The first global “green” energy crisis is not the last!

Here we are sinking in the next energy crisis. This time it will be ”green”.  Gas prices are rising like cryptocurrencies, oil has exceeded levels unseen since 2018. How will it end? And most importantly – when?

Georgy Bovt
candidate of historical sciences, political scientist

What is happening these days and weeks in Europe? Off-scale gas prices (some ten days ago, some doubted whether they would surpass $ 1,000 per thousand cubic meters, and on October 6 they came close to 2,000). And ill-considered, hasty abandonment of traditional forms of energy in favor of green energy.

Coal prices, by the way, are also hitting records. In some countries (in the UK, for example) they are even thinking about the reopening of coal mines. China also made a significant contribution to the rise in coal prices by banning the export of coal to one of its largest producers. They themselves, they say, do not have enough.

Energy companies are a big winners. The value of shares of the Gazprom is breaking records. Together with the oil industry, it pulls the entire domestic (Russian) stock market with it. The question is how long this feast will last during the coronavirus plague. The 30-fold increase in the gas price compared to May 2020 can hardly be called normal. Even taking into account the fact that in this case we are talking about futures, and the growth of the real price is much less. It is still very significant, and cannot pass without leaving a trace for the rest of the economy.

I must say that the European Union itself planted this bomb when, quite recently, it began to demand that the market switch to short-term contracts, which are obviously more volatile. Most recently, this has been superimposed on such a purely technical exchange factor as massive margin calls at hedge funds. Those who decided to play “bears”, believing that prices simply have nowhere to rise higher, were cruelly mistaken. For tens of billions of dollars. 

Preconditions for this crysis were formed back in the northern summer

The preconditions for the market acceleration were formed back in the summer. It turned out to be unusually hot increasing, in particular, the demand for electricity air conditioners. This was superimposed on a sharp increase in demand from China. It was the first to emerge from the coronavirus economic torpor. Already in the summer, the main supplies of LNG were switched to Southeast Asia. Some in the EU considered it important to counter “gas dependence on Russia.” The reduction in supplies to Europe reached 20%. These volumes were not replenished by anyone, including the Americans, who previously praised their LNG as a means of liberation from the “energy diktat of Moscow.” Americans (and everyone else) could not resist big price increase in Asia.

It is also worth noting that Europe’s own gas production continued to decline. This happened due to the depletion of explored deposits and against the background of the refusal to develop new ones for the sake of the “green energy transition”. That resulting in reduction and then a complete cessation of such investments. 

Who they will blame?

Gazprom made its own small contribution. It has never booked additional volumes of supplies through Ukraine this year. Everything is clear according to the letter of the 2019 transit agreement with the Ukrainian Naftogaz. Strictly speaking, Gazprom was not obliged to do this. A contract is a contract: business, nothing personal. Also, the Russian gas monopoly short-term cut by 10% in August supplies through the Yamal-Europe pipeline and stopped selling gas through the electronic trading platform for a year in advance. It should be noted that gas supplies from Russia to Europe in January-June increased by 17 billion cubic meters compared to the same period last year. By the end of September the increase was already 18 billion cubic meters – while other suppliers did not increase exports. So Gazprom did not violate any obligations.

However, the inevitable search for the “extreme” in such a situation may force some in the West to again “blame” Moscow. . And also China, which buys up everything on the market with a vacuum cleaner. Not America, which, although it did not fulfill its promises, but they were not contracted. . And you certainly cannot blame those who do not want to abandon the provisions of the Third Energy Package (EU). According to that Gazprom will not be able to use more than half of the pipe’s (Nord Stream 2) capacity. Yet for the sake of life-giving competition!

The short-term consequences of the energy crisis are quite predictable. This is, firstly, the surge in inflation around the world, which is already pumped up by trillions of emissions of dollars, euros and yen, committed to support economies (and stock markets) in the midst of a pandemic.

Transition to “green energy” will be long and expensive

A number of countries have started talking about rationalizing energy supplies. China has actually started to do this. And his example is very revealing and clearly demonstrates that the transition to “green energy” will be difficult, long and expensive.

Power generation in China is more than 70% dependent on coal. It is the dirtiest source of energy in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. However it is one of the cheapest. The CCP has set a goal of achieving a carbon neutral economy by 2060 – ten years after the European Union. Well, once the party (CCP) has set a goal, it must be fulfilled. Investment in the coal industry is falling and so is production. So far, it has not been possible to fill the shortage with renewable energy.

The example of China and Europe suggests that all of this is just the beginning of a long journey towards green energy. The current crisis can rightfully be called the First World Crisis of the Green Transition. And such excesses will repeat and grow. The process will continue not for years, but for decades. Energy systems – at least temporarily, until the right balance is found – are becoming more vulnerable, not more resilient (including to the vagaries of the weather). And it will be very difficult to find and maintain this balance.

Where will electricity come from?

Only one conversion of road transport to electricity will lead to an increase in demand for it by 20-30%. Where will it come from? How difficult will this very “energy transition” be made by growing inflation (as a consequence of the general rise in energy prices) in combination with increased price volatility? Nobody knows yet. That is, with a high probability, the “energy transition” will be accompanied not by economic growth, but by an economic recession or stagnation against the background of shocks in certain sectors of the economy.

Spurred on by loud political slogans (and the corresponding actions of state regulators), investors are heavily investing in “renewable energy”. That is certainly good thing but they are stopping investing in traditional ones.  Wind and solar electricity must be stored somewhere, it is not coal, which can be taken out of the ground as needed. This means that huge storage capacities are needed. 

In business, this is called unpredictability. And it costs money. The technological solution to this problem takes time – and also money. Until recently, a model worked in Europe. Gas generation served as insurance for renewable energy. However, insurance does not work properly in the face of such a sharp rise in prices.

Of course, the scale of the catastrophe that happened should not be exaggerated. And all the more, you shouldn’t bury the “green energy”. At stake is survival on planet Earth and preservation of its climate in a form acceptable to the human race. As the current crisis is overcome, new long-term solutions will be found. 

The Russian nuclear industry to switch to the development of new civilian power reactors

The license of Rostekhnadzor for the creation of the BREST-OD-300 power unit was issued to the Siberian Chemical Combine of Rosatom (Siberian Chemical Combine, Seversk, Tomsk Region)

Aleksandr Uvarov, editor-in-chief of the information portal on nuclear energy AtomInfo.ru, told RIA Novosti that “Construction of a new reactor is starting in Russia and thus a new,“ land ”direction of reactors with heavy metal coolant is being opened, which is still nowhere in civil nuclear power. has not been mastered in the world ”   He recalled that Russia is the only country with successful experience in operating heavy-metal cooled reactors used on a number of Soviet nuclear submarines.

The power unit with an installed electric capacity of 300 MW with the BREST-OD-300 reactor should become the key object of the experimental demonstration energy complex (ODEC), which is being built at the SGChK site within the framework of the strategic industrial project “Breakthrough”   In addition to the power unit, the ODEC includes a complex for the production of mixed uranium-plutonium nitride nuclear fuel for the BREST-OD-300 reactor, as well as a complex for the reprocessing of spent fuel.

The complex will make it possible to create a closed on-site nuclear fuel cycle, which will make it possible not only to generate electricity, but also to prepare new fuel from the fuel discharged from the reactor core. Earlier it was reported that the launch of the BREST-OD-300 reactor is scheduled for 2026. The BREST-OD-300 reactor is intended for practical confirmation of the main technical solutions laid down in lead-cooled reactor plants in a closed nuclear fuel cycle, and the main provisions of the inherent safety concept on which these decisions are based.

The features of the reactor make it possible to abandon large volumes of containment, a melt trap, a large volume of support systems, and also to reduce the safety class of non-reactor equipment.   Lead coolant has a number of advantages. First, it slows down neutrons a little, which is fundamentally important for the operation of “fast” reactors. In addition, lead has a high boiling point (about 1.8 thousand degrees Celsius), it is chemically inert in contact with water and air, and does not require high pressure in the coolant circuit.  

The combination of the properties of a heavy lead coolant and dense heat-conducting nitride fuel creates conditions for achieving full reproduction of nuclear “fuel” and excludes the most severe accidents – with an uncontrolled increase in power (as in Chernobyl) and loss of heat removal from the reactor core (as in Fukushima). This is the essence of the natural safety of the BREST-OD-300 reactor.   The integral design of the reactor plant makes it possible to localize coolant leaks in the reactor vessel volume and to exclude the dehydration of the core.

This excludes accidents requiring the evacuation of the population, and this actually means that the radiation safety of the environment is guaranteed not by technical means and methods, but by the very absence of activity above the already existing natural levels.

Vietnam’s vast wind power potential

A giant wind-farm off the south coast is one of more than 150 wind power projects planned in Vietnam; the 1GW Vinh Phong project will be funded by a Russian-Belgian JV, but Hanoi needs to improve its clunky electricity grid so renewable projects can be fully incorporated in coming years

(AF) A plethora of international players are beating a path to Vietnam to take part in its renewables ramp-up – the largest in Southeast Asia – which includes both solar and onshore wind and now even an offshore wind project development.

The most recent to show interest includes Russian state-owned oil and gas producer Zarubezhneft and Belgian marine contractor DEME Offshore.

The two signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to build the proposed Vinh Phong project. It is a 1-gigawatt (GW) offshore wind farm proposal with a cost of $3.2 billion. Vinh Phong is located in southern Vietnam, northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s business hub.

The two partners look to commission the first phase of the project, with 600-megawatts (MW) worth of capacity, by 2026, prior to a second phase with a further 400MW capacity by 2030. If plans hold tight, it could be Vietnam’s first offshore wind farm and it is anticipated that more will follow.

Zarubezhneft said it will share investment costs with a specially formed investment vehicle called DEME Concessions Wind. Under the MoU, the two firms will get oil and gas producing venture Vietsovpetro and DEME Offshore to manage the construction process.

Vietsovpetro, a joint venture between Zarubezhneft and state-run PetroVietnam, already operates several offshore oil and gas blocks in Vietnam.

Zarubezhneft

Zarubezhneft set a goal of entering both the wind and solar sector in Vietnam, Cuba, Southern Europe and Russia. These plans, not surprisingly, suffered setbacks due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year and a subsequent pullback in global oil prices amid the worst slump in demand for oil ever, which caused a drop to multi-year lows. However, global oil prices have recovered, with the global oil benchmark, London-traded Brent crude, now hovering above $70 per barrel, with price appreciation and forecasts that demand will increase for the rest of the year.

Vietnam’s clean energy transition

Zarubezhneft’s disclosure comes as Vietnam undergoes systemic changes in its energy sector. This stems from a forecast natural gas supply shortage that will impact its power generation capacity with potential brown and black-outs, mostly earmarked for the more populated south. However, Covid-19 related economic contraction has pushed that forecast back at least a year or two.

Vietnam’s energy quandary also stems from steady economic growth and more energy consumption, as well as geopolitical interference. Over the past several years, China has prevented PetroVietnam and its foreign partners from developing natural gas resources in Vietnam’s own UN-mandated 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea, a problem not dissimilar to that faced by the Philippines.

To offset this supply shortage, Hanoi initially focused on developing more liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure. Currently, two LNG import terminals are being constructed in the southern part of the country. With at least six more approved, and possibly more considering projects pending approval at various provincial levels. Vietnam also has as many as 22 LNG-to-Power projects in its soon to be released Power Development Plan 8 (PDP8), to 2030 with guidance to 2045.

Over 150 wind projects proposed

Vietnam has marked advantages in its renewables ambitions over many of its neighbors in the region. It is including a vast coastline of some 3,260 km (2,030 miles), excluding islands. It is ideal for both offshore and near-shore wind-power development. By way of comparison, only around 3% of neighbouring Thailand’s land mass has suitable wind speeds needed to drive turbines, which greatly hinders the country’s capacity to develop wind power.

Vietnam’s solar radiation in most parts of the country is also ideal for solar project development. And it has contributed to its quick build-out, which seems to have peaked last year.

Much of the country’s recent success with solar can also be attributed to Hanoi approving generous feed-in-tariffs (FIT). These tariffs encourage investment in renewable energy by guaranteeing an above-market price for producers. Since they usually involve long-term contracts, FITs help mitigate the risks inherent in renewable energy production.

Tax exemptions to reduce investment risks

The government has also approved FITs for its wind-power development, with those tariffs up for review at the end of October. It also offers various tax exemptions to reduce investment risks.

Yet, Vietnam’s wind power development pales in comparison to its solar build-out. By the end of 2020, wind power accounted for just 1% (670MW) of the country’s energy mix. It is compared to 16.6GW for solar, including rooftop solar, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Under PDP8, the next power development plan, the country aims to ramp-up solar capacity to 18.6GW and wind capacity to 18GW by 2030. Vinh Phong, for its part, is one of as many as 157 wind farm projects proposed in Vietnam.

Three weeks ago, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a $116-million loan with three Vietnamese firms to finance the construction and operation of three 48MW wind farms, totaling 144MW, in the central province of Quang Tri.

The projects will increase Vietnam’s wind-power capacity by as much as 30%, helping it to also offset the country’s still troubling reliance on coal needed for power generation. Coal still makes nearly 40% of the country’s energy mix, and that figure looks likely to remain steady until to at least the middle of the next decade.

The ADB’s move three weeks ago was its first wind-power project in Vietnam and comes just a month after the bank said it would stop funding most fossil fuel projects in the region, even natural gas, under most scenarios.

Electricity grid needs urgent improvements

However, as promising as Vietnam’s renewables build-out is, several problems remain, including power grid curtailment. Simply put, the country needs new transmission and distribution infrastructure to accommodate additional capacity and transmit the new power to where it’s needed.

The problem is already being felt by a number of power projects that have had to curtail production since transmission lines are already operating at capacity. Especially in areas where there is a concentration of solar power. This has resulted in less electricity being produced, less revenue earned and an inability of some project backers to service debts incurred to build projects.

Similar problems – depending on each location’s specific grid development – could see otherwise bankable wind power projects, (onshore, near-shore and offshore) unable to obtain necessary funding to go forward.

But the Vietnamese government is now starting to address this problem. It recently  adopted a new law that improves and prioritizes grid development. And grid development is now a priority in the draft PDP8, the first time it’s been included in the country’s PDP.

However, expanding grid capacity is both capital and time intensive. Build-out times can range to as much as five years or more. Other countries are also confronting similar situations when building renewable power projects, including heavyweights such as Germany and the UK.

There are some short-term solutions for grid congestion, however, such as utility scale battery storage, grid enhancing techniques, plus topology optimization software. All of these improve grid resilience and reliability, and prevent bottlenecks, but the long-term solution is still expanding Vietnam’s transmission grid.

How Rosatom built a huge 150 MW wind farm

How much more is planned in the near future?

In the second half of 2020, Rosatom built a wind farm, unique in its scale. It is in Adygea, which became the largest in Russia and one of the largest in Europe.

Russia is considered to be a fan of traditional hydrocarbon energy. This is true given the huge reserves of natural gas, oil and coal in the depths of the country and on the continental shelf, mainly in the richest Arctic zone.

However, in recent years, Russia has been investing heavily in the creation of large facilities in the field of alternative renewable energy. 

One of these facilities is the Adyghe wind farm. 

The construction of wind energy facilities in Adygea was carried out on a land plot with an area of ​​14 hectares. In total, Rosatom has installed 60 facilities. Each wind turbine is 150 m high and rated at 2.5 megawatts. 

In total, all 60 wind turbines generate energy with a capacity of 150 MW.

The length of one blade is 50 m, and each object weighs over eight and a half tons.

The blades for the Adyghe wind farm were ordered several years ago in India, but since 2020, such blades have been produced in Russia at the Ulyanovsk plant, which has already shipped the first batch of domestic blades for wind power facilities in Denmark.

The new wind farm in Adygea can generate about 350,000,000 kWh annually.

The commissioning of only one of this wind power plant allowed to increase the volume of electricity generation in the entire Republic of Adygea by 20%

It is important that Rosatom does not stop at the development of alternative energy facilities. 

So recently, a large wind farm with a total capacity of 86 MW was built in the Ulyanovsk region, and very soon a huge wind farm will be built in the Stavropol Territory.

In terms of its size and production capacity, it will surpass the new Adyghe wind farm and will generate annually up to 210 MWh.

An equally large alternative energy facility, which is being built in the Republic of Kalmykia, is on its way. 

And the largest wind farm until 2023 is planned to be built in the Astrakhan and Rostov regions. They will generate 350 MW each year.

The cost of building each of these huge wind farms is estimated at 30,000,000,000 rubles.

For comparison, the largest wind farm in Europe, built in the UK in 2013, generates about 630 MW.

Generally # plans Rosatom for the construction of wind farms is very ambitious. In the next two years alone, Rosstat plans to build and commission wind power plants with a total capacity of over 1 GW.

Why Rosatom’s new laid-down reactor is the safest in the world, and when will it enter series

Russian giant Rosatom is rightfully considered the world leader in nuclear energy and a number of other high-tech areas, as evidenced by an extensive portfolio of foreign orders

Rosatom was the first to master the serial production of the latest modern third generation fast breeder reactors. 

Now our concern has begun construction of the world’s first power unit of the next generation – the fourth.

A new power unit is being built in the city of Seversk in the Tomsk region. 

The installation was named Brest OD 300.

The new reactor operates on fast neutrons and has a lead coolant.

Rosatom considers this # type of reactor to be completely safe. Accidents like Chernobyl and the Fukushima disaster using the Brest reactor are excluded.

The new reactor was based on the principle of natural safety. 

Foreign competitors of Rosatom do not possess such technology and continue to build thermal neutron reactors in which water serves as a coolant.

The advantage of fast reactors is the ability to reuse spent nuclear fuel as new fuel, thereby achieving a closed cycle. 

In addition to being economical, fast reactors are safer than existing thermal reactors. The possibility of unpredictable and uncontrollable acceleration of neutrons is excluded, which is equivalent to the loss of the coolant. 

The risk of a parazirconium reaction that provoked the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is also excluded. 

The work on the design of the fourth generation reactor has been carried out by Rosatom since 2010. Rosatom plans to commission the Brest power unit by the end of 2025.

One of the important advantages of the new reactor will be its ability to run on fuel # uranium 238, which is much cheaper and more widespread on our planet, in contrast to the rare uranium 235.

In the next few years, Rosatom plans to organize the serial production of the newest Brest reactors in Russia, and after 2030 start exporting them to foreign partners. 

This Tiny Single-Piston Hydrogen Engine Offers A New Take On Internal Combustion

Bilal Waqar

Tiny single-piston hydrogen engine reverts the power back to the old-fashioned combustion engines.

Aquarius, the company behind the build based in Israel unveiled the tiny hydrogen engine and hopes that it can replace gas engine generators and hydrogen fuel cells in the future models of electric vehicles.

The engine weighs only 10 kg and a single moving piston aids it in developing power. The purpose behind the small build is to power an off-grid micro-generator.

Aquarius in its previous single-piston range used more conventional fossil fuels to create combustion. That is now swapped with emissions-slashing hydrogen. Austrian Engineering Firm AVL-Schrick testified that the small engine runs on hydrogen.

“It was always our dream at Aquarius Engines to breathe oxygen into hydrogen technology as the fuel of the future. From initial tests, it appears that our hydrogen engine, that doesn’t require costly hydrogen fuel-cells, could be the affordable, green and sustainable answer to the challenges faced by global transport and remote energy production.”

Despite being lightweight and small, the Aquarius engine design is straightforward and low maintenance. All-in-all it contains a total of 20 parts out of which the only moveable one is the piston. Amazingly, the small engine comes excluding the biggest of the concern relating to the engine and its performance, the engine oil, as per the company behind its build it does not requires any lubrication to perform.

The fossil fuel engines developed by Aquarius are undergoing initial testing in the field in North America, Europe, and Asia. In collaboration with Nokia, the company has completed its phase-one testing. Nokia foresees installing these micro-generators at communication towers in far-off places. A software also built by Aquarius would aid in monitoring the output and efficiency of the generators from the control rooms back in more developed areas.

Phase two testing would include Nokia testing these small generators at pilot sites in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Singapore.

The video below shows how its parts come together to form the whole of the mini engine.

Originally published by Wonderful Engineering

Germany and Russia to work on hydrogen

Russia and Germany will jointly implement projects in hydrogen energy. The corresponding agreement was reached by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Alexander Novak with the Minister of Economy and Energy of the Federal Republic of Germany Peter Altmeier

The meeting was also attended by the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Denis Manturov, the rector of the St. Petersburg Mining University Vladimir Litvinenko and the ex-Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany Klaus Toepfer, according to the website of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Russian Federation.

“We agreed that it is important to make joint projects in hydrogen energy. The Prime Minister of the Federal State of Saxony (FRG) Michael Kretschmer recently visited. He proposed joint projects in the field of hydrogen, ” Novak said at the meeting.

“I will give instructions to the Ministry of Energy of Russia so that we jointly propose one or two projects from which we would start,” added the Deputy Prime Minister, whose words are quoted in the release of the Cabinet. According to the Deputy Prime Minister, it is necessary to continue working on joint energy projects.

A German company is already working with Gazprom on this issue.

Meanwhile, Wintershall Dea and Gazprom are discussing the possibility of transporting hydrogen through the existing gas transmission system. The head of the German company, Mario Mehren, told about this in an interview with the corporate magazine of the Russian holding.

“As part of the Science and Technology Cooperation Program between Gazprom and Wintershall Dea, specialists from our companies and joint ventures are discussing current innovative projects in order to find ideas and jointly develop solutions,” Meren explained.

“This initiative has been around for almost 30 years. And it is one of the largest and most intensive exchange formats of this kind, ”said the head of Wintershall Dea. He stressed that during the pandemic, this work continued in an online format.

“For example, in recent months, there has been intense discussion of the possibility of adapting the existing pipeline infrastructure for the transportation of hydrogen. And the use of decarbonized solutions in our joint gas transportation business. Hopefully, soon we will be able to report on new projects in this area, ” Meren added .

In addition, Wintershall Dea and Gazprom are planning a campaign to measure methane emissions. The goal is to reduce the intensity of these emissions during gas production. The partners also plan to jointly develop measures to improve the energy efficiency of compressor stations.

“I am convinced that international partnership will continue to play an important role in the future. And thanks to joint efforts to decarbonize the energy sector, we will be able to further strengthen and expand the successful Russian-German cooperation, ”Meren concluded.