Monday, June 10, 2013

Energy news from California

While I now consider Michigan to be my home, I am originally from California.  Time to acknowledge my roots with four energy stories from the Golden State that I originally included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos.

First, Discovery News on YouTube presents Solar Impulse Plane Takes Flight.  Note that the plane began its journey by taking off from a California airfield.

Forget fossil fuel, this plane is driven by energy from the sun! Anthony woke up at the crack of dawn to watch the amazing Solar Impulse take to the sky.
Now that I've posted this story, I'll have to follow up on the rest of the flights.

Follow over the jump for more energy news plus a rant I've been promising since 2011.

All the remaining stories involve old, dirty energy sources, beginning with the National Institute of Standards and Technology via Science Daily trumpeting how a New Filtration Material Could Make Petroleum Refining Cheaper, More Efficient.
A newly synthesized material might provide a dramatically improved method for separating the highest-octane components of gasoline. Measurements at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have clarified why.

The research team, which included scientists from NIST and several other universities, has published its findings in the journal Science.

Created in the laboratory of Jeffrey Long, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, the material is a metal-organic framework, or MOF, which can be imagined as a sponge with microscopic holes. The innumerable interior walls of the MOF form triangular channels that selectively trap only the lower-octane components based on their shape, separating them easily from the higher-octane molecules in a way that could prove far less expensive than the industry's current method. The Long laboratory and UC Berkeley have applied for a patent on the MOF, which is known by its chemical formula, Fe2(bdp)3.
Like the next story, this is not really good news, as it will promote more burning of fossil fuels and increase carbon dioxide.  However, it is energy news involving California.

Speaking of the next story, Josie Garthwaite of National Geographic News describes how the Monterey Shale Shakes Up California's Energy Future.
It's easy to tick off the ways in which California is a leader in clean energy: It harvests more solar energy than any other state, has a program to curb greenhouse gas emissions from the vehicles on its famously long highways, and launched its own cap-and-trade system this year.

And yet, a move is afoot for a quite different type of new energy development in the Golden State, beneath the same valley that beckoned gold seekers and migrant farmers generations ago. That ever alluring land happens to lie atop the Monterey shale formation, a vast rock formation that is believed to hold one of the world's largest onshore reserves of shale oil.

Oil companies are seeking to stake their claim to this prize, plunging California into a debate on its energy and economic future. The U.S. trailblazer on renewable energy could well become the latest front in the nation's fracking-driven oil boom.
This reminds me that I've been promising my standard rant against oil shale based on my experiences trying to extract it from the Monterey Shale back in 1982.  Here it is from a comment at Kunstler's blog nearly two years ago.
My first job after graduating with a B.S. in Geology in 1981 was to work for one of two contractors for Getty Oil (later acquired by Texaco and now subsumed in Chevron) who were trying to demonstrate the efficacy of using technology developed for oil shale to extract asphaltum from diatomaceous earth. The contractor I worked for built a pilot plant that dissolved the asphalt using hot gasoline as a solvent. That approach failed for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that the plant was built at 1/4 scale, including the pipes, which caused the gasoline-diatomite slurry to clog wherever the pipes changed direction. The other competitor built a full-sized (production-scale) retort that baked the diatomite to extract the asphalt, then centrifuged it to separate the liquid. The remaining diatomite was then blown out of the retort tower. The result was a cloud of dust that reduced visibility to 100 feet and blocked out the Sun for 5-10 miles downwind. That technology won and is among those that Chevron has on the shelf right now. If that's what the oil shale future looks like, then the Green River Basin is going to be an ugly place.
I have more of that rant elsewhere, but I'll save it for later.  Instead, I'll point out that fracking the Monterey Shale would be less environmentally nasty, but not by much.  It will still require a lot of water that the Central Valley will have to import, just like it does almost all the rest of its water.

Finally, some good news from Megan Gannon of LiveScience: Calif. Nuclear Power Plant Set for Retirement
Southern California's embattled San Onofre nuclear plant will be permanently shut down, its operators announced today (June 7).

The facility, which sits on a beachfront stretch between Los Angeles and San Diego, will be the largest to be retired in the United States in the last five decades, the Associated Press reports. Its two reactors had not been in operation since this past January, when a small radioactive leak was discovered, prompting a string of expensive repairs, investigations and political pushback.
Here's to that plant being replaced by something cleaner.

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