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European partnership to investigate trans-sector technological potential to reduce carbon emissions

http://www.chemengonline.com/european-partnership-to-investigate-trans-sector-technological-potential-to-reduce-carbon-emissions/

Solvay S.A. (Brussels, Belgium; www.solvay), ArcelorMittal S.A. (Luxembourg; www.arcelormittal.com), Evonik Industries AG (Essen, Germany; www.evonik.com) and LafargeHolcim (Jona, Switzerland; www.lafargeholcim.com) today announce the formation of a new Low Carbon Technology Partnerships Initiative (LCPRi) across the steel, cement and chemicals industries. LCTPi is a set of programs, gathering 150 global businesses and 70 partners under the auspices of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, to accelerate the development of low-carbon technology solutions to stay below the 2°C ceiling.

This new partnership will look at the potential synergies that exist between the manufacturing processes of these three energy intensive sectors, and how these synergies could be harnessed to reducing CO2 emissions.

As a first step, and following preliminary research, the innovative partnership will produce a study, with the technical support of Arthur D. Little, to identify potential ways to valorize industrial off-gases and other by- products from their manufacturing processes to produce goods with a lower carbon footprint than through the fossil path. The preliminary research already allowed identifying significant potential in selected trans-sector pathways.

The study is aimed at bringing a fact-based overview of carbon and energy sources from industrial off-gases (first at a European level), and evaluating the technical, environmental and economic feasibility of different carbon capture and usage (CCU) pathways and their potential.

Initial findings from the first step already underway suggest that:

• Deploying cross-sector carbon capture and reuse opportunities on an industrial scale – something that does not happen today – could reduce up to 3 GT/y or 7% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions
• Existing conversion technologies that could be deployed across the three sectors could utilise by- products in the off-gases to create building materials, organic chemicals and fuel. As an example, up to 1–2% (0.4–0.7 Gton/yr) of global anthropogenic CO2 could be reduced with the production of ethanol/methanol alone
• Increased availability and greater access to renewable energy sources, would significantly boost net carbon reduction efforts by those three sectors, within a supportive legislative framework
• Cross sector carbon capture and reuse should also result in job creation, to be further investigated

The study, carried out at European level, is building the ground for similar investigation extended at global level and paves the way for identifying and assessing industrial scale projects on CCU at the interface between the sectors.

Stefan Haver, senior vice president Corporate Responsibility of Evonik, said: “Cross-sector initiatives like this offer great opportunities to steer our economies towards improved sustainability and more circularity. That’s why Evonik strongly supports joined actions in low carbon technologies.”

Speaking in Marrakech, Michel Bande, Corporate Sustainability Officer and Liaison Delegate WBCSD of Solvay, said “The potential to reduce carbon emissions through better collaboration between the chemicals, steel and cement industries looks promising. European energy-intensive industries could, with new and innovative ways to work together, ultimately produce large volumes of final goods with a reduced carbon footprint. In this arena, the chemical industry is key thanks to its enabling technologies. Indeed, linking large sources of carbon with the expertise and processes of the chemical industry could become crucial to develop ground-breaking solutions helping to reach the 2°C goal. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is instrumental in supporting the emergence of such partnerships that require long term cooperation and vision shared between industry and society”.

Carl de Maré, vice president head of Technology Strategy of ArcelorMittal, said: “We are excited to build a partnership that demonstrates our commitment to developing a low-carbon, circular economy steel business and explores the numerous efficiency opportunities across other energy intensive industries. We believe that steel is a perfect material for the circular economy, but key to exploiting our potential is establishing innovative cross-sector partnerships such as this. This will help us to develop and industrialize carbon re-use technologies, ensuring that waste products created from the steelmaking process are effectively harnessed and re-used, reducing our direct carbon footprint, but also creating commercially valuable products that have a lower carbon footprint than currently available alternatives.”

Bernard Mathieu, head Group Sustainable Development of LafargeHolcim, said: “Concrete offers the highest level of life-cycle sustainability performance and we are continuously developing new products and solutions for a low carbon society. This new ambitious partnership will support our mission to cut our net emissions per ton of cement by 40% towards 2030 (versus 1990) and to develop and further deploy low carbon solutions for the construction sector. But to make this a reality, we will need an enabling regulatory framework and support to innovation.”

Obama puts Arctic Ocean off limits for drilling in last-ditch barrier to Trump

US Department of the Interior says ‘fragile and unique’ Arctic ecosystem at risk if drilling allowed, possibly by pro-fossil fuels Trump administration

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/18/obama-arctic-ocean-drilling-fossil-fuels-trump

Barack Obama’s administration has ruled out drilling for oil and gas in the pristine Arctic Ocean, throwing up a last-ditch barrier to the pro-fossil fuels agenda of incoming president Donald Trump.

The US Department of the Interior said that the “fragile and unique” Arctic ecosystem would face “significant risks” if drilling were allowed in the Chukchi or Beaufort Seas, which lie off Alaska. It added that the high costs of exploration, combined with a low oil price, would probably deter fossil fuel companies anyway.

“The plan focuses lease sales in the best places – those with the highest resource potential, lowest conflict, and established infrastructure – and removes regions that are simply not right to lease,” said the interior secretary, Sally Jewell.

“Given the unique and challenging Arctic environment and industry’s declining interest in the area, forgoing lease sales in the Arctic is the right path forward.”

The move, announced as part of the federal government’s land and ocean leasing program that will run from 2017 to 2022, has been cheered by environmentalists who called for the Arctic to be put off limits for drilling to help slow climate change and avoid a catastrophic oil spill.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates a commitment to prioritizing common sense, economics and science ahead of industry favoritism and politics as usual,” said Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana’s senior vice-president for the United States.

“The decades-long push to drill in the Arctic has put this unique and diverse ecosystem at risk, cost tens of billions of dollars and created significant controversy without providing the promised benefits. We now have the opportunity to put the old arguments behind us and work together toward a sustainable future for the Arctic region.”

The removal of the Arctic Ocean from federal leasing runs contrary to Trump’s vow to “lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks” to large fossil fuel projects and throw open vast areas of land and water to drilling. But even if Trump reverses the Arctic ban, the economics are still unfavorable for offshore drilling in the region.

Shell spent more than $7bn on its attempt to exploit oil and gas reserves in the Arctic after being allowed to do so by the US government despite a high predicted risk of an oil spill in the frigid ecosystem. The Anglo-Dutch company abandoned its drilling operation in September last year, having faced huge costs and fierce opposition from green groups.

Fossil fuel interests have eyed the Arctic as a huge new frontier for oil and gas riches, with rapidly melting sea ice making areas of the Arctic Ocean more accessible for drilling rigs. The Arctic holds about 90bn barrels of undiscovered oil and 30% of the world’s untapped natural gas.

However, the International Energy Agency has warned that the drilling in the Arctic is not yet commercially viable, while environmental groups have warned that opening up new fossil fuel development will push the planet over the precipice into catastrophic climate change.

The Arctic is at the forefront of global warming, with the region heating up at twice the rate of the rest of the planet. This summer, Arctic sea ice shrank to its second smallest extent ever recorded, with the annual winter regrowth occurring at a “sluggish” rate, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. On current trends, ice is returning at a slower rate than the record low experienced in 2012.

The new federal leasing plan also makes the Atlantic off-limits to drilling, another success for environmentalists and coastal communities that fought initial plans to lease areas to fossil fuel firms. But the plan does include 10 new sales in the Gulf of Mexico, the epicenter of US offshore drilling.

The federal government, through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, currently manages around 3,400 active oil and gas leases in federal waters, covering an area spanning 18m acres.

“Today’s decision is a victory for the Arctic and demonstrates the growing strength of the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground. But we also need to protect communities along the Gulf of Mexico,” said Marissa Knodel, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

“Unfortunately, Donald Trump has made it clear that he wants to return to the days of ‘drill baby drill’. That’s why President Obama must use his remaining days in office to permanently keep as much of our lands and waters from Trump and his oil cronies as possible.”

The Obama administration has pushed through a number of climate-related measures since the election of Trump, who denies climate change exists and has promised to withdraw the US from the international effort to tackle it. The president-elect also proposes cutting all funding for clean energy and to dismantle Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the main policy designed to cut emissions.

This week, the department of the interior unveiled regulations to slash fugitive emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from natural gas operations. The US was also the first nation to submit to the United Nations a plan on how it will reduce emissions, with the Obama administration setting a goal of an 80% reduction by 2050.

John Kerry, the secretary of state, said this week that climate change is “bigger than one person, one president” and that international progress on the issue was unstoppable, despite the threat of US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

Businesses have also stated their support for the international climate effort, with more than 360 companies, including Levi’s, Kellogg’s and Nike, urging Trump to keep up American efforts to ward off dangerous global warming.

Energy-efficient engine turns waste hot water into electricity

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2113109-energy-efficient-engine-turns-waste-hot-water-into-electricity/

By James Randerson

A new engine that generates electricity from waste hot water could reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions for thousands of different businesses, from cargo shipping to data centres.

So says Exergyn, a firm based in Dublin, Ireland, which plans to run the first industrial trials of its technology next year.

Globally, Exergyn estimates that the heat lost in waste hot water from industrial processes amounts to around twice the energy in Saudi Arabia’s annual oil and gas output.

“There’s just so much waste hot water in the world,” says Exergyn CEO Alan Healy. “In most cases [companies] are actually spending energy to cool it.”

Cut carbon emissions

Cargo ships, for example, typically pump waste hot water from the engine around the vessel to cool it down. And in data centres, electricity-hungry fans are used to dissipate the heat generated by rows of servers. Finding an efficient way to capture and use this wasted energy would both reduce costs and cut carbon emissions.

The Exergyn Drive uses the quirky properties of an alloy of nickel and titanium called nitinol. You can bend nitinol out of shape, but when heated it undergoes a phase transition and reverts to its original crystal lattice structure. This “shape memory” property makes nitinol desirable in a wide range of applications, including medical devices, unbreakable sunglasses and NASA’s Mars rovers.

It also has another unusual quality. Unlike most materials, nitinol expands when cooled, rather like water does when it turns to ice (think of the mess in your freezer when you leave a bottle of beer to cool in there too long).

“There aren’t many materials in the universe that do that,” says Mike Langan, Exergyn’s head of product management.

These two properties drive the Exergyn engine. Inside the device, a bundle of metre-long nitinol wires are attached to a piston. Hot and cold water is alternately flushed over the wires every 10 seconds, which causes them to rapidly expand and contract by 4 centimetres, driving the piston up and down. A hydraulic system converts that forceful linear motion into rotary motion, which in turn drives a generator. The engine produces 10 kilowatts of electricity from around 200 kW of thermal energy in the waste hot water.

Free energy

That might not be hugely efficient, but this is “free” energy that would otherwise be wasted. And often, money and energy would be spent actively cooling down the waste water.

The company has spent three years perfecting the design and modifying the material so that it will keep working for millions of cycles. It was awarded 2.5 million euros from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 fund last year to help bring the technology to market and is now planning three industrial tests in 2017, at Dublin Airport and two landfill sites. In all three cases, the Exergyn technology will use warm water at 90 °C or less – from a gas engine at the airport and from biogas generators at the landfill sites – to produce electricity on-site.

In addition to harnessing waste heat from industry, the company hopes that the engine could expand the geothermal energy market. At the moment, generating electricity from geothermal sources in a cost-effective manner requires very hot water at high flow rates. That typically means digging very deep wells with a wide diameter, which hugely increases drilling costs. Langdon says that Exergyn’s technology makes a broader range of geothermal sites viable, as it works with water at a lower temperature and flow.

John Blowes, a past president of the Institution of Diesel and Gas Turbine Engineers, who has seen the technology but has no stake in the company, agrees there is a “massive” range of applications. But he says that only a small percentage of these will be viable unless the company can produce the technology cheaply. “It comes down at the end of the day, for me, to commercial viability,” he says.

Langan says the combination of no fuel costs and the mechanical simplicity of the machine means that Exergyn will be able to keep costs down. He says it can currently generate electricity at £40 per MWhr – cheaper than gas and coal.

Perovskite combination rivals silicon solar cell efficiency

The hybrid photovoltaic cell has a claimed efficiency of 21.7 percent, already better than the 10 to 20 percent of standard polycrystalline silicon solar cells currently in use(Credit: Onur Ergen/UC Berkeley)

The hybrid photovoltaic cell has a claimed efficiency of 21.7 percent, already better than the 10 to 20 percent of standard polycrystalline silicon solar cells currently in use(Credit: Onur Ergen/UC Berkeley)

http://newatlas.com/perovskite-solar-pv-grahene-aerogel/46346/

Scientists working at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) have created a hybrid photovoltaic cell from multiple layers of different perovskite materials that has a claimed a peak efficiency of 26 percent. It’s said that the cell can easily be sprayed onto flexible surfaces to make bendable, high-efficiency solar panels.

A hybrid organic-inorganic conglomerate, perovskite is used in solar cells to capture light in a similar way to common silicon-based solar cells by converting incoming photon energy into electrical current. Unlike rigid silicon semiconductor materials that require a great deal of expensive processing and manipulation to turn them into solar cells, however, perovskite photovoltaic devices are said to be cheaper and easier to make, in addition to being much more flexible.

The new UC berkeley/LBNL device is also very efficient thanks to a sandwich of two types of perovskite separated by a single-atom thick layer of hexagonal boron nitride (sometimes referred to as “White graphene”) with each perovskite slice designed as a graded bandgap layer (put simply, of low resistance and high gain) able to absorb different wavelengths of light. This combination effectively creates a photovoltaic cell able to collect and convert energy across most of the light spectrum.

“This is realizing a graded bandgap solar cell in a relatively easy-to-control and easy-to-manipulate system,” said Alex Zettl, a UC Berkeley professor of physics. “The nice thing about this is that it combines two very valuable features – the graded bandgap, a known approach, with perovskite, a relatively new but known material with surprisingly high efficiencies – to get the best of both worlds.”

photo-layers

In detail, the perovskite materials are made of methyl and ammonia organic molecules, with one containing tin and iodine and designed to absorb infrared light in the 1 electron volt (eV) range, and the other consisting of lead and iodine doped with bromine that absorbs amber photons of energy at 2 eV. A single-atom layer of boron nitride then provides an intermediate junction to operate in tandem and create electricity from across the light band.

This entire layered combination is then stabilized mechanically by placing it on top of a lightweight graphene aerogel to enhance the formation of fine-grained perovskite crystals as well as serve as a moisture barrier to stop the water-soluble perovskites falling to pieces. Lastly, the whole conglomeration has a gold electrode attached to the underside, along with a gallium nitride layer added to the uppermost part that gathers up the electrons generated when the cell is exposed to light. And all this with an active layer just 400 nanometers thick.

“Our architecture is a bit like building a quality automobile roadway,” said Zettl. “The graphene aerogel acts like the firm, crushed rock bottom layer or foundation, the two perovskite layers are like finer gravel and sand layers deposited on top of that, with the hexagonal boron nitride layer acting like a thin-sheet membrane between the gravel and sand that keeps the sand from diffusing into or mixing too much with the finer gravel. The gallium nitride layer serves as the top asphalt layer.”

With a standard operating efficiency of around 21.7 percent, the new wide spectrum hybrid perovskite cell is already better than the 10 to 20 percent efficiency of standard polycrystalline silicon solar cells currently in use in a host of commercial equipment and household solar systems. Even the best silicon solar cells made today are lucky to get over 25 percent efficiency, and are complex and expensive to produce.

“We have set the record now for different parameters of perovskite solar cells, including the efficiency,” said Zettl. “The efficiency is higher than any other perovskite cell – 21.7 percent – which is a phenomenal number, considering we are at the beginning of optimizing this.”

“Our theoretical efficiency calculations should be much, much higher and easier to reach than for single-bandgap solar cells because we can maximize coverage of the solar spectrum,” added Onur Ergen, a UC Berkeley physics graduate student.

The possibility exists to add further layers of hexagonal boron nitride-separated perovskite to help increase efficiencies even further, but the researchers believe that the thin new material may be efficient enough, and certainly sufficient for producing acceptable efficiencies for commercial production.

“People have had this idea of easy-to-make, roll-to-roll photovoltaics, where you pull plastic off a roll, spray on the solar material, and roll it back up,” said Zettl. “With this new material, we are in the regime of roll-to-roll mass production; it’s really almost like spray painting.”

The results were recently published in the journal Nature Materials.

China: We’ll deliver 18% cut in carbon emissions by 2020

China has issued a new climate plan targeting an 18% cut in carbon emissions by 2020 compared with 2015 levels as the Paris Agreement of nearly 200 countries took effect.

http://home.bt.com/news/world-news/china-well-deliver-18-cut-in-carbon-emissions-by-2020-11364110716046

China has issued a new climate plan targeting an 18% cut in carbon emissions by 2020 compared with 2015 levels as the Paris Agreement of nearly 200 countries took effect.

Under the new State Council plan, coal consumption must be capped at about 4.2 billion tons in 2020 while non-fossil fuel energy generation capacity like hydropower and nuclear power are expanded to 15% share of China’s total capacity.

China has taken a leading role in climate change talks and its collaboration with the United States has been touted by Washington and Beijing as a bright spot in an otherwise strained relationship.

China will guarantee that emissions peak no later than 2030 under the Paris pact. There are also plans to officially launch a national carbon trading market next year.

In recent years China has become a world leader in renewable energy investment and installation of new wind and solar power capacity, but efforts by the government to break away from coal consumption have been frustrating at times.

Even after Beijing declared a “war on pollution”, hundreds of new coal power plants were approved for construction in 2015 by regional authorities keen to buoy their economies.

Central economic planners earlier this year declared a halt on new approvals for coal plants and energy chiefs went a step further last month when they declared a building freeze on scores of partially-built plants across more than a dozen provinces, garnering praise from environmental groups like Greenpeace.

Large-scale use of solar power not feasible in Hong Kong

http://www.scmp.com/comment/letters/article/2043067/large-scale-use-solar-power-not-feasible-hong-kong

Hong Kong is facing serious air pollution, which can cause irreversible damage to our society. To cope with the problem, some may suggest the adoption of larger-scale usage of solar power. However, I don’t think that it is feasible to widely use solar power in Hong Kong.

Firstly, from the economic perspective, I think it is very difficult to instal a lot of solar panels in our city. The cost of solar power is very high, even higher than that for conventional fossil fuels (for example, coal and natural gas). That is because we have to buy not just one, but a large number of solar panels. Also, we have to rent a big flat for enough area to place the solar panels, and it will be very expensive to do so.

Moreover, we have to purchase new generating units, as we cannot possibly use the old units for solar energy. Despite its unbelievably high cost, the efficiency of converting solar energy into electricity is very low.

Secondly, considering Hong Kong’s geographical structure, I think it is difficult to use solar power widely here. Solar panels require large open areas for instalments, while Hong Kong is fairly mountainous. So it would be difficult to find open and flat spaces to place solar panels in a place this hilly.

Moreover, Hong Kong’s high population density and scarce land already makes it difficult to find enough space for living. If Hong Kong had enough space, it should be used to build public housing, which is a much more serious problem. We cannot possibly try to solve one problem if it gives rise to a worse one.

If citizens oppose the promotion of solar energy, it will surely not be feasible, and it is very unlikely that they, especially the underprivileged, will support such an idea when using solar power would mean higher electricity bills for them.

All in all, I do not think it is practical to have wide use of solar power in Hong Kong. We should be looking at other forms of renewable energy that would have a much greater chance of success.

Eiman Arif, Tuen Mun

Oil chiefs under fire over ‘pathetic’ new climate investment fund

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/11/04/oil-chiefs-under-fire-over-pathetic-new-climate-investment-fund/

Oil giants including BP and Shell have been pilloried by climate campaigners after disclosing their annual contributions to a much-hyped new green investment fund would be less than BP chief Bob Dudley earned last year.

Mr Dudley and Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden were among industry heavyweights who appeared at an event in London to announce plans by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) to invest $1bn in “innovative low emissions technologies” over the next ten years.

Rather than investing in renewables, the fund’s initial focus will be on action to reduce methane emissions from gas production and on technologies to capture and either use or store carbon emissions, they said.

Environmental group Greenpeace pointed out the funding equated to just $10m (£8m) a year for each of the OGCI’s ten members, compared with Mr Dudley’s controversial 2015 pay package of almost £14m.

Charlie Kronick, climate adviser at Greenpeace UK, said it was a “pathetic offering” that would do nothing to combat climate change and “even fails as an effective example of PR spin”.

The OGCI, whose members also include Saudi Aramco, Statoil and Total, represents companies that together account for one-fifth of the world’s oil and gas production.

Mr Dudley stressed that the joint fund was just “a start” and was not the sum total of the companies’ efforts on green energy, which he said together amounted to “billions”.

“This is happening alongside all of the work we are doing individually as companies on the transition to a lower emissions world,” he said, adding: “Don’t worry, we’ve got it.”

The new fund could invest in start-up companies and also fund research and development programmes at universities, Patrick Pouyanne of Total said.

The fund could also then look at industrial energy efficiency and cutting emissions in the transport sector, but does not plan to invest in renewables like solar or wind.

“The energy mix of the world will evolve. We take it very seriously,” Mr Pouyanne said.

The companies wanted to “make real progress on these technologies because we need them”, he said. “It’s a matter for us of being able to maintain our business in the future and to develop it.”

Mr Dudley said that the investments were “the right thing to do” but that they would also make economic sense for the companies.

“We all absolutely realise the world will move to a low-carbon world, emissions will be an issue. Some places there will be prices on carbon,” he said.

Reducing methane emissions was “an essential licence for us to be able to advocate for natural gas”.

Dr Jonathan Marshall, energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said the planned investment was a “drop in the ocean”.

“Shell’s capex budget for 2016 alone is $25-29bn, Saudi Aramco values itself at more than $2 trillion, and the cost incurred by BP following the Deepwater Horizon spill was $61.6bn,” he said.

Big Oil’s critics suggest that their business model is fundamentally incompatible with tackling climate change because climate science suggests much of the world’s existing fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground is to avoid dangerous extremes of global warming.

But Mr van Beurden said their valuations were driven by proved reserves that would last about a decade and that it was therefore “rather unlikely” that they would not be produced.

“If you take a longer-term view, we cannot burn all the hydrocarbons on the planet in an unmitigated way,” he said. “But there is no alternative to using some of the hydrocarbons for a very long time to come.”

Fuel from sewage is the future – and it’s closer than you think

Technology converts human waste into bio-based fuel

http://www.pnnl.gov/news/release.aspx?id=4317

Sludge from Metro Vancouver’s wastewater treatment plant has been dewatered prior to conversion to biocrude oil at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Courtesy of WE&RF

Sludge from Metro Vancouver’s wastewater treatment plant has been dewatered prior to conversion to biocrude oil at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Courtesy of WE&RF

Biocrude oil, produced from wastewater treatment plant sludge, looks and performs virtually like fossil petroleum. Courtesy of WE&RF

Biocrude oil, produced from wastewater treatment plant sludge, looks and performs virtually like fossil petroleum.
Courtesy of WE&RF

RICHLAND, Wash. – It may sound like science fiction, but wastewater treatment plants across the United States may one day turn ordinary sewage into biocrude oil, thanks to new research at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest national Laboratory.

The technology, hydrothermal liquefaction, mimics the geological conditions the Earth uses to create crude oil, using high pressure and temperature to achieve in minutes something that takes Mother Nature millions of years. The resulting material is similar to petroleum pumped out of the ground, with a small amount of water and oxygen mixed in. This biocrude can then be refined using conventional petroleum refining operations.

Wastewater treatment plants across the U.S. treat approximately 34 billion gallons of sewage every day. That amount could produce the equivalent of up to approximately 30 million barrels of oil per year. PNNL estimates that a single person could generate two to three gallons of biocrude per year.

Sewage, or more specifically sewage sludge, has long been viewed as a poor ingredient for producing biofuel because it’s too wet. The approach being studied by PNNL eliminates the need for drying required in a majority of current thermal technologies which historically has made wastewater to fuel conversion too energy intensive and expensive. HTL may also be used to make fuel from other types of wet organic feedstock, such as agricultural waste.

What we flush can be converted into a biocrude oil with properties very similar to fossil fuels. PNNL researchers have worked out a process that does not require that sewage be dried before transforming it under heat and pressure to biocrude. Metro Vancouver in Canada hopes to build a demonstration plant.

Using hydrothermal liquefaction, organic matter such as human waste can be broken down to simpler chemical compounds. The material is pressurized to 3,000 pounds per square inch — nearly one hundred times that of a car tire. Pressurized sludge then goes into a reactor system operating at about 660 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat and pressure cause the cells of the waste material to break down into different fractions — biocrude and an aqueous liquid phase.

“There is plenty of carbon in municipal waste water sludge and interestingly, there are also fats,” said Corinne Drennan, who is responsible for bioenergy technologies research at PNNL. “The fats or lipids appear to facilitate the conversion of other materials in the wastewater such as toilet paper, keep the sludge moving through the reactor, and produce a very high quality biocrude that, when refined, yields fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuels.”

In addition to producing useful fuel, HTL could give local governments significant cost savings by virtually eliminating the need for sewage residuals processing, transport and disposal.

Simple and efficient

“The best thing about this process is how simple it is,” said Drennan. “The reactor is literally a hot, pressurized tube. We’ve really accelerated hydrothermal conversion technology over the last six years to create a continuous, and scalable process which allows the use of wet wastes like sewage sludge.”

An independent assessment for the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation calls HTL a highly disruptive technology that has potential for treating wastewater solids.

WE&RF investigators noted the process has high carbon conversion efficiency with nearly 60 percent of available carbon in primary sludge becoming bio-crude. The report calls for further demonstration, which may soon be in the works.

Demonstration Facility in the Works

PNNL has licensed its HTL technology to Utah-based Genifuel Corporation, which is now working with Metro Vancouver, a partnership of 23 local authorities in British Columbia, Canada, to build a demonstration plant.

“Metro Vancouver hopes to be the first wastewater treatment utility in North America to host hydrothermal liquefaction at one of its treatment plants,” said Darrell Mussatto, chair of Metro Vancouver’s Utilities Committee. “The pilot project will cost between $8 to $9 million (Canadian) with Metro Vancouver providing nearly one-half of the cost directly and the remaining balance subject to external funding.”

Once funding is in place, Metro Vancouver plans to move to the design phase in 2017, followed by equipment fabrication, with start-up occurring in 2018.

“If this emerging technology is a success, a future production facility could lead the way for Metro Vancouver’s wastewater operation to meet its sustainability objectives of zero net energy, zero odours and zero residuals,” Mussatto added.

Nothing left behind

In addition to the biocrude, the liquid phase can be treated with a catalyst to create other fuels and chemical products. A small amount of solid material is also generated, which contains important nutrients. For example, early efforts have demonstrated the ability to recover phosphorus, which can replace phosphorus ore used in fertilizer production.

Development of the HTL process was funded by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office.

Global carbon intensity falls as coal use declines

China leads the charge for emissions efficiency, but faster progress is needed to meet the Paris climate goals, reports Climate Home

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/01/global-carbon-intensity-falls-as-coal-use-declines

The amount of carbon needed to power the global economy fell to record lows in 2015, as coal consumption in major economies plummeted.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) annual Low Carbon Economy Index report has found that the global carbon intensity (emissions per unit of GDP) fell by 2.8%.

This was more than double the average fall of 1.3% between 2000 and 2014, but far below the 6.5% required to stay within the 2C warming limit set by last year’s Paris agreement.

“What we’ve seen in 2014-15 is a real step change in decarbonisation,” said Jonathan Grant, PwC director of sustainability and climate change.

The result was just 0.1% lower than the previous year, but it occurred against the background of healthy growth, which usually spurs carbon emissions growth.

“There was fairly reasonable economic growth in 2015, which is why we think this result is quite significant,” said Grant.

The biggest driver was a decline in China’s coal consumption, which resulted a 6.4% drop the carbon intensity of the world’s second biggest economy.

A centrally-led shift of the economy to a service-based industry has begun to shut down the vast coal-fuelled steel and cement sectors. For the first time, China led the rankings table for the biggest drop in intensity.

The UK and US were also significant contributors, reducing by 6% and 4.7% respectively, to the overall drop as both governments introduced policies that pushed coal plants out of business. In the UK coal use dropped by 20% for the second year running.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “In the week in which the Paris Agreement comes into force, this is very promising news in showing that the dominant paradigm of economic growth is swiftly changing, which makes the Paris targets look more achievable.

“This analysis shows once again that economic growth and carbon emissions are not inextricably linked… Climate science is unequivocal in showing that switching away from coal is an essential first step in keeping climate change within ‘safe’ limits.”

But Grant said coal represented the low-hanging fruit and that economies were enjoying the benefits of relatively painless early decarbonisation.

“Countries are focussing on decarbonising electricity. That means tackling coal power. I think it will get increasingly challenging. Coal is the easiest target for government policy,” he said.

Hong Kong’s electric car owners still stuck in the slow lane

Despite the buzz surrounding the Formula E race in the city, ordinary drivers are being held back by a lack of charging stations

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2025762/hong-kongs-electric-car-owners-still-stuck-slow

The Formula E race in Central this weekend is first and foremost a world-class sporting event, but for Hong Kong residents it will bring something equally unprecedented and precious – no roadside pollution, at least along Lung Wo Road, for a couple of days.

Though the thunder will be silent, the two-time champion Renault team will defend its Formula E title by the IFC and giant ferris wheel on the harbourfront, against teams from Audi, Jaguar, DS Virgin and Venturi, which was co-founded by actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

For one weekend in Central, Hong Kong will have arrived at a new era of electric vehicles, and our notorious air quality will be temporarily cleaner. And in theory, if petrol cars are gradually replaced by electric cars, then Hong Kong will enjoy cleaner air.

“Motor vehicles are the major emission source of air pollution in Hong Kong,” Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said in a written response to the Post. “It is challenging to improve roadside air quality in a city because vehicle exhausts are trapped by buildings flanking both sides of the road.

“The high development density in Hong Kong aggravates the challenge. Electric vehicles have no tailpipe emissions and are efficient in converting energy from the grid to power at the wheels. Replacing conventional vehicles with electric vehicles can help improve roadside air quality.”

But the reality is not that simple, as there are issues that cause daily headaches for many electric car drivers.

A random look at the car park at Pacific Place in Admiralty during a weekday lunchtime shows the shortage of charging stations. All four standard charging docks were occupied, as were the four Tesla fast charging stations, and there was a queue of Teslas waiting.

What is worse, many private residential car parks do not allow charging stations. As the percentage of electric cars is small, owners’ associations, made up mostly of non-electric car owners, are reluctant to do the extra work involved, and certainly not to shoulder the additional costs.

The government was well aware of this and Wong said “potential buyers should consider charging arrangements before buying electric vehicles”.

But he added that the government had been taking measures to alleviate the problem. Since April 2011, developers who put the necessary electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the car parks of new buildings, including provision of sufficient power supply and wiring to facilitate future installation of chargers, would be granted concessions on gross floor area.

And in June 2011, planning guidelines for new buildings were amended to “recommend” 30 per cent of private car parking spaces be installed with chargers.

Wong said the government wanted to encourage more developers and property management companies to provide charging services. “The government has been working with the private sector, including the power companies, in expanding the electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Hong Kong.”

But is what is being done enough?

“I think the government should make it mandatory for residential car parks to have charging stations,” said Professor Chau Kwok-tong, an expert in electric vehicles at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Hong Kong.

“It is easier for new buildings, though existing buildings with suitable electricity infrastructure should be allowed to install charging facilities. We can introduce a quota system, say a car park should be required to have 5 per cent of parking spaces with charging facilities, perhaps raising to 10 per cent in three to five years,” Chau said.

“The availability of charging facilities at home is very important to attract people to choose electric cars. If the other resident landlords are not happy to pay the extra costs, the estate management company can charge electric car owners a rent or fee to recoup the extra expenses.”

Dr Hung Wing-tat, an associate professor at Polytechnic University who teaches transport infrastructure design and development, also felt the government needed to do more to meet the growing demand for electric cars.

“At some older buildings, electricity supply may not be enough to support chargers, but setting up new facilities may be expensive. Buildings laws may need to be changed to meet the growing demand for electric cars.”

He said the appetite for electric cars would further increase as the government would soon tighten the emission standards of vehicles. “Many drivers will need to replace their cars. Electric cars don’t have emissions, so they are attractive in this aspect.”

However, Gordon Lam, chairman of the Electric Vehicle Club Hong Kong, was not optimistic that the government would step in to facilitate.

“I am acutely aware of the problem. Among our membership of about 100 who drive electric cars, 90 per cent of them do not have a charging station at home.

“Ideally the government should make it mandatory for newly built car parks to have a certain quota of spaces with charging facilities, but I think in reality this is difficult to implement, as it will involve the government confronting developers who do not want to set up the charging facilities.”

But he noted that some developers were already active in preparing the charging infrastructure, such as Hopewell, Sino Land, Wheelock, and Sun Hung Kai Properties, because it “may help to make their flats more attractive”.

There were now about 1,400 public chargers in Hong Kong, but Lam said there were problems at these stations too. “Charging spaces are often occupied by petrol cars.

There is no punishment for these unethical drivers, and often the guards simply say they can’t do anything about it.”

The most important benefit of electric cars is less pollution. But how serious is the pollution problem in Hong Kong? The environment bureau said the transport sector as a whole contributed about 14 per cent of greenhouses gases in 2013, while motor vehicles contributed about 14 per cent of local respirable suspended particulates and 20 per cent of volatile organic compounds in 2014.

Hung of Polytechnic University said a major pollution problem was the so-called canyon effect.

“Tall buildings along the roads in Hong Kong act like a tunnel and prevent the exhaust gas from petrol vehicles from dispersing. The problem is particularly bad in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok.”

There are already several government measures to encourage electric cars. First registration tax is waived until March 2017, while companies that buy environmentally friendly vehicles are allowed 100 per cent profit tax deduction for capital expenditure in the first year of procurement.

By August 2016, there were 6,167 electric vehicles in Hong Kong, with 5,957 of them private cars. The figures had grown sharply from just 592 in 2013.

Dr Sammy Lee, a medical doctor, drives one of them – a blue Tesla Model S, the best-selling model of any brand in Hong Kong last year with 2,221 units. His experience shows why so many people are showing an interest.

“As a driver, choosing an electric car is all I can do to improve air quality in the city,” said Lee, who spent about HK$50,000 to install a charging station.

“The performance is great. Because there is no engine, it is really quiet, and there is much less need for maintenance. The ‘smart’ tools are also hugely appealing. My car is always connected to the internet via 3G, so it records every road and every turn it travels.”

Another perhaps unexpected benefit comes from the lack of a petrol engine.

Kevin Tsui, who drives a BMW i 3, said: “In the summer, I can keep the air conditioning running to keep myself cool even if I have parked my car, because the law to punish idling engines has exempted electric vehicles.”

The popularity of electric cars is being accelerated by new models. Tesla has just launched Model X in Hong Kong, an SUV with “falcon” doors and an impressive acceleration from 0 to 100km/h in just 3.1 seconds. The new BMW i3 has upgraded to a new battery with 50 per cent more capacity, increasing its range to 200km.

In order to reduce overall pollution, Joseph Lau, managing director of BMW Concessionaires (HK), said production of electric vehicles should not be just about power generation.

“For the electric vehicle industry to improve, it will depend on whether the industry can truly commit to a wholesome sustainability concept. For example, BMW i3 and i8 are produced with renewable wind energy in Germany,” Lau said.

“The future is bright for electric vehicles. With the progress in technology, there will be more advanced products and with a larger range and smart features.”

Chau of the University of Hong Kong said a major direction of development was wireless charging, both static and in motion.

“Instead of linking the wire to the car, the charging can be done wirelessly from a facility built underneath the car, a bit like smartphones charging wirelessly. This solves the risk that wires can carry a potential safety hazard. There are already prototypes of these.

“For the long term, the need to recharge during a long road journey is important. There is research about building wireless recharging facilities underneath the slow lane, so electric cars running on batteries can move to the slow lane and start charging away.”

But that is more for tomorrow’s world and will not be happening in Lung Wo Road this weekend.