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back to article Britain'll look like rural Albania without fracking – House of Lords report

The UK needs to get a move on and exploit its rich shale gas resources to avoid losing its energy intensive industries, the House of Lords' economics committee has reported. So far only tentative exploratory work to research the quality of the shale formations has taken place in the UK – and commercial exploitation appears to be …

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Unhappy

US gas 1/3 price of UK gas.

No doubt the Jades will cheer England's "Green & Pleasant Land" (TM applied for) as the bodies of hyperthermic OAP's pile up in the streets this (and every other) Winter.

Let's remember the UK has environmental legislation that was not emasculated by Shrubs pal Blur and there is effective (some would say over effective) monitoring.

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Re: US gas 1/3 price of UK gas.

US gas is cheap because in Texas alone they have literally thousands of oil wells.

10,000 of thousands cross the entire nation.

And few more thousands in the Gulf of Mexico.

Great Britain is, what, not quite as large as Texas. So there's your reason.

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Re: US gas 1/3 price of UK gas.

hyperthermic OAP's

Well if that's what'll be piling up in the streets why don't we use them for heat and power then? Given the state of our ageing population I can see a few crumbly-fired power stations being economically viable.

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Mushroom

Re: US gas 1/3 price of UK gas.

Kill 2 birds with one stone, it would also sort out the housing shortage while you are at it...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: US gas 1/3 price of UK gas.

Soylent Green - its warmth

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Re: US gas 1/3 price of UK gas.

Also, one thing that these reports never mention is that international trade agreements demand that all oil and gas be sold on the international markets where possible.

In the case of the US, they can't comply because luckily for them they don't have sufficient terminal capacity to export much of their shale gas. And this has led to a local glut of supply and subsequent price drop.

We however do have lots of spare export capacity, and so our shale gas would all go onto the international markets. Whilst this would lead to drop in the price, it wouldn't be anywhere on the scale of the one seen in the US.

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Re: US gas 1/3 price of UK gas.

>>"Well if that's what'll be piling up in the streets why don't we use them for heat and power then? Given the state of our ageing population I can see a few crumbly-fired power stations being economically viable."

I would say that is a very modest proposal.

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Pirate

Re: US gas 1/3 price of UK gas.

As the adult human body is ca 60% water it would probably need more energy to burn the hypothermised OAPs. I suppose you could leave them out to sun dry though but maybe there's not enough sun either.

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Re: US gas 1/3 price of UK gas.

Thumbs down for stating facts?

Interesting.

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Re: US gas 1/3 price of UK gas.

"Thumbs down for stating facts?"

I didn't downvote you, but I suggest that the thumbs down were probably for stating bollocks:

"10,000 of thousands cross the entire nation." I challenge you to prove there's millions of fracking sites in the US, or even globally.

Which is a pity, because behind the hyperbole, you've got a point that most fracking requires high vertical well densities that won't be feasible in areas of productive and/or expensive land like the UK. The green lobby are focusing on the spurious, sensational and untrue reasons for opposing fracking, the dull, pragmatic reasons would be more correct.

Ultimately the geology of the UK is also against fracking - most formations are far too heavily faulted to make the process cheap and effective. We can certainly do it, but nobody in the electricity or gas industry believes it will be cheap, nor available in sufficient volumes to offset security of supply concerns.

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Re: US gas 1/3 price of UK gas.

Make that over 4 Million onshore US wells...

over 35000 new wells drilled each year in 2012 and 2013... (baker hughes well count) By comparrison the UK has just over 2000 wells drilled in the UK onshore since 1902

We (as in Europe) don't have enough rigs to even contemplate a shale gas revolution yet. The huge land banks, rig numbers and experienced personnel are huge obstacles to progress. Added to which is an immensely challenging planning regime which causes huge delays, which is a problem given decline curves for shale gas wells are precipitous and require constant infill drilling.

The scale of the challenge is truly gigantic.

Anonymous coward as I work in the industry.

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If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

If blackouts are on the cards by 2015, no amount of pro-fracking hype is going to help as its mid-2014 now and it'll take a good few years to:

a) get permissions for exploratory wells in geologically suitable areas,

b) drill exploratory wells,

c) get sample data and analyse it,

d) if viable economically, attempt to get permissions and agreements for production wells,

e) if successful in d) build out infrastructure to support production wells (eg pipelines, distribution facilities, waste handling, etc),

f) drill production well sequence and start fracking.

Of course the extreme unconventional energy field a lot more than just fracking... you've also got Underground Coal Gasification and Coal Bed Methane proposals, all competing for time, resources and dwindling fossil fuel investment now that some big players are starting to divest from coal, oil and gas investments. We've dicked about so long over nuclear that its not going to have the first new reactor online until 2023 (just about ready to power HS2 in 2026!) and renewable build outs are constrained by cash, political power plays and the physics of low power densities.

Energy efficiency measures could have helped but again we've not been moving quickly enough on those as a nation. I think we'll probably find that those "accelerate" come the blackouts.

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Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

" I think we'll probably find that those "accelerate" come the blackouts."

You're on the money with the point that fracking will come too late. It will also come too little in the UK for geological reasons as well.

Some points of order/interests:

My colleagues in power generation think blackouts are more likely post 2017, and disagree with National Grid and OFGEM's assertion that the big risk is 2015/6. You can choose to believe whichever you want, but the important thing is we've not really bottomed out what modern day peak winter demand actually is.

The issue about bottoming out what winter peak demand is arises because we don't really know the cumulative effect of all those CFL's, all the dry to wet heating conversions in social housing, the de-industrialisation of the UK, the improvements in insulation through industry managed programmes (CERT, CESP, ECO etc), or the impact of rising prices on both demand and the economics of energy saving. Plus DECC hope that the forthcoming "capacity mechanism" will fill a lot of gaps, by essentially paying people to use available standby generation or to shed load on request.

In the short term, winter peak gas demand is easily met by contracting LNG in advance, and accepting there's a price premium - we've built the bloody gas terminals, so to talk of a lack of fracking as a cause for blackouts shows what a bunch of ill informed knobs the House of Lords are.

Ultimately, the fracking debate is purely about security of primary energy supply, not about short term power generation reliability ("LOLE - loss of load expectation"). The fundamental problem is that the obsession of politicians and bureaucrats with "climate change" means they make stupid, short sighted decisions. In Germany, that decision was to close down relatively modern, well run nuclear plants, in the UK it was to implemented the EU's Large Combustion Plant Directive in a manner that closed off many GW of coal capacity. And the great thing about coal, was that you could stockpile it in vast amounts, there's many global sources, and its cheap.

Your comment that "renewable build outs are constrained by cash, political power plays" is incorrect. The reality is that subsidies both open and hidden have supported the vast build out of wind and solar, and that the committed schemes for both will keep pushing your bills up until at least 2030, whilst making the threat of supply interruption worse (I spent all of today in a room full of industry colleagues, regulators and government policy makers, and these were the openly spoken baseline assumptions). Renewables are secure, in that we aren't beholden to other countries, but they aren't reliable because they can't be despatched (scheduled to run on demand), and when they do run you can't store the power, meaning that they destabilise the grid and the market.

I hope the tree huggers are pleased, they've got everything they asked for.

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Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

Probably.

Look on the bright side though, the reaction of the public when they realise that listening to the "no, you can't build any form of practical power generation" crowd was a bad idea when power cuts hits is going to be entertaining.

I'm sure that most of the people reading this have the wit to be able to get a couple of UPS's in, one on the lighting circuit and one on the TV/PC/whatever. Power cuts? Pfft. Only for users.

You'll probably be able to identify IT Professionals and electricians by who's got lights on during the power cuts.

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Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

Or to summerise.... we're most likely to be fucked.

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Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

What will ensure blackouts in 2015 is the dependancy on renewables. Wind turbines and solar don't work in the UK.

The wind blows somewhere in the UK - yes, but does that wind in that part of the UK blow hard enough to supply all the energy needs of the UK? No. Solar doesn't work in the UK purely because we are too high a latitude to make the solar efficiency worthwhile. Getting a few hundred watts from a solar or a few mega from turbines just doesn't keep the UK going.

And renewables can't keep gas boilers going. And gas cookers. Greenies have this simplistic view that all energy is electricity and switching to renewables in a few years is possible. Both so wrong that they obviously have their heads in the clouds. It'll take decades to turn all the gas boilers back into immersion heaters and replace all the gas cookers with electric. And then with the extra demand of electricity where will the renewables be? They have enough problem supplying a few percent of the electrical needs of the UK at the moment, how the hell can renewables supply 100%.

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Holmes

Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

You will also remember the Ron-Paul Doom Level Economic Crash which is increasingly looming over the near future horizon like real-life version of The Thing On the Doorstep.

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Re: If it's really 2015 @The Axe

"They have enough problem supplying a few percent of the electrical needs of the UK at the moment, how the hell can renewables supply 100%."

They can't, even the tree huggers know this, although DECC's ambition is for the UK to be a post gas, post petroleum economy by 2050. Unfortunately with all energy policy focused on CO2, you need to allow for more than just the electrification of heat that you mention - we've got government pushing the railways to adopt further electrification, and ambitions for widespread adoption of electric vehicles (DECC ambitions of 1m on UK roads by 2020, IIRC). And you need to factor in significant UK population growth largely due to uncontrolled immigration, and the energy demand in building new housing and infrastructure to serve this population growth.

All of these things need more generation capacity even as we close coal and gas plants (that's right, modern CCGT plants are being mothballed and closed because of the destabilising impact of renewables on wholesale power prices to thermal plant). Figures I've seen quoted suggest a need for a four-fold increase (ie replacement of existing assets is also required) in electricity generating capacity by 2050. The tree hugger endorsed forecasts reckon we'll only need double, but the bare numbers are that at present gas provides about 45 MTOE of power to heat, and transport energy demand is about 60 MTOE, current UK electricity supplied to end users is about 27 MTOE. There may be some benefits from smoothing peak demand, but my opinion is that at absolute best that reduces the need to "only" a three fold increment in power generation capacity, plus renewal of the plant being retired as we speak.

You're looking at a fleet of nukes (or fusion plants, or fairy dust generators) to generate around 240 GW. Hinkley Point is costing £5bn per GW, let's assume that economies of scale cut that by a third (!), and you've still got a need for £800bn of investment, before you start on the cost of new transmisson and distribution systems.

We do need to plan for a post fossil fuel world, and to eke out what we have. But the pell mell rush for renewables that cost a fortune and deliver so little is criminal incompetence on the part of EU and UK politicians. Just on current policies, UK power prices will keep increasing at 10% per annum every year until at least 2020, and given the costs mentioned above, may need to keep increasing at that rate until 2040, by which time half of GDP will be consumed by the energy sector.

Remember all this next time you hear that ghastly, ignorant, rubber faced twerp Milliband whining that high power prices are the fault of profiteering energy companies.

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Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

>Renewables are secure, in that we aren't beholden to other countries, but they aren't reliable because they can't be despatched (scheduled to run on demand), and when they do run you can't store the power, meaning that they destabilise the grid and the market.

Er - actually you can.

What you can't do in the UK is build sustainable storage. Because markets. And drip-feed levels of investment, maintained for decades, as a tiny, tiny fraction of the tax breaks and investment benefits given to Dirty Energy.

And because of industry bigots who don't want anything to do with that hippy shit.

Meanwhile countries like Germany - not exactly in the tropics - are finding that renewables are beating all expectations, and decent mixed mode schemes, combined with efficiency improvements, smart grids, and storage, mean blackouts are as unnecessary as fracking.

Were your colleagues the same ones who decided to reduce the UK's gas storage to the lowest percentage of demand of any European economy (except Belgium?)

Were they the ones who pissed away the money from North Sea oil on gambling instead of using it to expand the UK's energy infrastructure?

Are you counting the millions in fines clocked up the enercos over the last decade - imposed by a largely toothless regulator, no less - in your hand-wringing about the dreadful costs of green energy?

How about the cost of the free market tax? Even Newbwerry and Pollitt (1997), which is trotted out regularly as proof of the success of privatisation, admits that most of the benefits were a direct result of two cancelled power station projects, and without them electricity for residential consumers became more expensive - a trend which has continued, to no one's surprise. (Except yours, I guess.)

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Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

@ TheOtherHobbes

"Meanwhile countries like Germany - not exactly in the tropics - are finding that renewables are beating all expectations, and decent mixed mode schemes, combined with efficiency improvements, smart grids, and storage, mean blackouts are as unnecessary as fracking."

Isnt this the Germany which is having energy price problems because they have to pay subsidy to make renewables viable but then pay subsidy to keep fossil fuel plants open to actually generate some electricity?

The same Germany to shut down their nuclear because of Japan, to then pay a premium to buy nuclear energy from France?

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Re: If it's really 2015 @The Axe

"ghastly, ignorant, rubber faced twerp " is surely the phrase of the day.

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Re: If it's really 2015 @The Other Hobbes

"What you can't do in the UK is build sustainable storage. Because markets"

No, not because of markets, because of two things you don't understand: Technology, and economics.

You give me power from a wind turbine, and I can store it for a time. Either as electricity-to-gas, electricity-to-compressed-air or as electricity-to-heat. All three have very, very high capital costs (my employers have plant doing all three of these things), and all have high losses, either in the conversions from and to electricity (for gas, compressed air), or decay (stored heat). Likewise pumped hydro is technically feasible, but uneconomic. Your obviously much lamented CEGB built Dinorwig to store power, in a scheme that cost about £3bn at current prices, yet generates not a single kWh, it merely stores it from other expensive forms of generation, and throws a quarter to a third of it away in the process.

As for Germany, yet again you're talking out of your @rse. They've destroyed the profitability of thermal generation by subsidising renewables (a move that has put up German power bills by 30%, the highest state levies of any EU country). In summer they have an excess of renewables they try and export, but Poland (for example) has had install special interruptors on the cross border links to stop German renewables destabilising the Polish grid. Owners of thermal plant in Germany are looking to shut many GW of uneconomic plant, but that's now going to require yet more subsidy because on a cold still winters day there's neither renewable power to be had, nor any prospect of storage. Meanwhile the German government passed laws to try and stop uneconomic plant being decommissioned, as though they can reverse the laws of economics. Far from being a success, German power policy has been a huge and expensive failure, forcing up power costs for all consumers to transfer the money to a wealthy few (just like UK solar FiT), and when you include the German nuclear catastrophe, actually increasing the carbon intensity of German electricity.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

"My colleagues in power generation think blackouts are more likely post 2017, and disagree with National Grid and OFGEM's assertion that the big risk is 2015/6. You can choose to believe whichever you want, but the important thing is we've not really bottomed out what modern day peak winter demand actually is."

I'd be interested in hearing what makes them think Gridco are wrong, though I do agree that we no longer understand modern peak winter demand.

I'd also be interested in what industry insiders think the response to a short term excess of demand over supply, one which historically would have been just about manageable (eg comparable with the loss of a GW or more from Longannet and Sizewell in 2008), might be in winter of 2015.

Things I've noticed as an outsider:

Interruptible contracts used to be an emergency response measure - if the Grid loses a few GW of generation or transmission, the Grid kills a matching few GW of non-essential demand on a pre-agreed basis. As of Real Soon Now, afaict, those load shedding measures will be part of standard daily peak time operating practice (Short Term Operating Reserve?). So if there's a crisis at peak time, there seems to be no visible crisis response mechanism to quickly shed a few GW of demand.

"when [renewables] do run you can't store the power,"

There are plenty of storage options, both for storage of electricity and as storage before the alternator, but few of them are productised for volume use, because "the markets" haven't seen a reason to do so. Gridco have been talking about a few GW of HVDC to Norway for a decade or so; the technology is tried tested and proven, but market economics prevent it happening. Many others too.

Add to that the likelihood that brownouts no longer work as they used to as a demand management measure. Anything with a switched mode power supply uses just as much power as it did before the brownout, as does anything with a feedback control loop e.g. thermostats or motor control (thermostat demands power for longer periods, control system takes more current, etc), What's the response to voltage reductions in the modern world? If the brownout doesn't generate enough saving, then we're in the land of wide area rolling blackouts.

Wrap up warm, It's going to be interesting.

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Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

"They have enough problem supplying a few percent of the electrical needs of the UK at the moment, how the hell can renewables supply 100%."

Well it depends on what happens if the predicted crash happens, a possible outcome is for the UK population to dive to sub 5M... a level not seem since the 1600's. I think under these conditions renewables would be able to supply 100%...

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Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

I have a friend who has worked for 2 or 3 different shale companies as a planner, and all these steps;

> a) get permissions for exploratory wells in geologically suitable areas,

> b) drill exploratory wells,

> c) get sample data and analyse it,

> d) if viable economically, attempt to get permissions and agreements for production wells,

Are already in place for a huge number of sites. All they need is for someone at a large drilling company to push ahead and start piling the real money in and start drilling. This is something they are not willing to do in the current environment when the media and large parts of the government are against the concept, and they could have their licenses to frack revoked for political reasons.

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Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

"I'd be interested in hearing what makes them think Gridco are wrong, though I do agree that we no longer understand modern peak winter demand."

Differing assumptions and strategic plays. The point I was making was simply that there is no consistent view of when reserve margin becomes dangerously low. If we have a very cold winter next year, chances of a problem are much higher than if we have mild winter. If all the LCPD plant is permanently closed we have a bigger problem than if a few are mothballed with government prepared to claim a derogoation against the LCPD rules. etc etc. DECC claim to have wargamed things like plant closures, weather conditions, system demand responses - eg DNO's have a list of companies they can ask to turn the wick down, or go to standby, but AFAIK the system has never been tested in practice. You can choose to trust them or not as you see fit.

"There are plenty of storage options, both for storage of electricity and as storage before the alternator, but few of them are productised for volume use, because "the markets" haven't seen a reason to do so."

That's because it is more economic to build a new plant with low utilisation (eg OCGT) than to piffle around with far more expensive storage. Capex for gas OCGT would cost about £250m/GW, whereas pumped storage would be about £2-4bn/GW. That, sonny Jim, is a market in action. Of course, if you want to pay but think the market isn't giving you a gold plated solution that you want, then form your own supplier, and recruit people wanting to pay four times current electricity prices - I don't think you'll get a very long queue. There's also a world of difference between the sort of short term balancing services that storage can provide (sometimes very well) and the medium term need to cover seasonal types of variation in demand and supply or more protracted loss of load scenarios.

"Add to that the likelihood that brownouts no longer work as they used to as a demand management measure. "

Lucky you're so well informed. Maybe you'd better tell the DNO's, DECC, OFGEM and National Grid, because when I was with them the other day talking about this very topic, they were adamant that voltage control has been successfully tested as a means of demand management, continues to work, and will continue to work. I suspect you've ignoring the importance of simple loads (primarily heat and light) that are major components of peak demand.

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Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

How odd to point to Germany as an example to follow:

"German Brown Coal Power Output Hits New High"

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/researchers-alarmed-at-rise-in-german-brown-coal-power-output-a-942216.html

They closed down their nukes because nobody died in Fukushima, and instead, urged by the spectre of Putin's hands on the gas tap next winter, are relying ever more heavily on one of the most polluting forms of fossil fuel there is.

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Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

>if viable economically

I suspect that many are also waiting for market conditions and prices to be favourable. Certainly no one wants a repeat of the US situation where a load of fracked output comes on to the market and causes prices (and margins) to dramatically fall.

I would not be surprised to find that the US price drop has greatly slowed the expansion of production in the US - but not necessarily exploratory wells.

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@ Ledswinger

How difficult would it be to bring the mothballed coal plants back online?

Or are they actually tearing down the facilities?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

"voltage control has been successfully tested as a means of demand management, continues to work, and will continue to work."

I'd love to see the evidence. Any commercial or residential site I visit, most significant modern equipment I see, there's no chance of voltage-based control doing anything significant. *Specific* non-handwaving significant contrary examples welcome (besides tungsten lighting, obviously).

"I suspect you've ignoring the importance of simple loads (primarily heat and light) that are major components of peak demand."

Maybe.

I notice you've ignored the question about reduction in system margins, ie interruptible contracts becoming routine daily measures instead of crisis measures (and therefore how do we manage in a genuine crisis). There's also the underlying question about why we will *need* to use the former crisis management measures on a daily basis.

"Lucky you're so well informed ... tell the DNO's, DECC, OFGEM and National Grid,"

If they're anything like the place where I used to work, the senior management simply don't want to hear the well-informed engineering reality, which leads to rather odd decisions being made, and rather odd claims being made, in order for the salary continuation plans to remain effective.

"Capex for gas OCGT would cost about £250m/GW, whereas pumped storage would be about £2-4bn/GW."

That's capex. Other factors also apply.

OCGT lifetime: till the gas becomes unaffordable (two decades?).

OCGT cost of input: cost of gas.

Pumped storage lifetime: multiple decades (five seems easily achievable).

Pumped storage cost of input: should be negative in principle, for system balancing reasons. (Same arguably applies to other storage technologies).

Have a nice warm weekend.

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Re: @ Tom 13

"How difficult would it be to bring the mothballed coal plants back online?"

Not very, if you actually mothball the plant (ie turn it off, and keep it clean, maintained and secure). Mothballing coal plant is more difficult than gas, because it's bigger and mechanically more complex, but it can be done. Note that mothballing involves maintenance and security costs, and usually you have to keep paying the staff otherwise you lose the skills.

Or are they actually tearing down the facilities?

Mostly yes. Not in a hurry, but they aren't mothballing, so recommissioning would be very difficult. There's time yet, because not all LCPD closures have gone through, but I've seen no evidence that any coal plant is being mothballed.

Note that we did have a considerable excess of generation capacity, far more than we needed, so some of the closures have little effect. The problem is we're getting to the point where reserve margin is too narrow, and when it gets to zero, you are reliant on everything running full chat when you really need it. Given that something somewhere will break at an inopportune moment, or a nuke plant will have to go offline for refuelling or a statutory inspection, it is accepted that 15% is a decent reserve margin, 6% is critically low. I think we're about 10% at the moment, with more closures coming.

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Re: @ Tom 13

So effectively very difficult.

Sounds like they should put a hold on the LCPD closures and either keep them running or at least mothballed for two or three years while they work out a better transition plan. Not that they will. I get that the money problem is real, not just greed. It just strikes me that you do what you have to to keep the power up and running, and coal is what you still have.

Thanks!

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Boffin

Re: AC Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

".... we're most likely to be fucked." I don't think so, I would suggest it will be more of a case that we will simply have painfully high gas and electricity bills, which will have a negative affect on competitiveness. There is plenty of gas (and coal) available on the international market, it's just the moronic energy policy of the last dozen years -especially the fixation with 'green' renewables - will have made them stupidly expensive compared to the option we should have chosen decades ago - more nucleur power stations. The Germans are already seeing this, having to recommission coal-fired power stations, and the most polluting type of coal too (lignite), to replace their nukes decom'd by Merkel. The big irony is that Merkel's publicity stunt over nukes will actually worsen Germany's power position AND screw their CO2 target drive. But it buys her votes with the tree-huggers (and the open-cast coal miners). This article seems to have escaped the eyes of the BBC's green-eyed censors - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-26820405

There is a half-joke doing the rounds that the Royal Navy only wants new nuke subs so that they can park the ones not on patrol up by a pier and sell the spare electricity onto the grid, thus earning enough cash to fund the new carriers! Joking aside, nuke power is still probably our only way of guaranteeing UK energy independence, even if we have to buy the actual design and building capability from abroad.

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German nukes

Much of Germany's nuclear fleet is still in operation, actually. Some of the oldest plants were shut down promptly after 2011/03/11, the rest are on schedule to close over the next few years with the last one, if I remember correctly, closing in 2023. They're a convenient cash cow for the German government who tax refuelling operations, part of a deal/bribe made pre-Fukushima to allow the nuclear plants to keep operating in the face of Green opposition. The money raised with this extra fuel tax goes towards funding renewables and coal-fired plants which can be classed as "renewable" as long as they can also burn biomass.

The result of the fuelling tax is that at least one nuclear plant is shutting down early as it would only be allowed to operate for a part of its next fuel cycle before it reached its legal "end of life" and the extra tax costs make that uneconomic.

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Re: how the hell can renewables supply 100%.

They can't

Our network cant take it

in my patch (I could tell you where it is, but i'd have to kill you) we have already saturated the 11kV and 33kV networks with renewables* - mostly solar (hmmm so it must be sunny where i live) and even a piddling little 30MVA subsidy farm needs to connect to the 132kV network! And that is rapidly filling up - this also gives a clue as to the massive levels of subsidy available - a 132kV substation is an order of magnitude more expensive to build than a 33 or 11, yet they dont bat an eyelid when we tell em it's coing to cost an extra couple of million for the cable and the sub!. As a DNO we can't refuse a connection to a subsidy farmer if we have the capacity, NGT can, so there wont be any 400kV connections :D so short of building their own Bulk Supply Points they have nowhere to go.

Assume a connection to a feeder can supply 50MVA that means you cant squirt more than 50MVA backwards through the transformer (well not more than once - cos it will catch fire), so if demand from the other customers on the feeder is zero or very low you cant have more than 50MVA's worth of generation on that feeder - that is pewtty much where we are for the 11 & 33kV networks. And the few schemes I have seen where output from the generator is controlled by the network operator have been a nightmare and incedibly expensive to implememnt - but thats ok, because we all pay for the added complexity not the farmer.

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FAIL

Re: If it's really 2015 we're stuffed no matter what happens...

SO let me get this straight.

WE build renewables at 2-3 times the cost of dispatchable power and then add another 100% on top to provide the dispatch.

Is that a solutin?

Green solution: an abject fail that simply hasn't had enough taxpayers money thrown at it.

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Re: If it's really 2015 @The Other Hobbes

Quote "You give me power from a wind turbine, and I can store it for a time. Either as electricity-to-gas, electricity-to-compressed-air or as electricity-to-heat."

Err... You missed the lowest capital cost, highest power density and easiest for UK to build.

Energy to water gradient. Take a dredger, pump out a rectangle shaped damb in the wash, stick a pump/turbine unit on one end, hook up to the existing wind farm grid, move a mile, do another one, and another one, and another one. You can make them double-up as tidal too.

As usually - designed by the Dutch and they intend to start building them in half a decade or so (they also have excess wind power to store).

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Trollface

long live fracking

The benefits of fracking are awesome (long live American energy independence) as long as its not in your backyard. The air pollution from the extra traffic and fracking itself and possible problems from mom and pop operators who cut corners at least is largely localized as for the most part as are the many minor earthquakes caused by it. Luckily here in the states we do it in places nobody in there right mind would want to live like Arkansas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, etc so its a total win win as long as you are not a hillbilly/redneck. But then again they need the jobs anyway.

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Re: long live fracking

The USA has not had energy independence since 1948, and it never will again, until it resembles Albania. (Which may happen sooner than many expect...)

US NG storage fell to a 30 year low this spring after a cold winter, rising NG demand and flat supply.

The US shale gas boom is well and truly bust. Prices are rising and there is a real risk of NG shortages if next winter is as cold, because current production is not high enough to refill storage before autumn and 3/4 of the drilling rigs have been redeployed to drill for oil.

The jack rabbit 'drill baby drill' rampant capitalism of the US has once again shot itself in the foot, leading to glut and dearth, and major investors are going to lose megabucks on shale gas (and later shale oil).

Of course, long term, planned development of both energy sources and electricity generating capacity means that our highly regulated energy market is humming along just fine.

Oh dear.

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Unhappy

A new Dark Ages?

Or an Idiocracy?

The future looks rather bleak for anything good to happen, one way or another.

TGIF tomorrow...

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2015? It's already too late then.

Currently, the fracking being done in the UK is for exploration rather than commercial exploitation. Assuming that the exploratory wells confirm what we think we already know, commercialising those wells will take longer than 2015/16.

The amount of shale gas in the UK is tiny- what we think is there could sustain our energy needs for a few years, nothing more. The real reason the UK government is so keen is because it would see much of the revenue from what came out the ground in the form of tax.

Furthermore, the upcoming power cut issue is more to do with plants (mostly the older coal-fired plants)being decommissioned before new, cleaner, plants take their place (we prevaricated over what to build for too long), not to do with running out of gas. Car crash it may be, but it's not one we can frack our way out of.

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Re: 2015? It's already too late then.

Wow that sucks. The USA has more than its fair share of problems but having more natural resources than all of Western Europe has its advantages. Not to mention our buddies to the north having even more.

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Unhappy

Re: 2015? It's already too late then.

"The amount of shale gas in the UK is tiny- what we think is there could sustain our energy needs for a few years, nothing more. The real reason the UK government is so keen is because it would see much of the revenue from what came out the ground in the form of tax."

IIRC the figure from the BGS is about 40 years.

Do you know what you're talking about?

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Re: 2015? It's already too late then.

"We" didn't prevaricate. Gordon Brown prevaricated, because avoiding hard decisions was what he did best. It's hard to decide which of Labour's monumental failings was their lowest moment - mass immigration to shift the voting balance, energy security, the Iraq war or the banking bailout.

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@John Smith 19

I should clarify here, and also apologise for being less than clear before.

My understanding is that the 40 year figure relates to our *current* level of gas demand, i.e. the gas that we currently use. The government has suggested that we should be getting more of our energy from gas and less from other sources. Gas is currently around 30% of our current electricity usage- this proportion is only going to increase as it replaces coal and nuclear. Also, if electric cars (and other technologies that use electricity rather than combustion) take off, more of our energy usage will come from the grid. I think it's clear that we will be using much more gas than we currently are if the government gets its way, meaning that what's in the ground won't last anything like 40 years.

When I say "a few" years, I mean "less than the life expectancy of a power station". A power station is built to last for up to 40 years- I don't think that the shale gas will last this long in the circumstances, even if we do manage to get as much of it out the ground as the most optimistic report published so far suggests we could.

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Is'nt

the house of lords usually stuffed with the ex-politicians who 10-15 yrs ago were running the country?

You know, the same pillocks who were told in 2005 we need to be really cracking on with building either nuclear or gas power stations ready for 2015 ....

Wheres the blackout icon?

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Re: Is'nt

>>"You know, the same pillocks who were told in 2005 we need to be really cracking on with building either nuclear or gas power stations ready for 2015 ...."

They were told by experts we needed to build nuclear or invest in clean gas-power stattions. But they were told by very vocal sections of the public not to.

Sometimes politicians are short-sighted because they're beyond their expertise. Sometimes they're short-sighted because they're greedy and want payoffs for their friends. But sometimes they're short-sighted because we threaten to kick them out of office for doing something unpopular.

Regards nuclear and CO2, the latter is a pretty big factor, sadly.

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Two words

New clear.

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register of interests?

It would be really useful if authors of this sort of article made the effort to include any possible conflicts of interest among the proponents.

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Anonymous Coward

Pioneers and Indians

You might want to wait a couple of years before you rush into fracking the way we have here in the US. Just the rate at which the rig count has risen, all while the cost of natural gas has dropped, tells me there's a whole lot of "get that hole in the ground before someone makes us stop" going on right now.

Fresh water: It's the new oil.

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