Ships Ahoy! Giant Diesel-Fuelled Ship Engines ‘Solution’ For Australia’s Renewable Energy Crisis

Wind and solar ‘powered’ South Australians already know the drill.

 

Australia’s obsession with chaotically intermittent wind and solar has left it with a power pricing and supply calamity. It’s a disaster that was as predictable, as it was avoidable.

To date, the Federal Liberal/National Coalition’s feeble attempts to resolve it provide a study in practised inertia, mixed with a series of pointless Band-Aid ‘solutions’.

Last week, the PM, Scott Morrison announced a raft of policy initiatives aimed at purportedly unlocking Australia’s gas reserves (locked up by recalcitrant State Premiers) and using that gas to fuel new power plants.

Terry McCrann takes a look at the causes and consequences of the PM’s latest energy policy debacle.

Power grab would leave us all in the dark
The Australian
Terry McCrann
18 September 2020

Chairman — sorry, premier — Dan might have to go and go right now as overlord of Victoria, the state of home imprisonment for a quarter of the entire Australian population and indeed outright 21-hours-a-day solitary confinement for those living alone, as I argued last week. But I have to also admit to some grudging respect for his devilish cunning.

It only came to me during the week that his closure of the state’s then biggest power station back in 2017 — Hazelwood, the supplier of up to 25 per cent of Victoria’s electricity — can now be so more clearly seen as actually a test-run for closing down the entire state, as he has done for most of this year.

But the devilish cunning gets even more devilish, or cunning.

It is now clear that the closing down of the entire state is itself an even bigger test-run for an even more permanent future — when the Labor government and its premier-for-life closes down all the other base-load coal-fired power stations.

Importantly, that is to say, closes them down while not allowing anyone to look for, far less develop, the gas that could power even just one token gas-fired station — or indeed even the gas we incarcerants, formerly citizens, might want to use for heating or cooking.

First, use the dusk-to-dawn curfew to get all Victorians used to scurrying home as the sun starts to disappear over the horizon — a real-life replay of those villagers scurrying home in those Hammer horror and vampire movies from the 1960s and 70s.

Then it’s but a short Pavlovian step to having them all go obediently early to bed when the lights are turned off from Party Central — when the sun of course doesn’t shine, the wind might decide not to blow, and somebody has forgotten to charge the state’s (future) big battery, as we all know can happen so easily and so often.

Ah, welcome, belatedly, to 2020: the year the world went officially insane.

One of the great conceptual images of the week was of our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, standing in a virtual reality sense atop one of the richest and most plentiful energy coal provinces in the world, to announce none other than a new — drum roll, please — gas-fired power station.

It has Buckley’s chance of ever being built; there is no gas to fuel it if it was; the NSW state government and/or assorted black, red and green tape would postpone either it or the necessary gas to a date beyond the 12th of never.

But beyond all that, it didn’t seem to occur to the PM that there was a rather significant inconsistency committing to a new gas-fired power station in the middle of a coal field when he was simultaneously committing more taxpayer money to the fantasy of so-called CCS — carbon capture and storage. If CCS can “work” — it can’t and never will; that’s one thing at least I can agree with Dark Green fanatics on, albeit for very different reasons — why not commit to a new coal-fired power station, with CCS? It would have even less CO2 emissions than a gas-fired one? The PM could have his fantasy low emissions and get to eat his, albeit very expensive, reliable power?

We have a simple choice. We can have the cheap, the reliable, and the plentiful electricity that not only makes life functional but indeed possible at the most basic level. Or we can have the (short-lived) feel-good fantasy of so-called renewable energy, now apparently with batteries.

Renewable is of course a synonym of “useless” or “doesn’t work” — apart from hydro, which has essentially become the energy equivalent of “don’t mention the war”.

A PM who was — what’s that word I’m searching for? Oh yes, a leader — would be making the case not for one fantasy gas-fired station but (at least) 10 to a dozen full-size 2,000MW base-load stations, progressively over the next five to 20 years to replace the existing fleet of coal-fired stations as they reach their terminations.

They have to be, they can only be, coal-fired, gas-fired or nuclear. In a sane Australia — taking 10 as the starting point — they would be eight coal and two gas (to provide the on-off peaking power).

But sanity could contemplate an alternative mix of, say, four coal, four nuclear and two gas — but only on the basis that red and green tape absurdities would not be allowed to destroy the viability of nuclear.

Fantasists, main-chancers chasing billions of force-fed taxpayer and consumer dollars and assorted columnists keep prattling on about the future being renewable.

Could they please tell us in which century, not decade, that future will arrive? It sure won’t be this one.

After the trillions, yes trillions, that have been force-fed into so-called renewables aka useless energy, in 2018 the world still got 85 per cent of its energy from the old reliables — coal, gas and oil.

Yes, 11 per cent came from renewables but 7 per cent of that was from hydro. Just 4 per cent came from pre-19th century renewables. That’s wind and solar and the biggest component of all, so-called biomass: burning wood.

As I wrote in June when our twittering duo of Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull hailed the “end of coal” in the UK, one of the poster-children for this so-called renewables future, when the wind stopped blowing the UK had to turn on a coal generator.

This week, the UK was getting as much as 3,000MW from coal — almost a Hazelwood and a Liddell.

When the wind stopped blowing, the UK was getting as much as 75 per cent of all its power from coal and gas; plus another 15 per cent or so from nuclear.

We have a choice.

We can live in a 21st-century reality of coal, gas and nuclear. Or we can go back to a pre-19th century future of useless renewables. Excuse that final tautology.
The Australian

Depicted above – courtesy of Aneroid Energy – is the output delivered by Australian wind power outfits to the Eastern Grid during July.

Spread from Far North Queensland, across the ranges of NSW, all over Victoria, Northern Tasmania and across South Australia its entire capacity routinely delivers just a trickle of its combined notional capacity of 7,728MW.

Collapses of over 3,000 MW or more that occur over the space of a couple of hours are routine, as are rapid surges of equal magnitude, which make the grid manager’s life a living hell, and provide the perfect set up for power market price gouging by the owners of conventional generators, who cash in on the chaos.

Now, it’s collapses like that depicted above that threaten to deliver an entire ‘system black’ across the Eastern Grid – of the kind that made wind and solar ‘powered’ South Australia infamous, worldwide.

The extravagantly costly ‘solutions’ to South Australia’s renewable energy disaster included 276 MW worth of diesel-fuelled Open Cycle Turbines that chew up 80,000L an hour.

Another ‘solution’ was the installation of 210MW worth of reciprocating engines at Barker Inlet next to AGL’s 1,280MW Torrens Island gas-steam plant. In an attempt to fill (and profit from) the precipitous gaps depicted above, AGL spent $295 million on 12 Wartsila 50DF reciprocating engines with a capacity of 18MW each (see below).

These units are, in fact, giant ship engines, which can run on either gas, diesel or bunker fuel – the benefit of which is that they can reach their peak load within about five minutes of start-up. Ideal for responding to routine wind and solar power output collapses of the kind that have plagued South Australia for years. With gas supplies often tight in SA, these machines are frequently run on ‘liquid fuel’ – ie heavy fuel oil, rather than gas.

They are, however, fuel-hungry, inefficient and costly to run – when compared to Combined Cycle Gas Turbines and coal-fired power plants on a MWh for MWh basis. But, if you pin your power hopes on sunshine and breezes, it’s probably a case of any port in a storm.

Terry McCrann raises a fair question about the Federal government’s ability to find the gas needed to fuel Morrison’s gas-fired plants (in the event they’re built), especially with the vast reserves of coal in NSW’s Hunter Valley available to feed its coal-fired plants.

STT hears that the PM’s first target is to extract gas from the Hunter Valley coal seam and use that to fire up ship engines of precisely the kind being used by AGL at Barker Inlet in SA.

There may be a few open cycle gas-peakers in the mix but, by and large, STT understands that it’s a case of Ships Ahoy, with dozens of Wartsila 50DF reciprocating engines destined for the Hunter Valley to be situated alongside existing coal-fired power plants.

Terry McCrann might not have spotted the fact that the PM will get his gas from the Hunter Valley’s coalfields, but what Terry says about the insanity of Australia’s energy policy can’t be faulted. The PM’s energy policy … well, that’s another story…

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September 20, 2020 at 02:32AM

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