THE RENEWABLES CHALLENGE
There is a growing consensus and aspiration that we need to transition away from fossil fuels to reduce the impact of climate change.
Increasing the comparative level of renewable energy options in our energy mix is a key platform in the global effort to meet climate change imperatives. That said, renewables do have limitations that mean they will not be able to solely meet our shared energy demands in the decades to come.
Read More at PEPANZ
Renewable Energy is an important topic in the energy debate, and the interest is growing. Renewables like wind power and solar power have gained increased attention and all for the good. But an important thing to remember is that even renewable energy relies on oil and gas to exist!
Wind turbines use plastic and rubber parts, silicone and oil for the engines and gears and gas for the generators. Turbine blades themselves are sometimes filled with plastic foam.
Solar panels utilize oil and gas products like silicon, sylicone rubber, butyryl plastic, ethylene vinyl acetate and polyester.
In addition to all this, oil and gas power the trucks that deliver the huge wind turbines and blades as well as the solar panels to their destinations.
Geophysical surveys are often used to find the best placement for wind farms, especially offshore! Even the renewable energy world relies on oil and gas to exist.
Petroleum Lubricants Make Wind Power Possible
Wind power has been harnessed for decades, with the first windmill used in electricity production built in the late 1800s in Scotland. In recent years, the creation of wind farms, where hundreds to even thousands of turbines work collectively to generate electricity in an environmentally friendly fashion, has increased significantly. The United States is home to half of the world’s largest onshore wind farms, helping the wind industry to generate tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity.
Both the geophysical and the oil industries play important roles in the development of this green, clean and renewable energy. Geophysical surveys have proved essential in the planning stages for prospective wind farm sites, both onshore and offshore, allowing turbine foundations to be located and designed in the most appropriate and cost-effective way. They map the terrain and allow builders to make informed, intelligent decisions while completing ground models for perspective wind farm sites.
While the seismic industry helps in the planning and creation of these wind farms, the oil industry is essential to keeping the turbines running efficiently once they have been established. They rely daily on petroleum products to properly grease and lubricate generators, gearboxes and other parts mounted inside the turbines to keep the giant machines operating properly.
Obviously it takes wind to generate wind-powered electricity. Less obvious, however, is that it also takes the consistent presence of lubricants, which are derived from petroleum. While the massive blades and nacelles towering over a growing number of windswept expanses are the public face of the wind power industry, the lubricated gearboxes and generators, mounted deep inside those turbines are critical to commercial wind power. Without their complex mechanical interplay, wind turbines would grind to a halt. And so with global wind power capacity growing—it reached more than 432,000 megawatts by the end of 2015—so too does the need for petroleum-based gear lubricants.
This is another example of the importance of the oil and gas industry in the development and production of renewable energy. See more about the IAGC’s Industry Partner, ExxonMobil’s role in wind energy HERE.
Read the post on IAGC's GeoWire Blog.
New Projects to Make Geothermal Energy More Economically Attractive
California Energy Commission awards $2.7 million to Berkeley Lab for two geothermal projects
Geothermal energy, a clean, renewable source of energy produced by the heat of the earth, provides about 6 percent of California’s total power. That number could be much higher if associated costs were lower. Now scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have launched two California Energy Commission-funded projects aimed at making geothermal energy more cost-effective to deploy and operate.
“There is huge potential for geothermal energy in the U.S., and especially in California,” said Patrick Dobson, who leads Berkeley Lab’s Geothermal Systems program in the Energy Geosciences Division. “The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that conventional and unconventional geothermal resources in the western U.S. are equivalent to half of the current installed generation capacity of the U.S.; however, commercial development of these resources would require significant technological advances to lower the cost of geothermal deployment.”
The first project will test deployment of a dense array of seismic sensors to improve the ability to image where and how fluids are moving underground. The second project will develop and apply modeling tools to enable geothermal plants to safely run in flexible (or variable) production mode, allowing for better integration with other renewable energy sources. The California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program has awarded Berkeley Lab a total of $2.7 million for the two projects.
California is looking to geothermal energy to help in reaching its goal of getting half of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030. Geothermal plants are possible only in locations with particular geological characteristics, either near active volcanic centers or in places with a very high temperature gradient, such as parts of the western United States. Thanks to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” California has a vast amount of geothermal electricity generation capacity.
You Can't Have Offshore Wind Power Without Petroleum
The Block Island Wind farm’s launch late last year signified the United States’ official entry into the offshore wind industry. And while European countries have been generating electricity by spinning turbines offshore since 1991, the US is eager to catch up. The federal government has issued 11 commercial wind energy leases offshore and competitive lease sales are planned offshore the East, West and Hawaiian coasts this year. Offshore wind is attractive to many because it has the potential to generate considerable volumes of carbon-free energy that can help mitigate humanity’s climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions profile. And while generating clean power using offshore wind resources creates a net emissions reduction compared to burning fossil fuels for power generation, constructing, operating and maintaining offshore wind farms requires fleets of vessels that are powered by marine fuel. To be sure, wind power is a cleaner source of electricity generation than fossil-fueled power plants. With existing technology however, there is no way to construct offshore wind farms without petroleum.
Given the US is new to offshore wind, we need to look to Europe for fuel use estimates. Block Island Wind is comparatively small – only 30 megawatts (MW) of capacity. European wind farms are typically on the order of 500 MW and the Hornsea One Project being constructed offshore the UK – dubbed the world’s largest – will have over 1,200 MW of capacity.
The precise volume of fuel consumed when constructing and operating offshore wind farms significantly varies depending on vessel size, weather conditions, load, etc., but a jack-up vessel (used to install turbine foundations) uses approximately 2,640 gallons per day of marine fuel – or 63 barrels per day - according to guidance provided by consultancy BVG Associates. Constructing a 500 MW installation requires between 200 and 300 days of jack-up rig time, which means between 12,571 barrels (bbls) and 18,857 bbls of marine fuel consumed during construction. For comparison, Amtrak consumed about 1.6 million bbls of diesel fuel in 2014, according to the Bureau of Transportation statistics. So, the jack-up rig fuel requirements of building a 500 MW offshore wind farm account for 0.8% to 1.2% of the fuel annually consumed by Amtrak.
Read the full Forbes article.
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