Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chinese Pebble-Bed High Temperature Reactor

The Rongcheng Shidaowan Nuclear Power Plant is China's first high temperature gas-cooled pebble bed reactor power plant.  The expected project construction period from pouring the first tank of concrete to generating electricity for the grid is scheduled to be 50 months. The current plan aims for feeding electricity to the national power grid in 2013.

The HTR-PM plant will consist of two nuclear steam supply system (NSSS), so called modules, each one comprising of a single zone 250MWth pebble-bed modular reactor and a steam generator. The two NSSS modules feed one steam turbine and generate an electric power of 210MW. A pilot fuel production line will be built to fabricate 300,000 pebble fuel elements per year. This line is closely based on the technology of the HTR-10 fuel production line.  The reactor site has been evaluated and approved; the procurement of long-lead components has already been started.

The spherical fuel element with a diameter of 60mm contains a multitude of ceramic coated particles. The coated fuel particles are uniformly embedded in a graphite matrix of 50mm in diameter; while an outer fuel-free zone of pure graphite surrounds the spherical fuel zone for reasons of mechanical and chemical protection. Each spherical fuel element contains about 12,000 coated fuel particles.
Main technical goals of the HTR-PM project

The HTR-PM should achieve the following technical goals:

(1) Demonstration of inherent safety features: the inherent safety features of modular HTGR power plants guarantees and requires that under all conceivable accident scenarios the maximum fuel element temperatures will never surpass its design limit temperature without employing any dedicated and special emergency systems (e.g. core cooling systems or special shutdown systems, etc.).

(2) Demonstration of economic competitiveness: the first HTR-PM demonstration power plant will be supported by the Chinese government, so that the owner can always maintain the plant operation and obtain investment recovery. However, this government supported demonstration plant has to prove that a cost overrun during the construction period will be avoided and that the predicted smooth operation and performance will be kept. Hence, the demonstration plant must clearly demonstrate that follow-on HTR-PM plants will be competitive to LWR plants without any government support.

(3) Confirmation of proven technologies: in order to minimize the technical risks the successful experiences gained fromthe HTR-10 and from other international HTGR plants will be fully utilized in the HTR-PM project. The HTR-PM reactor design is very similar to the HTR-10. The turbine plant design will use the mature technology of super-heated steam turbines which is widely used in other thermal power plants. Besides, the manufacture of fuel elements will be based on the technology verified and proven during the HTR-10 project.

(4) Standardization and modularization: the HTR-PM demonstration plant, consisting of two pebble-bed module reactors of combined 2×250MWth power, adopts the operation mode of two modules connected to only one steam turbine/generator set. This design allows to demonstrate the advantages and key benefits of employing and implementing a design of standardization and modularization. If the construction and operation of the HTR-PM demonstration plant proves to be successful, larger scale HTR-PM plants – using multiple-modules feeding one steam turbine only – will become a reality.

Fourth Generation Reactor Next

The HTR-PM project will establish the technical foundations to be able to realize Generation-IV nuclear energy system goals in the next stage, such as:

(1) Largely enhanced safety features: a successful HTR-PM will have already proven this technical target of Generation-IV nuclear energy systems.

(2) Achieving outlet temperatures beyond 1000 ◦C [very high temperature gas-cooled reactor (VHTR)]: the reactor of current design and using current fuel element technologies has already the potential of realizing a gas outlet temperature of 950 ◦C. A further improvement of the fuel element performance is already foreseeable which will allow reaching this goal of attaining an outlet-temperature of 1000 ◦C.

(3) Hydrogen production, use of helium turbine or supercritical steam turbine: the current reactor design, verified by the HTR-PM, can readily be applied for the helium turbine or super-critical steam turbine or for the generation of large-scale production of hydrogen by nuclear energy.

HTGR plants can achieve a thermal efficiency of 42% by even employing subcritical superheated steam turbines or reaching ∼45% when supercritical steam turbines are installed. The efficiency could be improved even further when adopting direct helium gas turbines with recuperators or when choosing a combined cycle.


On the basis of the HTR-10, the ongoing Chinese HTR-PM project is considered to be a decisive new step for the development of Chinese HTGR technology. Its main target is to finish building a pebble-bed HTR-PM demonstration plant of 210MWe around 2014-205. Through the mutual efforts of all relevant scientific research organizations nd industrial enterprises, and having the strong support of the Chinese government, the HTR-PM project will certainly play an important role in the world-wide development of Generation-IV nuclear energy technologies.

(Next Big Future, March 23, 2011)

Healthy Kids Outdoors Act

Purpose: The proposed Healthy Kids Outdoors Act (S. 1802) will improve our children’s health, support economic growth and strengthen the future of conservation in America by reconnecting our children, youth and families with the natural world through innovative state strategies that connect communities with green spaces, provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, and engage the health community in educating parents and caregivers about the benefits of active time outdoors.

Legislative Content: The proposed Healthy Kids Outdoors Act of 2011 would:

• Provide state-level incentives to develop 5-year state strategies to connect children, youth and families with the natural world. State strategies are developed by agencies and partners in public health, parks and recreation, transportation, and other sectors to create innovative solutions and fund initiatives at the local level;

• Direct the President to develop a similar strategy at the federal level by bringing together federal agencies and national partners to create a national action plan; and

• Support research documenting the health, conservation, and other benefits of active time spent outdoors in the natural world.

Reconnecting with Nature to Strengthen America

• Our children’s lives are out of balance. Children today spend less time outdoors than any generation in human history, devoting just four to seven minutes a day on average in unstructured outdoor play while spending an average of seven and a half hours every day in front of electronic media.

• Our children’s health is declining. Obesity and attention deficit disorders are on the rise in America, especially among children. Obesity is the cause of many major health issues, decreasing the quality of life for Americans and straining our nation’s economy. Attention deficit disorders are impacting America’s competitiveness and readiness to learn in the classroom.

• Our economy is struggling. In addition to the negative economic impact of childhood obesity, the outdoor retail industry, many local tourist destinations or “gateway communities,” and state fish and wildlife agencies rely on revenue generated when Americans spend time outdoors.

• Our conservation legacy is at risk. Those who do not spend time in nature are less likely to protect it, leaving the future of conservation, our nation’s immense natural resources and America’s hunting and angling legacy at risk.

• Our military readiness is declining. Nearly one in four applicants to the military is rejected for being overweight or obese – it's the most common reason for medical disqualification

Monday, November 28, 2011

Seth Oster Leaving EPA

Seth Oster

Seth Oster, Associate Administrator for the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, will be departing EPA at the end of the year to pursue a new opportunity in the private sector.

And Other Changes at the Agency

Jose Lozano, our Director of Operations, has been appointed as the new Deputy Chief of Staff.

Steve Owens is leaving EPA on November 30.

Jim Jones, the current Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, will be designated to serve as our new Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and
Pollution Prevention. Jim will start in his role on December 1. Jim has been with EPA for over two decades and his experience includes serving four years as Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for OCSPP and six months as acting Assistant Administrator for OCSPP.

Shalini Vajjhala, who has served as Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of International
and Tribal Affairs (OITA), will transition out of OITA and serve as Special Representative. She has been working exclusively on the US-Brazil Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability (JIUS), announced by President Obama in March 2011.  (EPA)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mars Rover Curiosity Is Nuclear Powered

Some environmentalists protested the launch of the nuclear powered Cassini space probe destined for Saturn some years ago.  There isn't as much attention being given to the launch of the plutonium-powered Curiosity Mars rover.

Radioactive plutonium, which is used to power the new rover is in a layered, protective module that NASA and others have built to contain the plutonium fuel. The plutonium fuel includes four large pellets, which are clad in iridium, the second densest element known to man. Iridium is both strong and pliable. It bends but does not break. The iridium cladding, which has a melting point greater than 2,000 degrees Celsius (3,632 Fahrenheit), protects the radioactive fuel from impact and heat damage.

The iridium-clad pellets are divided into two pairs, and then the pairs are placed into enclosures called graphite impact shells, or GIS. The GIS are “about the size of a salt shaker” and provide impact resistance. Further heat protection is provided by wrapping the two GIS in insulating sleeves made of a thin fiber called carbon bonded carbon. The shells go together into a hardy, monolithic block called an aeroshell.

The plutonium dioxide fuel is very similar to ceramic. Despite the apparent low radiation risk from the mission launch, NASA, the State of Florida and other federal and local agencies around Kennedy Space Center are making preparations to respond to any launch accident. These precautionary measures will include alerts to direct people to shelters if necessary.

The public supports the concept of Star Trek's enterprise using nuclear powered matter/antimatter 'engines,' but such 'engines' would have ultimately involved lifting radioactive elements into Earth orbit for assembly.  NASA's pursuit of proving spontaneous generation of life will probably once again end in proving just the opposite. (Space .com, 11/23/2011)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Industry Groups Will Probably Sue Re California Cap-and-Trade

"Previewing Legal Challenges to Cap-and-Trade"

By Robert Lawrence, Dustin Till and Svend Brandt-Erichsen

California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade program is due to be finalized within a few weeks, over widespread opposition and concern about its effects on California’s economy. Looking forward, California business and citizens groups are considering how and when to challenge the regulations in court. Final regulations in California are subject to judicial review, and may be challenged as being unconstitutional or inconsistent with the statute that authorized their development, or for conflicting with other federal or state statutes. In the case of the Air Resource Board’s (ARB) cap-and-trade program, all of these objections are likely. A successful appeal can invalidate all or part of a new program, and sometimes requires an agency to start a new rulemaking process entirely.


The most obvious challenge, and one that ARB prepared for, is that the cap-and-trade regulations violate the commerce clause of the federal Constitution. There are at least two ways to frame this argument. The first is that the program discriminates against out-of-state goods or services. The second is that the regulation impermissibly burdens or inhibits interstate commerce.

Consistency with AB32

There also are likely to be a large number of objections to ARB’s program arising from AB32 itself based on provisions limiting ARB’s authority. Among these requirements, the programs adopted by ARB must be “feasible,” “cost-effective” and “equitable.” These terms provide ample room for argument as to whether the costs imposed by the program are justified by the benefits, and whether the program could have been designed differently.

Consistency with other Federal and State Laws

There is a question of whether California’s regulations conflict with (or complement) federal actions to combat climate change. New and modified power plants and large industrial sources are subject to recently-implemented EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act (CAA). EPA has identified additional regulations that would address GHG emissions under the CAA. These federal regulations apply or would apply in California to some of the same entities that are subject to the cap-and-trade program, raising the potential for inconsistencies. [More at Marten Law, 11.22.2011]

Particulate Matter

The first standards for PM were established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1971 under the Clean Air Act.  The EPA's Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rules, which were released Feb. 23, introduced additional, more stringent requirements to new and existing boiler PM and other emission limits and requirements. Utility MACT specifically limits Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs). 

One might not think of PM being a driver initially for Utility MACT, but it is. That's because PM is not a type of HAP, but it is a surrogate pollutant for controlling HAPs. The surrogate comes into play for the 10 metallic HAPs the EPA has identified to control under Utility MACT. 

Another regulatory program aimed at controlling PM emissions stems from the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). NAAQS define the concentration of a pollutant in ambient air that EPA deems to be protective of human health and the environment.

EPA revised the PM NAAQS in 1987 to regulate particles smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10). In 1997, EPA revised the NAAQS to also regulate particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5). In 2006, EPA reduced the PM2.5 NAAQS from the 1997 level of 65 µg/m3 to 35 µg/m3. At this point, the PM NAAQS are so low that stationary sources may require installation of more efficient baghouses or control the PM that forms as gases condense after emission from a stack. 

Many parts of the United States have current ambient air quality that does not meet the new PM2.5 NAAQS. To address this situation, EPA promulgated the Clean Air Transport Rule (CATR) to reduce the level of PM2.5 pollution across large regions.

PM2.5 is a rather unique pollutant in the sense that it can be emitted directly from a source, but can also be formed miles away when pollutants like SO2 and NOx chemically interact in the atmosphere. EPA created the CATR to force utilities to limit their PM2.5 precursor emissions (that is, SO2 and NOx) to reduce the downwind secondary formation of PM2.5. This is designed to help many parts of the country, primarily in the eastern U.S., achieve air quality that meets the NAAQS. 

Two main drivers influence the amount of PM emitted from coal-fired boilers in power generation: the ash content in the coal and the type of boiler used. 

As far as control technologies go, the two main offerings targeting PM are electrostatic precipitators (ESP) and fabric filters, or baghouses.

An ESP uses high-voltage fields to apply electrical charges to particles moving through the field. This causes the charged particles to move toward an oppositely charged collection surface where they accumulate. ESPs are available in both dry and wet options. Most ESPs are dry, but special circumstances can require wet ESP installations. More than 70 percent of existing coal-fired power plants have installed ESPs, according to a report by Environmental Health and Engineering. According to the EPA, an ESP can capture more than 99 percent of total PM and 80 to 95 percent of PM2.5.

Fabric filters can drive down PM levels more than dry ESP because the technology is not as affected by particulate characteristics.  A fabric filter typically has a lower capital cost than an ESP, but a higher maintenance cost. You trade initial capital investment cost for maintenance costs. A fabric filter collects PM on the surfaces of fabric bags. Most of the particles are captured on already collected particles that have formed a dust layer. According to EPA, a fabric filter on a coal-fired power plant can capture up to 99.9 percent of total particulate emissions and 99.0 to 99.8 percent of PM2.5. Thirty-five percent of coal-fired power plants in the U.S. have already installed fabric filters, according to Environmental Health and Engineering. (Power Engineering, August 2011)

The Intercounty Connector (Mostly) Opens Today

Center Was The Only Environmental Group in the United States to Support the ICC

Along With Support For National Harbor & Woodrow Wilson Bridge Replacement

Most of the $2.5 billion, 18.8-mile Intercounty Connector opened today. Financing for the six-lane toll road linking Interstate 270 in Montgomery County with Interstate 95 in Prince George’s County leveraged the Maryland Transportation Authority’s statewide toll collections. The toll is $4 each way, or up to $24 for tractor-trailers with an E­-ZPass, to travel the entire route.

The ICC provides a vital east-west link long missing from Maryland’s highway network. The ICC directly connects Montgomery’s job-rich I-270 corridor with more affordable places to live, such as Howard and northern Prince George’s counties, while opening up jobs around Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, Fort Meade and Laurel to more Montgomery residents.

The Center believes the investment was well worth it in several key measures: how many vehicles the ICC absorbs from local roads, time saved by motorists who use it, job growth from companies that rely on it to attract workers, and the impact it has on local streams and air pollution.  We believe that local roads will get relief as will the Capital Beltway, families will reunite sooner in the evenings, jobs will be created, there will be very little impact on streams and air pollution will be reduced due to faster trips with less congestion.

The ICC will attract and keep companies in Montgomery that can use the road to reach BWI. State officials say the drive between Gaithersburg and the airport will drop from 71 minutes on local roads to 37 minutes on the ICC. (Wash Post, 12/22/2011, Graphic courtesy Wash Post)

Greenhouse Gas Rule For Refineries Delayed By EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency will not meet a mid-December deadline to propose first-time standards for greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries. Draft rules had been slated to surface in the middle of next month under a settlement with environmentalists and other parties, but EPA says it needs more time.  According to EPA:
“EPA expects to need more time to complete work on greenhouse gas pollution standards for oil refineries, and is working with the litigants to develop a new schedule to replace the current date of mid-December for a rule proposal.” 
EPA has already missed deadlines earlier this year to propose greenhouse gas standards for power plants. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told the program "energyNow!" in an interview broadcast over the weekend that the power plant rules should be proposed early next year. EPA agency is scheduled to finalize standards for power plant emissions of mercury and other air toxics in mid-December. EPA will still release the "Maximum Achievable Control Technology" standards for power plants on Dec. 16. (The Hill, 11/21/2011)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

State Department's Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science

The State Department's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, often referred to as “Oceans, Environment and Science” or “OES,” was created in 1974 by Congress and is responsible for negotiating international treaties that involve natural resources. More specifically, OES works to advance U.S. foreign policy goals in such critical areas as climate change, renewable energy, resource scarcity, polar issues, oceans policy, infectious diseases, science and technology, and space policy, to name a few.

OES is overseeing the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Final EIS Fact Sheet

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Nature Conservancy: LEAF Program

The Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program provides paid summer internships for high school students and helps educators from environmental high schools share best practices and scientific resources. The long-term goal of LEAF is to support more than 30 environmental high schools across the country, ultimately serving over 20,000 students.

LEAF is an ambitious effort to empower the next generation of conservation leaders and equip them with the skills and knowledge to address our world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

With the support of the Toyota USA Foundation in 2011, LEAF will expand a nationally-recognized partnership model with environmental high schools to combine classroom lessons with real-world conservation work experience for urban youth.

The program works with a select group of environmental high schools, and provides paid summer internships for students in natural areas across the nation and helps educators from environmental high schools share best practices and scientific resources during the academic year.

The LEAF model:

• helps urban youth gain critical life, school and workplace skills;

• provides sustained exposure to nature; and

• supports students pursuing higher education opportunities and career paths in environmental fields.

The program marries The Nature Conservancy’s scientific expertise and access to natural areas with the lessons learned in environmental high schools to provide students with the web of mentors, alumni, and peers that is fundamental to successful youth development programs.

Supplementing classroom lessons on ecology and conservation with the real world experience of applying those lessons in the field has a tremendous impact on students’ lives — opening their eyes to career possibilities, building self confidence, independence, work skills, conservation literacy and a love of the outdoors.

For more information on LEAF, or to sponsor a student, please contact leaf@tnc.org

A Moment With Occupy Wall Street in the New York Subway


By Norris McDonald

I was in New York City on Thursday when the Occupy Wall Streeters were occupying the subway.  They were doing the 'speak together' thing and the media was also in the railcar.  Occupy Wall Street isn't camped out at Zuccotti Park anymore, but they were spreading out around the city.  Lower Manhattan was swarming with Occupy demonstrators and police.  Unfortunately, there was a lunatic in the railcar and he was clearly intoxicated and screaming at the protesters.  After the Occupy protesters got off the train the lunatic screamed that horrible racial epithet at them.  Even though there were no Blacks in this particular crowd.  Of course, there was a Black policeman standing nearby and he inquired as to how the lunatic wanted this subway ride to end.  The lunatic got off at the next stop.

I'm just sharing some of that extra unique New York City environment.  For your enjoyment, my walk through early morning Zuccotti Park before they were kicked out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The New York Times Deconstructs Obama Ozone Decision

"Behind Shift on Smog and Re-election Calculus"
WASHINGTON — The summons from the president came without warning the Thursday before Labor Day. As she was driven the four blocks to the White House, Lisa P. Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, suspected that the news would not be good. What she did not see coming was a rare public rebuke the president was about to deliver by rejecting her proposal to tighten the national standard for smog. (More) (NYTimes, 11/16/2011)

California Wants 15% of Cars To Be 'Clean' By 2025

California air regulators will propose next month that electric vehicles, hybrids and other "clean" cars make up at least 15 percent of new automobile sales within the state by 2025.

For model years 2018-2025, the state's "zero-emission vehicle" mandate will put 1.4 million clean cars on the road in California by 2025, Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols said yesterday in a call with reporters.

California's long-term goal is to have low- or zero-emission vehicles make up 80 percent of in-state sales by 2050.

The new proposed targets for zero-emissions vehicles are part of a series of goals that the agency first adopted in 1990.

Under the rules, each manufacturer will need to have an increasing proportion of its sales coming from hybrids, pure electric vehicles, fuel cells and other low-emitting cars starting in 2018. The state will also offer $15 million in rebates of $500 for battery-only hybrid-electric vehicles and $1,500 for plug-in electrics.

The regulations will be released Dec. 7 for a 45-day comment period followed by a board vote Jan. 4, 2012.

Nationally, together with other states that have adopted California's program, the standards could ensure that 5 million vehicles are provided to consumers. The rule should also help achieve the federal 54.5-mpg goal. In order to get to 54.5, there will have to be a significant penetration of zero- and low-emission vehicles. (Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC, http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/2011/11/16/21)

RGGI Q3 2011 Secondary Market Report

99 percent of RGGI CO2 Allowances are currently held by electricity generators and their corporate affiliates required to comply with each participating state’s CO2 Budget Trading Program, according to the RGGI Q3 2011 Secondary Market Report on the Secondary Market from RGGI CO2 Allowances: Third Quarter 2011 released today. Prepared by Potomac Economics, the independent market monitor for the RGGI market, the report continues to find no evidence of anti-competitive conduct in the RGGI CO2 allowance secondary market.

CO2 allowance prices in the secondary market remained stable through the third quarter, with prices ranging from $1.85 to $1.89, very close to the auction reserve price of $1.89.

The Report on the Secondary Market for RGGI CO2 Allowances: Third Quarter 2011 is part of Potomac’s ongoing monitoring of the RGGI auctions and the secondary markets where CO2 allowances trade. The report, which addresses the period from July to September 2011, is based on data reported to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange (CCFE), and the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), as well as other data.

The complete Report on the Secondary Market for RGGI CO2 Allowances (RGGI)

Obama Admin Proposes New Fuel Economy Standards: 54.5 mpg

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today formally unveiled their joint proposal to set stronger fuel economy and greenhouse gas pollution standards for model year 2017-2025 passenger cars and light trucks at 54.5 mpg. Cars, SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks are currently responsible for nearly 60 percent of U.S. transportation-related petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Today’s proposed standards alone will slash oil consumption by 4 billion barrels and cut 2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold in those years.

The proposed program for model year 2017-2025 passenger cars and trucks is expected to require increases in fuel efficiency equivalent to 54.5 mpg if all reductions were made through fuel economy improvements. These improvements would save consumers an average of up to $6,600 in fuel costs over the lifetime of a model year 2025 vehicle for a net lifetime savings of $4,400 after factoring in related increases in vehicle cost. Overall, the net benefit to society from this rule would total more than $420 billion over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in model year 2017-2025.

Today’s action builds on the success of the first phase of the Obama Administration’s national program(2012-2016), which will raise fuel efficiency equivalent to 35.5 mpg by 2016 and result in an average light vehicle tailpipe CO2 level of 250 grams per mile. These standards are already in effect and saving consumers money at the pump now. Combined with 2011 fuel economy standards and the standards in effect for 2012-2016, today’s proposal represents the most significant federal action ever taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel economy. Taken together, these actions would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half and result in model year 2025 light-duty vehicles with nearly double the fuel economy of model year 2010 vehicles.

The proposal released today follows President Obama’s announcement in July that the administration and 13 major automakers representing more than 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S. have agreed to build on the first phase of the national vehicle program. EPA and DOT worked closely with a broad range of stakeholders to develop the proposal—including manufacturers, the United Auto Workers, the State of California, and consumer and environmental groups.

There will be an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposal for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. In addition, DOT and EPA plan to hold several public hearings around the country to allow further public input. California plans to issue its proposal for model year 2017-2025 vehicle greenhouse gas standards on December 7 and will finalize its standards in January.

More on the NHTSA and EPA’s notice of proposed rulemaking

More information

U.S. Postal Service Reports a $5.1 Billion Loss

The U.S. Postal Service lost $5.1 billion last year, but that number would have been about $10 billion in the fiscal year that ended in September if Congress hadn’t acted. Lawmakers postponed about $5.5 billion in USPS annual payments to prefund retiree health benefits. Legislators haven’t said yet whether the Postal Service will need to make the payment after the current short-term spending measure expires Friday.

Mail volume dropped to about 168 billion pieces delivered, a decline of 3 billion pieces from the previous year. Deliveries of first-class mail dropped 6 percent.

Total operating revenue reached $65.7 billion, about $2 billion less than the previous year; operating expenses decreased by about $5 billion, to $70.6 billion.

Postal officials said Tuesday that they expect operating revenue to drop to about $64 billion this year.
USPS also delivered some good news: Revenue for Priority Mail and Express jumped $530 million
last year, or 6 percent.

The increases came as more customers used the Internet to purchase and ship products. Standard Mail, normally used to deliver solicitations and catalogs, generated $495 million in revenue, a 2.9 percent jump. (Wash Post, 11/16/2011)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Smart Meters in Maryland

Beginning in the spring of 2012, (recently pushed back from the expected October, 2011 start) Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) will be installing Smart Meters in all homes, schools, hospitals and businesses within its service area. The new Smart Meters will replace the conventional analog meters currently in use. Although around the country there is mounting opposition to Smart Meters, it appears that in Maryland the residents remain uninformed about the expected deployment. Smart Meters are wireless devices that transmit customer usage data to collection points strategically located in various neighborhoods. This information is then uploaded to BGE's computer centers for processing.

Some history:

The Maryland Public Service Commission rejected Constellation Energy's (Balt Gas & Elec) proposal to install smart meters throughout Maryland in June 2010. BG&E's current $835 million plan to install 1.36 million new "smart" electric meters and 730,000 advanced gas meters.  Constellation said it anticipated $2.6 billion in benefits over 15 years, from conservation, lower prices, reduced capital expenditures for new power sources and other sources.

In August 2010, the Maryland Public Service Commission gave approval to Baltimore Gas & Electric to install smart meters.  This reversal came after the company filed an amended proposal intended to address the state's top energy regulator's concerns that ratepayers would shoulder most of the financial risk to install the technology.

In August 2010, the Maryland Public Service Commission authorized Pepco to proceed with the installation of smart meters, which is consistent with federal initiatives to improve energy efficiency, while reducing carbon emissions. Pepco has received $68.85 million in federal stimulus grants to help fund Pepco’s smart meter program in Maryland. (Maryland Residents Against Smart Meters, NY Times, 6/23/2011, Business Wire, 7/7/2011)

TransCanada Alters Keystone XL Route To Speed Approval

TransCanada Corporation, the company behind a $7 billion proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil sands crude from Alberta to Texas, agreed Monday to alter the route of the project. TransCanada is supporting Congressional legislation to reroute the Keystone XL pipeline around the Sand Hills of Nebraska, an environmentally sensitive area that has become the center of opposition to the pipeline in the state. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil sands crude from Alberta to refineries in Texas.

The announcement comes several days after the State Department announced it would evaluate alternative routes to avoid the Nebraska Sand Hills, which includes a vital aquifer in the state. The decision to evaluate alternative routes will delay a final verdict on the project until after the 2012 election, a move that spares President Obama from political backlash.

TransCanada will work with the State Department and Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality to determine a new pipeline route. A new environmental review will be required as well, which the State Department said last week could take until early 2013. The move likely will not appease environmental groups, but it leaves the groups with less backing for opposition to the project.

Monday’s announcement could lessen opposition to the Keystone XL project in Nebraska. The state legislature is in midst of a special session to consider legislation to reroute the project. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R), for example, has said he isn’t opposed to the pipeline in theory, but objects to the route. Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who has also said he opposes the pipeline route, hailed the agreement Monday.

House Republicans are weighing new legislation that would ensure a faster process to re-route the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline than the Obama administration is planning. Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) said he spoke briefly on the House floor Monday with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) about legislation that would have state and federal officials work together to ensure a new siting and environmental study within six months. This schedule would  be faster than the State Department's projected timeline. The House passed legislation earlier this year that would force the administration to make a final decision on the Keystone XL project by Nov. 1 of this year, but it was not taken up in the Senate. (The Hill, 11/14/2011, The Hill, 11/14/2011)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Green Muse


By: Norris McDonald

Solyndra, Keystone XL pipeline, Occupy the EPA and Durban, South Africa.  Energy and environmental issues are turning left and right like never before.  Who would have thought that green activists would be circling the White House in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline?  Who would have thought that Occupy Wall Street would turn into Occupy EPA in Washington, DC?  And who would have thought that the climate talks in Durban would hardly cause a whisper?

Yet energy remains a challenge in the USA.  How do we power the American economic engine without exacerbating climate change?  How should government policies affect our energy development scenarios?  With 9 plus percent unemployment, can we afford to turn away from any energy project that produces jobs?  These and many other questions are the challenge of the 21st century.

Should Asia build her economic empire on coal the way the USA did?  Can America tell Asia that they should not use coal when coal powers the American economy?  What manner of hypocrisy could be used to justify this position?

We need bold thinking and action.  We need revolutionary concepts to provide the power that America needs in order to support a dynamic economy that provides an adequate number of jobs.  I guess we will just have to muddle through and figure it out as we go along.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Throwing Away Gadgets Can Pollute Environment

Smartphones, computers, televisions and other device manufacturers produce newer and increasingly amazing gadgets and consumers worldwide keep tossing out perfectly functional old devices. For instance, Apple sold 4 million units of the new iPhone 4S on its release weekend, soundly beating the previous iPhone launch record of 1.7 million. This raises some serious environmental concerns. And all this electronic refuse threatens water, soil and air.

Americans trashed more than 20 million televisions, 157 million computers and computer accessories, and 126 million mobile phones in 2007, according to the most recent EPA data. In 2006, the United Nations estimated that we threw away between 20 million and 50 million tons of e-waste globally, which constitutes
5 percent of total municipal solid waste. The developing world tripled its disposal of electronic junk in the last five years.

While the sheer volume of electronic garbage is impressive on its own, it’s the chemicals involved that concern environmentalists. Electronic screens made of glass can be up to 27 percent lead. Computer circuit boards contain between 30 and 100 times the concentration of lead that is considered hazardous by the EPA. The metal can accumulate in the soil and disrupt natural ecosystems. Plants take lead in through their roots, and it can be passed on to grazing animals. While it’s not particularly water-soluble, it can leach into the groundwater under the right conditions. Computers that are incinerated can also release lead into the air.

Electronic waste also contains mercury, which is used in flat screens and can leach into groundwater if not properly collected by the lining systems in landfills. Eventually it could then make its way into the aquatic part of our food chain: fish. If consumed, mercury can cause nervous system damage. Cadmium and chromium, other metals used in electronics, are carcinogenic and can enter both the air and the water supply. (Wash Post, 10/31/2011, Illustration courtesy Michael Sloan/For the Washington Post)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Herbert M. Allison Reviewing DOE 'Green' Loan Program

Herbert M. Allison has been chosen by the White House to advise them on the Department of Energy's "green" loan program. He was recruited after the collapse of Solyndra, a solar company that received $535 million in federal loan guarantees.

Herbert M. Allison
Herbert M. Allison, Jr.  served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability of the United States. He left the Treasury Department in September 2010. His previous position was as President and CEO of Fannie Mae, a post to which he was appointed in September 2008, after Fannie was placed into conservatorship. Prior to that, Mr. Allison was Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of TIAA-CREF from 2002 until his retirement in 2008.

Mr. Allison began his career at Merrill Lynch as an associate in investment banking and served variously as Treasurer, Director of Human Resources, Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President, President, Chief Operating Officer and as a member of the Board during his 28 years there. After leaving Merrill Lynch in mid-1999, he served as National Finance Chair for U.S. Senator John McCain's first Presidential Campaign
Allison, the son of an FBI agent, earned a B.A. in philosophy from Yale University. Following four years as an officer in the U.S. Navy, including one year in Vietnam, he received an M.B.A. from Stanford University. (Wiki)

Should China Adopt American Air Quality Standards?

Many Chinese Say "YES"

Authorities in Beijing, and most Chinese cities, measure air pollution by counting only particles between 2.5 and 10 micrometers in diameter.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing counts ones of 2.5 micrometers and below, which experts say make up the most of the city's air pollution and cause more damage to the lungs.

As a result, many Beijingers are becoming increasingly aware that the embassy's readings often contradict those from the environment bureau:

On Oct. 30, for example, the embassy rated Beijing's air "hazardous," while the bureau called it "slight."  (WSJ, 4/9/2011)

Interior Dept 2012-2017 Offshore Oil & Gas Plan

Secretary Salazar Announces 2012-2017 Offshore Oil and Gas Development Program

Proposal makes available more than 75% of estimated undiscovered oil and gas resources on U.S. Outer Continental Shelf

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced on Tuesday the Proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017, which makes more than 75 percent of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources estimated in federal offshore areas available for exploration and development.  It schedules 15 potential lease sales for the 2012-2017 period – 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and three off the coast of Alaska.

The Center supports the overall plan, but opposes expansion into America's Arctic Ocean region because the remote location would significantly hinder response efforts in the case of a blowout. The Center opposed the Obama administration's pre-BP disaster offfshore plan that proposed expansion into the eastern Gulf off the coast of Florida, off the east coast and off the coast of California.  The Center also recognizes that the current lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico are proceeding at an aggressive pace.

The Proposed Program also reflects the need for a regionally tailored approach to offshore development that accounts for issues such as current knowledge of resource potential, adequacy of infrastructure including oil spill response capabilities, and the need for a balanced approach to our use of natural resources. The majority of lease sales are scheduled for areas in the Gulf of Mexico, where resource potential and interest is greatest and where infrastructure is most mature.

The Proposed Program includes lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, but the single sales are scheduled late in the 5-year period to facilitate further scientific study and data collection, and longer term planning for spill response preparedness and infrastructure. The proposal suggests that any lease sales in the Arctic be tailored to protect sensitive environmental resources, including those accessed by Native Alaskans for subsistence uses.

For more information on the proposed program

The Proposed Program will be open for significant public comment and consideration. Following public comment and review periods for the proposed program, as well as the accompanying Draft Environmental Impact Statement, a Proposed Final Program (PFP) and a Final EIS will be submitted to the President and Congress.

The OCS Lands Act requires that the Secretary of the Interior prepare a 5-year program that includes a schedule of oil and gas lease sales and indicates the size, timing and location of proposed leasing activity as determined by the Secretary to best meet national energy needs for the 5-year period following its approval, while addressing a range of economic, environmental and social considerations.

The Proposed Program is consistent with the Obama Administration’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, which aims to promote domestic energy security and reduce oil imports by a third by 2025 through a comprehensive national energy policy. More information.

See below to view the items being released in coordination with the Proposed Program. These materials will also be available tomorrow in the Federal Register’s Reading Room for inspection.:

OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Program

Draft Programmatic Environment Impact Statement

Schedule of 2011 Public Hearings

BOEM Fact Sheet: 2011 Assessment of Undiscovered Technically Recoverable Oil and Gas Resources

BOEM Fact Sheet: Economic Analysis Methodology for the 5-Year OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017

OCS maps:

Continental United States

Alaska Planning Areas

(DOI Press Release)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Lisa Jackson Visits California Academy of Sciences

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson visited the California Academy of Sciences and spoke with staff and researchers about innovative education and outreach programs and their role in green job development. Here she's atop the Living Roof, where 1.7 million native plants were specially chosen to flourish in Golden Gate Park´s climate.

Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) Control Technologies

See Also: Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) Compliance by Utilities

The technologies available for controlling Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) are numerous. Since mercury is to be controlled for the first time, it may require the most in-depth control of any hazardous air pollutant. Mercury-specific control technologies include Activated Carbon Injection (ACI), halogen addition, and co-benefit methods of control, such as PM controls, dry sorbent injection (DSI) and dry and wet scrubbers (see Table 2).

ACI and halogen addition are the preferred methods for controlling mercury, said Brandy Johnson, manager of FGD project development at Babcock & Wilcox. ACI is essentially the injection of powdered activated carbon. The injected carbon is then captured using a downstream PM capture device (an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) or a baghouse). Halogen addition can be used to enhance the mercury removal process.

Many technologies provide co-benefit methods of control for mercury. Baghouses (or fabric filters) typically provide a higher co-benefit mercury capture than ESPs.  Wet scrubbers with SCR controls upstream have also proven to be effective at removing oxidized mercury.  One downside to this option is that a wet scrubber will take mercury emissions out of the air, but can leave mercury emissions in water.

Plants that only have an ESP may find it challenging to meet Utility MACT compliance, Mahabaleshwarkar said, because “ESPs remove limited mercury and HCl even with carbon/sorbent injection.” A plant that has an ESP and a wet scrubber installed will be more likely to meet compliance, while a plant with a dry scrubber and fabric filter will likely meet full compliance. Currently, more than 50 to 60 percent of coal-fired power plants have only ESPs installed.

Acid Gas Control.  Strong acids like HCl and HF are formed as a result of the inherent halogen content in coal that is released during combustion to form acids as the flue gas cools. The proposed Utilty MACT rule sets a numerical emissions limit for HCl. This limit also functions as a surrogate limit for other acid gases, which are not given individual emission limits under the proposed rule. In principle, wet and dry SO2 scrubbers can be used for controlling HCl and HF on plant boilers.

Dioxin/Furan Control. Dioxins and furans are generally not present in coal, but can be formed during the molecular rearrangement of compounds and reactions of fly ash involving carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, chlorine and a transition metal catalyst. Because dioxins are formed through organic precursors, installing combustion controls or oxidation catalysts can help prevent or lower their formation. SCRs have also been proven to lower emissions of dioxins and furans. DSI upstream of the air preheater of a coal boiler may also be a way to reduce dioxin and furan formation.

Babcock & Wilcox offers a number of mercury-specific control options to meet various power plant needs. Its MercPlus System enhances mercury capture through halogen addition to the fuel to promote oxidation and minimizes powdered activated carbon usage at power plants that use low chlorine coals, such as PRB. The Absorption Plus (Hg) system is designed to inhibit mercury re-emission and to increase the total mercury captured and retained in a wet FGD system. Essentially, Absorption Plus maintains the Hg in the scrubber solution and prevents the mercury from changing back into elemental mercury and emitting from the stack. Babcock & Wilcox also offers powdered ACI, sorbent injection, baghouses and more.

ADA Environmental Solutions ACI systems can be tailored to meet specific requirements. Operators can choose between options like PLC or DCS controls, gravimetric or volumetric feeders, ladders or stairs, and standard or deluxe instrument packages. ADA also offers Dry Sorbent Injection (DSI) systems that use alkaline materials (hydrated lime, trona, sodium bicarbonate) to reduce SO2, SO3 and HCl from stack gases.

Skyonic has also produced a multi-pollutant control technology to help plants comply with HAPs regulations. The SkyMine emissions removal technology has 99 percent efficiency removal of SOx, NO2, mercury and other heavy metals. The technology is also capable of capturing carbon from flue gas stacks.

Eco Power Solutions, Comply 2000, is a multi-pollutant removal system that was selected by EPA to be included on a list of technologies that “offer the potential of reduced compliance costs and improved overall environmental performance” of the New Source Performance Standards and MACT. The Comply 2000 reduces SO2 emissions through injecting a fogging spray mixed with a hydrogen peroxide solution that is condensed concurrently with other pollutants over coils to remove all combustion emissions from the exhaust gas stream. This process converts NOx and SO2 to nitric and sulfuric acid in the wastewater stream, resulting in 99 percent removal of SO2, mercury, halogens including fluoride, chlorine and bromide, heavy metals include arsenic and cadmium, 2.5 and 10-micron PM, as well as 20 percent removal of CO2. (Power Engineering, 10/1/2011)

Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) Compliance by Utilities

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed Air Toxics Rule will mark the first federal limits on hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) — including mercury — in U.S. history. The HAPs to be controlled include mercury, lead, arsenic, hydrogen chloride (HCl), hydrogen fluoride (HF), dioxins/furans and other toxic substances identified by Congress in the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act (CAA). The rule establishes “maximum achievable control technology” (MACT) limits for many of these and has therefore adopted the nickname “Utility MACT.”  The law requires EPA to base the MACT on the top 12 percent of units “for which the Administrator has data.”  The 12 percent of units equaled 131 units by EPA’s count. Consequently, EPA used data from 131 units to develop the proposed MACT limits.

Utility MACT does not require emission limits for organic HAPs or dioxins/furans. The rulemaking also allows SO2 as a surrogate option for acid gas HAPs, which means most power producers that already have scrubbers for SO2 control will not need additional controls for acid gas HAPs. Utility MACT also allows for alternative compliance by averaging among similar units within one plant. 

Utility MACT includes mandatory performance testing for both the surrogate and the pollutant. Also, “operating limits” on control equipment must be continuously monitored and maintained within “tight constraints,” even if continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS) are used to demonstrate compliance.

Since no CEMS currently exist for total  particulate matter (PM)—filterable plus condensable—selected as the surrogate for non-mercury metallic HAPs, this is sure to cause a number of challenges.

Mercury control regulations enforced by many states already require 80 to 95 percent mercury capture rates.  But because Utility MACT covers more than just mercury, even a power plant that has technology for a state mercury regulation may still need to install additional control technology in order to capture another emissions type. 

Ultimately, what is most important is that benefits generated by Utility MACT outweigh compliance costs. EPA estimates the Utility MACT would generate $140 billion in annual health and welfare benefits in 2016. EPA also admits the ruling would impose costs of about $11 billion a year on the U.S. economy.  However, EPA’s number crunching has been questioned by a number of industry groups, including the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council (ERCC).  (Power Engineering, 10/1/2011)

How Will MF Global Collapse Affect Energy Markets?

On its website, MF Global lists itself as:
"A leading broker of exchange-listed and OTC-traded energy futures and options, [offering] an extensive, global pool of liquidity and access to trading opportunities across all major energy markets...
an early and active participant in the new dimensions of the energy markets as well as the markets for freight futures, and OTC fuel oil, coal and iron ore swaps...and

a leader in the markets for metals and other industrial materials is based on more than 30 years of excellence in the core functions of market making, order execution, trade clearing and contract administration for metals and plastics futures, options and OTC products."

Impressive.  But now MF Global filed for bankruptcy protection, is being investigated by the the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for $600 million missing from customer accounts and former NJ Governor and former Senator Jon Corzine, right, has resigned as its president.

So how will this affect energy markets?  Probably not at all.  A competitor will step in and replace them without much notice.  Of course, if you are one of the customers looking for your money on energy and precious metals speculation, you will probably be left holding an empty bag.  According to MF Global:
"We help clients trade a vast range of commodities and financial instruments in markets and countries around the world. MF Global operates on more than 70 financial exchanges and is one of the leaders by volume on many of the world’s major futures exchanges."

Asia: Key To American Jobs Growth

Asian Economic Development Could Stimulate American Jobs Creation

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham writes in the November issue of Foreign Policy cover story, “America’s Pacific Century:”
“Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia.”
The Center agrees.  American exports to Asia could do for America what Chinese exports to America have done for China: help in creating double digit economic growth.

How will Asia create such a vast new consumer base?  It will need significant new electricity production.  How will this electricity production be fueled?  In the real world, it will be fueled by coal.  And some of this coal will be exported from the United States. 

So what is an environmental group to do in such a situation?  Simply oppose coal-fired electricity production in Asia?  Oppose coal exports from the United States?  What about global warming, smog, mercury pollution and Critieria Air Pollutants?  Yet, there are only two effective ways to reliably produce baseload electricity: 1) coal and 2) nuclear power.   Nuclear does not produce pollutant emissions.  So Asian nations can build more nuclear power plants.  But coal is cheap, plentiful and will probably be the leading fuel for Asian electricity production. That takes us back to the original question.

The Center will be recommending Asian nations to adopt the most efficient and environmentally friendly technologies in burning coal.  This includes integrated gasification combined cycle with selective catalytic reduction emission controls and other emissions controls technologies. (Wash Post, 111/8/2011)

Monday, November 07, 2011

U.S. Coal Stockpiles at Electric Power Plants at Five-Year Low

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electricity Monthly Update.
Note: Stocks displayed above are for power plants in the electric sector only.
Download CSV Data

Total coal stockpile levels at U.S. electric power plants were 139 million tons in August 2011—the lowest total level for August since 2006. Bituminous coal stockpiles declined the most, down 27% since August 2009. Increases in the spot price of Central Appalachian coal as well as some supply disruptions in the late spring of 2011 contributed to declining stock levels.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electricity Monthly Update

Coal stockpile levels typically decline during summer months as power plants burn through stocks to meet seasonal peak electric demand for air conditioning load. Stockpile levels have been depressed throughout 2011 compared to 2009 and 2010 levels. According to average monthly data, the spot price of Central Appalachian coal (a key benchmark for the price of Eastern bituminous coal) was up 18% since August 2010. Flooding in April and May disrupted some coal deliveries, especially in the Southeast, and likely played a role in the declining stock levels going into the summer of 2011.

"Days of burn," another measure of the disposition of coal stocks, dipped under 60 days by mid-year 2011 for the first time since 2008. The average number of days of burn held at electric power plants is a forward-looking estimate of coal supply, given a power plant's current stockpile and past consumption patterns. Mostly for reliability reasons, plant operators maintain stockpiles within certain ranges even though supply disruptions in excess of 60 days are relatively unlikely. Days of burn held generally rose in 2009 as a result of the reduced electricity demand associated with lower economic activity.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electricity Monthly Update.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Center's Mississippi Green Electric Biomass Plant Scoping

Scoping Visit 1

Wood-chip Plant
The Center, in cooperation with National Clean Fuels (NACF), has entered into a preliminary agreement with Port Gibson, Mississippi Mayor Fred Reeves to develop alternative energy projects. Specifically, the Center intends to construct and operate a 10 megawatt biomass-to-electricity plant in Port Gibson, Mississippi. Project engineering will be coordinated by Dyson Engineering and Technical Services.

The Center and NACF met with Mayor Reeves and other stakeholders on Wednesday, September 1, 2010 to discuss the parameters of the 'Green Port Gibson Project.' The Center, NACF and Mayor Reeves agreed to move forward with consideration and conceptualization of alternative energy projects. Others participating in the meeting included Port Gibson Alderman Marvin Ratliff, Alcorn State University Community Resource Development Liaison Charles Shepphard, Port Gibson Main Street Manager Kenneth D. Ross, and Rural Community Development Corporation President Clarence Scutter.

Derry Bigby, Clarence Scutter, Mayor Fred Reeves, Charles Shepphard, Norris McDonald, Maurice Stone
Mississippi lawmakers have authorized $51 million in new incentives to help a company to bring three biofuel plants to Mississippi. The incentives, along with an existing $30 million loan already available from the state, add up to an $81 million incentive package. The incentive package also included $2 million for research on biomass usage in producing renewable fuel that goes to Alcorn State University and Mississippi State University. It is being touted that Mississippi could become to biofuels what Texas is to oil. [The Natchez Democrat, "Could Mississippi Be Biomass Headquarters, 8/31/2010]

Scoping Visit 2

Center Planning To Build Biomass Electricity Plant in Mississippi

The Center and National Clean Fuels (NACF) engaged in their second scoping trip in Mississppi, which is part of the process for their planned construction of a 10 megawatt biomass-to-electricity plant in Port Gibson, Mississippi.  The team included our Center President Norris McDonald and Center Vice President Derry Bigby, NACF President Maurice Stone and Al Dyson, president of Dyson Engineering and Technical Services, Inc.  The Rudy Shields Green Electric plant is projected to begin operating in 2012.

Bigby, Dyson, McDonald, Stone
 The Center scoping team met with representatives of Entergy Mississippi at one of their substation offices in Clinton, Mississippi to get a briefing on the process for interconnection to the electrical grid.  Entergy Mississippi provided a comprehensive and technical presentation on the steps necessary to complete a power purchasing agreement and all of the required steps to construct the plant.   The Entergy briefing was provided by Ed W. Porter, Senior Account Service Manager-Commercial & Industrial Accounts and Dr. Rick Bowley, Ph.D, Senior Wholesale Executive-Transmission Project Development.

Bigby, McDonald, Dyson, Stone
 Our team met with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at their headquarters office in Jackson, Mississippi.  The DEQ meeting included a briefing about the air and other environmental issues involved in getting appropriate permits for the facility.  These include construction and operating permits (Clean Air Act) and a stormwater runoff permit.  DEQ staff was very helpful and addressed all of our questions.  These questions ranged from capacity factors to timetables to forestry issues.  The DEQ briefing team included Bryan D. Collins, Chief, Energy & Transportation Branch, Montie Hardaway Glenn, Environmental Engineer, Office of Pollution Control, and John Havard, Permit Writer.

The Center scoping crew met with staff at Alcorn State Univesity, in Alcorn State, Mississippi, which is just outside of Port Gibson.  We briefed them on the biomass-to-electricity project and they shared their research projects in the areas of sustainable agriculture and renewable energy.  We discovered that there is an electrical substation on the campus that has a gas line nearby.  A gas line can serve as backup for the wood feedstock for a woodchip power plant.  The Alcorn State University team included Dr. Alton B. Johnson, V.P. for Development and Marketing and Foundation Director, Dr. Dalton McAfee, Dean, School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences (AREAS), Dr. Girish K. Panicker, Director, Conservation Research Center, Yaw A. Twumasi, Assistant Professor, Geographic Information Sciences & Technology Program Coordinator, Micheal Ezekwe, Director, Swine Development Center, Professor of Animal Science, among others.

Stone, Dyson, McDonald, Bigby
Our team met with a representative of the Mississippi Development Authority Energy Division.  Terrence R. Spears, Senior Project Manager, provided a description of the renewable energy programs at the agency.  After describing our project, Mr. Spears described their agency's energy investement program, the various education and outreach programs available from the agency and he answered all of our questions.

Photo Credits: Dexter Dyson 

 Substation at Alcorn State University
Dyson Engineering President Al Dyson at Entergy Port Gibson Substation
Alcorn State Methane Gas Line (note solar panel)

Lunch at The Old Country Store
 w/ Port Gibson Mayor Fred Reeves (2nd from right) and Charles Shepphard (far right)
NACF President Maurice Stone at Alcorn State Farm Area

The Center, NACF and Mayor Reeves hope to include Port Gibson in this new green development renaissance.

After the meeting, Center President Norris McDonald and Center Vice President Derry Bigby took a short tour of the Mississippi River and Lake Yucatan on the Louisiana side of the river (see video below). The river tour was arranged by Mayor Reeves and was conducted by Soloman Wilson.

Scoping Visit 3

Derry Bigby, Al Dyson, Norris McDonald
The Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy (Center) met with representatives from South Mississippi Electric Power Association (SMEPA) and Southwest Mississippi Electric Power Association (SWEPA) to discuss feasibility studies, interconnection requirements and a power purchasing agreement on its third biomass-to-electricity (BTE) power plant scoping visit. Plans call for the new BTE plant to generate electricity by gasifying sawdust and woodchips to power a massive turbine.

The Southwest Mississippi EPA electrical substation is on Alcorn State University property and the utility has a long term lease with the university to operate the facility. The Center is seeking a similar arrangement for its proposed 10-megawatt power plant. The Center also met with Port Gibson Mayor Fred Reeves and other city representatives and stakeholders to discuss the power project.

Alton Johnson, Norris McDonald, Marcus Ward, Derry Bigby, Al Dyson
The Center met with Alcorn State University faculty and staff to discuss cooperative energy proposals, including leasing land to the Center for the biomass-to-energy power plant.  The meeting included Dean of Agricultural Research and Applied Sciences Alton Johnson, Vice President for Facility Management and Strategic Planning Jessie Stephney, and Associate Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs Marcus Ward.  The Center team included Center President Norris McDonald, Center Vice President Derry Bigby and engineering consultant Al Dyson, president of Dyson Engineering and Technical Services of Memphis, Tennessee.  The meeting was held on campus at the Extension and Research Complex.

The Center expects to meet with the new president of Alcorn State in January to begin negotiations to secure a long term lease for the property to build and operate the biomass -to-electricity plant. We are also discussing supplemental projects that could complement the biomass project. These projects include fuel cell electricity production and natural gas pipelines. The natural gas will serve as a backup source for the biomass plant.

The Center toured the Alcorn State University campus and met with facilities managers to discuss the implications of the power plant. The university is in a very rural area and is basically a self-contained city, providing its own drinking water from wells (see one below), water storage and treatment facility (see photo at left) and has its own wastewater treatment plant (see photo at right). There are also numerous research projects that are either ongoing or have ceased for various reasons, including the fuel cell and chicken production facilities. The Center is examining the feasibility of partnering with the university in an expanded program to assist this 'city' in meeting its energy needs.

Groundwater pump and pipe to treatment facility

Fuel Cell in background
Alcorn State University constructed a groundbreaking fuel cell electricity generating station 14 years ago.  However, lack of funding and staff changes led to the project being mothballed.  The Center is interested in working with Alcorn State University to install a modern hydrogen fuel cell to revive this groundbreaking project.  All of the infrastructure is still there, including a 3-transformer interconnect with the electricity line.

Ellis Neal, J.B. Darris, A.C. Garner, Clarence Scutter,
 Norris McDonald, Lorraine Lias, Al Dyson, Mayor Fred Reeves
The Center met with Port Gibson Mayor Fred Reeves and other stakeholders to discuss the biomass-to-electricity project.  Mayor Reeves has been a tireless advocate and ally in supporting the biomass-to-electricity.  In addition to the energy reliability and environmental benefits, Mayor Reeve's singular interest is in creating more jobs in Port Gibson.  The stakeholders shared their support for the project and encouraged Center representatives to proceed with all deliberate speed to get construction approved.  The Center has approval from the City of Port Gibson to proceed and is seeking county approval for the project.

The Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy and its project affiliate, National Clean Fuels (PinkSheets: NACF) are working together to build a biomass-to-electricity (BTE) plant near Port Gibson, Mississippi.  During the trip, Center President Norris McDonald described to area stakeholders how the biomass generator will produce an abundance of energy that can be redistributed along the energy grid in Port Gibson and surrounding areas.

The Center and National Clean Fuels are dedicated to developing clean, reliable electricity production.

Scoping Visit 4

The Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy has established Green Electric (GE) as the subsidiary that will construct a biomass electricity plant in Mississippi.  On this fourth visit in four months, the Center met with local representatives to negotiate a land lease and to gauge the community acceptance of a wood chip power plant.  The proposed biomass-to-electricity (BTE) plant will convert wood chips into methane, which will be burned in a massive turbine that will provide 10-megawatts of electricity to the Mississippi electricity grid.  GE is seeking land use from Alcorn State University (ASU) and is also exploring a site location in the City of Port Gibson.

Mayor Reaves, AC, McDonald, Bigby
Center and National Clean Fuels (NACF) staff conducted their 4th scoping visit that included land lease negotiations with local property owners and government officials.  The February 15 - 17 scoping visit included meetings with staff and faculty at Alcorn State University, Mayor Fred Reaves, Port Authority representative AC Garner, Attorney Mike Espy, County Supervisor Charles Shorts and Country Administrator James Johnston.  Mike Espy has been retained as the Green Electric attorney for the BTE project.

Center and NACF staff met with faculty, staff and deans from Alcorn State University (ASU) in order to negotiate terms for the possible location of the plant somewhere on the massive property owned by the college.  The meeting included ACU Chief of Staff Marcus Ward, Dean Barry L. Bequette, Dr. Alton Johnson, Jessie Stephney and representatives from the physics department.

In addition to surveying sites for the BTE plant, Center representatives surveyed a prospective site for the corporate headquarters in downtown Port Gibson.  The building needs remodeling, but would be an excellent location for the Green Electric corporate headquarters.

Green Electric intends to obtain the location this year and intends to initiate construction of the plant within this same timeframe.  GE intends to complete purchase of this location early this year in order to facilitate local employment and to support GTE plant operations.

Center Seeking $15 Million Donation To Build Biomass Plant

The Center, through its subsidiary Green Electric (GE), is seeking to build a biomass-to-electricity plant in Port Gibson, Mississippi.  We have approval from the City of Port Gibson and Claiborne County Board of Supervisors to proceed.  The Center also has an agreement with AREVA to serve as construction manager for the project.

Initial funding for the scoping was provided by National Clean Fuels, Inc. (NACF) of Houston, Texas.  Over the past seven months, the Center staff and our contracted engineering firm, Dyson Engineering and Technical Services, visited Port Gibson four times.  After exploring three separate sites for the plant, the Center has decided on the location near an electrical substation in Port Gibson.  Mayor Fred Reaves and residents of the city are excited by the prospect of the project bringing jobs to the area.

Biomass projects are challenging and not necessarily the most attractive investments for investors.  The Center, as a nonprofit organization, has more leverage to make such a business an ongoing operation.  Even with a donation of $10 million to build the plant and $5 million to operate for five years, the economics of the project will be challenging.  However, the job creation benefits, global climate change mitigation implications and the electricity delivery service are worth the risk of building this facility in this area.

If you can help, please feel free to contact us.