt the next Vic powerstation will be a PPP.

    Sobering topic of conversation.
  14. I doubt that any private investor will want to spend the dough. Otherwise we would have seen a couple of more stations being built here, or at the least, LYB being finished.

    Where LYB's second units were to be built, a company, HRL (Herman Research Lab) a former subsidiary of the defunct SECV is supposedly going to build a "clean coal technology" station of around 450MW. It's being funded from private money and subsidies from the federal and state governments. No-one knows now if it's going ahead because of ETS.

    Certainly, no-one in its right mind will fork out the ten or so billion that will be required to build a station to replace the likes of Hazelwood and Yallourn, particularly in the current global economic climate and with all this greenhouse stuff going on.

    And our stations are too old to retrofit. They really need tearing down and starting again, something that they were looking at doing with Hazelwood. But now that's up in the air. The CEO of International Power, owners of Hazelwood, Loy Yang B and Simply Energy, along with plant in SA and elsewhere estimated that ETS would cost something along the lines of $300million annually. That would wipe out its profits.

    Hey, they start shutting stations down because of this and it goes into an election year, people who voted Labor in on a "green" platform will vote 'em out quicker than you can say "blackout".

    Anyway, I'm off to the pub. Got a sendoff and I aim to get plastered...

    Ps. what do you do in the industry?
  15. +1 :grin:
  16. +2.
    It is an excellent short term solution, and we have tonnes of the stuff.
    Pollution? Sure, there is pollution from the stuff in the ground too, I say, use it and then rebury it where you found it. There is also pollution from coal and gas, but it's politically correct pollution.......
    Modern reactors are getting extremely efficient and the safety is way higher than the old plants.
    And gas, we have more natural gas than we can sell, can we just use it please??
    I am old enough to remember brown outs in the 70's in Sydney, they were the norm for several summers.
    It seems to me this is a continuous cycle, let infrastructure decline, spend mega dollars to get slightly ahead of demand again, then struggle to cope for another 20 years.
    It is time for governments to fcuking lead (which they are elected to do) and BUILD INFRASTRUCTURE with our tax dollars, instead of pissing it up the wall with studies, workgroups, junkets to China, olympic stadiums etc.
    And fcuk teh fcuking greenies, we need dams built NOW or we will become a third world country. Don't like it? fcuk off to Bolivia and live in teh forest!

    Regards, Andrew.
  17. +3 You're certainly right about their being no shortage of the stuff in the ground - the only limitation is stupid Government regulations about the number of Uranium mines that are allowed to operate in the country at any given time.
    Install a reactor somewhere around Kalgoorlie, reduce the cost of mining, produce metals at their source rather than shipping them to cheap power in Victoria or sending concentrate to Japan to be refined using cheap power generated by cheap Australian gas. Then encourage other industries to also move to where the cheap power, and raw materials, are located.
    Domestic power consumption is insignificant compared to power consumption by industry - particularly the metals industry. Move the power stations closer to the main consumers and you reduce the large amounts of power wasted to transmission losses.
  18. Ain't got any of them, so bring it on :grin: .
  19. Pigs Arse - Nuclear solves the problem short term, but the waste is a big problem with still no solution. The USA is getting rid of it as depleted uranium in there weapons in Iraq, which again in the long term will make land mines look as friendly as stuffed toys!