Disingenuous - (and, not the least bit surprising)

Sep 10, 2016

SNL published an article entitled “As gas tops coal for carbon emissions, Sierra Club sees next climate fight”, based on an interview with Lena Moffitt. The article was written by Annalee Grant on August 18, 2016 and can be found on the internet (

The article included some of the familiar EIA data and charts as follows:

According to SNL, the Sierra Club just acknowledged that…

"As we're trying to meet our climate goals, it is very clear that we cannot afford to expand infrastructure and reliance on fossil fuels, including gas."

Other reported comments and observations included:

"In 2015, natural gas consumption was 81% higher than coal consumption, and their emissions were nearly equal. Both fuels were associated with about 1.5 billion metric tons of energy-related CO2 emissions in the United States in 2015," the EIA report said.

"In addition to this being a significant wake-up call for hopefully all Americans, it's also a real indication of where the next climate fight is going to be and that really is with gas"

"As we're trying to meet our climate goals, it is very clear that we cannot afford to expand infrastructure and reliance on fossil fuels, including gas."

"It's incredibly encouraging that our country has been able to move away from coal in the way that it has, and that's a trend that we want to see of course for the climate benefits and the public health benefits"

"At the same time, we do need to ensure that that energy is not backfilled with gas."

"Unfortunately, the theory that gas can provide an energy bridge has stuck around too long, and is frankly just not true."

"If you take the full life cycle view, gas could be just as bad for the climate as coal."

The extraction of natural gas is also responsible for methane emissions, which the EPA has said has a climate change impact 25 times greater than carbon over a 100-year period.

Further EIA research anticipates a 55% increase in gas extraction and a 24% hike in gas consumption by 2040, according to Moffitt, who expressed concern that the expansion could push the U.S. well over the greenhouse gas reductions pledged in Paris in December.

"Just that consumption alone, if you consider the methane emissions, will cause us to blow past our international climate goals, which is unacceptable if we want to keep this planet in a livable state."

She worries that reducing coal in favor of gas could mean trading one greenhouse gas for another.

Looking more closely at coal- and natural gas-fired power generation, coal remains the top emitter of carbon, although those emissions are trending downward as coal capacity shrinks.

Carbon emissions from natural gas generation have risen moderately, as more gas capacity has been added, but coal in 2015 still exceeded natural gas by 904 million tons of emitted carbon, according to SNL Energy data.

The Sierra Club will respond by doubling down on efforts to both fight investments in gas and prioritize renewables and energy efficiency.

SNL observed that, “News of rising carbon emissions from gas consumption was greeted with dismay by the Sierra Club, which has maintained a major campaign against coal-fired generation. The group has also lobbied against the expansion of natural gas infrastructure, and Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Director Lena Moffitt said the EIA data underscores the importance of that fight.”

This is the data behind the first EIA chart. To be clear, the ~100 Quad includes all energy-related use.

A more detailed and fascinating breakdown of that ~100 Quad U.S. Energy Consumption is available from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

The energy-related terminology in these data encompasses the natural gas consumption at 27.27 Quads from the data table, or 28.3 Quads from the LLNL chart, with the pathways as shown.

Natural gas consumption for Power Generation was 9.99 Quads in 2015.

The efficiency of the primary energy conversions, shown as percentages in red (black for Electricity Generation) are:

  • Electricity generation (all fuels)  - 33.0%
  • Residential - 64.9%
  • Commercial - 65.0%
  • Industrial - 80.0%
  • Transportation - 21.0%

The two areas with the greatest opportunity improvement in overall efficiency of energy use are the power sector and transportation sectors. Both of these will increase the role of and pressure on CO2 emitted for electricity production.

It is completely disingenuous, but at the same time, not the least bit surprising for the Sierra Club to cite the new EPA Methane Rule, yet remain completely silent on the emissions from natural gas fired power plants.

The CO2 emissions for power generation were 1891.3 Million metric tonnes (1.891 Gt) in 2015. Natural gas power generation accounted for 524 Mmt (0.524 Gt), or 27.7% of the total.

The May 12, 2016 EPA Final Ruling to Reduce Emission from the Oil & Gas Industry, which they do allude to, has a stated goal of reducing emission by 40-45% from 2012 levels, by 2025. The rule is intended to capture 510,000 short tons of methane, with the equivalent of 11 Million metric tonnes of CO2 (0.011Gt).

Carbon Capture is not now, nor has it ever been in the EIA or the Sierra Club narrative. Successful deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) would serve to enable coal. Such an outcome would be intolerable for Sierra Club, which is why they ignore its potential deployment. CCS is the real “Bridge”, not natural gas as has been claimed.

The EIA Reference Case forecasts data is shown below indicating 653 Million metric tonnes (.653 Gt), of CO2 from natural gas fired power plants in 2040, dwarfing the impact of methane leakage.

The forecast includes a 45% increase in power from natural gas, but only indicates only 24% increase in CO2 emissions, with natural gas accounting for 35.9% of the supply.

The 2015 and 2040 specific output values expressed in lb-CO2/MWh are easily calculated:

Natural Gas 2015: 524.5 Mmt x 2205 lbs/tonne/1113.7 BkWh = 1038 lb-CO2/MWh

Natural Gas 2040: 653.0 Mmt x 2205 lbs/tonne/1617.9 BkWh = 890 lb-CO2/MWh

Coal 2015: 1340.2 Mmt x 2205 lbs/tonne/ 1319.9 BkWh = 2239 lb-CO2/MWh

Coal 2040: 885.0 Mmt x 2205 lbs/tonne/ 884.3 BkWh = 2207 lb-CO2/MWh

These 2040 values are consistent with unabated coal-fired power plants at 2200 lb-CO2/MWh and indicate only a 1.5% improvement in the 2015 rate.

The natural gas combined and simple cycle units, also unabated at 890 lb-CO2/MWh, do include a 15% reduction in CO2 per MWh, presumably the result of a shift in the mix toward the more efficient combined cycle configurations. The 890 lb-CO2/MWh for natural gas in 2040 would represent a mix of approximately 70% combined cycle and 30% simple cycle units.

If CCS were to be applied at 90% capture, the 1551 Mmt is value would become 155 Mmt and the resulting U.S. total would become 4900 Mmt (4.9 Gt).

It should be noted that the 1551 Mmt CO2 emission for electric power is 3-8 times the 200-500 level required to reach the 2°C 450 ppmv goal. We will need CCS on both coal and gas to reach this level.

The U.S. “target”, if there is such a thing, is 1.3 Gt. These data suggest that we are closer to a 4 or 5°C trajectory.

I have said this before, but it is worth repeating:

If we all had the same “objective”, we would use the current lower cost of natural gas to offset the added cost of CCS, put CCS on Natural Gas Combined Cycle power plants and in so doing, actually be on the CCS learning curve and the 2C°/450ppm trajectory.

The EIA just said that Clean Power Plan is not good enough!

Jul 03, 2016

        Of course, they did not say it that way, exactly, but here is what they did say.

        The Center for Strategic and International Studies published its International Energy Outlook 2016 on May 11, 2016. I commented that this report which, unlike others, included projections to 2040 and the impact of the new EPA Clean Power Plan.

        The summary’s conclusions state that 75% of energy use in 2040 will come from fossil fuel and that the forecast for worldwide power generation CO2 emissions was 43.4Gt, up from 33.5Gt in 2015, a compound growth rate of +1% per year. I commented on this forecast in my previous blog. (

        This May 11 report was quickly appended with the May 17 Annual Energy Outlook 2016 Early Release of an Annotated Summary of Two Cases (

        The two early release cases and stated conclusions are:

        Implementation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) using a mass-based approach reduces annual electricity-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to between 1,550 and 1,560 million metric tons (MMT) in the 2030-40 period, substantially below their 2005 and 2015 levels of 2,416MMt and 1,891MMt, respectively. Coal’s share of total electricity generation, which was 50% in 2005 and 33% in 2015, falls to 21% in 2030 and to 18% in 2040.

        Even without the CPP, electricity-related CO2 emissions remain well below their 2005 level at 1,942 MMT in 2030 and 1,959 MMT in 2040; this outcome reflects both low load growth and generation mix changes driven by the extension of key renewable tax credits, reduced solar photovoltaic (PV) capital costs, and low natural gas prices.

        Several observations on these projections:

        • They just admitted that a full implementation of the CPP will not allow us to reach a 2C/450ppm target.
        • The coal to gas conversion is 82% completed by 2040.
        • There is only 400 MMt (0.400Gt) difference between the full implementation of the CPP and No-CPP case.
        • The total U.S. CO2 emissions in 2015 were 5721 MMt, split 1925/3346 MMt PowerGen and Non-PowerGen, respectively.
        • The forecast asks that you believe that natural gas prices will trend even lower than they are today, through 2040.
        • It also asks that you ignore system integration costs, not yet fully considered in the renewables claims about cost competitiveness.
        • In addition, it asks that various tax credits be extended throughout the forecast period while both Germany and Denmark are just now putting caps on renewables penetration.

Here are the two cases and the assumptions they are based on.

        The actual numbers provided suggest to that this improvement in use efficiency is more like 2.12% per year. In other words, efficiency of use will offset any Real GDP increases.

        There is no real discussion of the Non-PowerGen values, except a decline of 0.3% in Energy per Capita Use. I have assumed this is a similar offset against the 2.23% per year Real GDP growth, which presumably affects the Non-PowerGen values.

        This is my attempt at reconciling the comments and values provided.

        The stated endpoint in 2040 of 1560 MMt is 3x the 500 MMt level required and 8X the 200 MMt

        We have not explicitly addressed Non-PowerGen actions. Lacking anything specific, the best-case combination is 1560/5812 MMt, resulting in 7372 MMt in 2040.

        With these assumptions, the world total is 47Gt/year in 2040.

        What is new is that the EIA, presumably with EPA’s blessing, is now trying to shift the conversation from absolute CO2 reductions expressed in tonnes of CO2, to tonnes per unit of GDP.


        “Tonnes per GDP” is, by definition, “Business as Usual” and an admission that the CPP will not get us to 2C/450ppm.

        Here is that redirect language along with some economic “mumbo jumbo” that says Real GDP will increase at 2.23% per year and that there will be an improvement of 1.8% per year in energy use per GDP.

        The OECD provides a GDP Forecast in its long term Economic Outlook 2009-2060. I have added the comparable values back to 2005 from World Bank Data to bridge the data from the historical to the forecast.

        Here is that data:

        • The key factor is the calculated MMt of CO2 per million dollars of GDP, 0.000492 in 2015.
        • There was a 10% reduction in this value for both the 2005-2010 and the 2010-2015 periods, based on the data and can be interpreted broadly as an improvement in overall efficiency of use.
        • The 1900GtCO2 in the 2C/450 ppm already consumed between 1870-2011, is included as the 2012 starting value in the cumulative calculation.

        The OECD GDP forecast is shown below along with the important scaling metrics.

        • The OECD GDP Forecast is shown without modification.
        • I assumed that same efficiency of use improvements, x0.90 for each 5-year increment, throughout the forecast period to 2060.
        • I added the scaled yearly increment based on this GDP Forecast data and underlying efficiency of use assumptions.
        • This efficiency of use assumptions are not likely to apply uniformly around the world, but that assumption is embedded in the calculation, nonetheless.
        • We bust the 2900Gt budget in 2041 and reach 3719Gt by 2060.
        • This is equivalent to 550-600 ppm and perhaps 4°C temperature rise.
        • If the 0.90 becomes 0.95, we bust the budget in 2038 and reach 4272Gt in 2060.
        • Annual release in 2040 becomes 55Gt and 69Gt in 2060.

        If the U.S., China and India all argue for CO2 tonnes/GDP, it makes sense, that this will become the world’s standard measure

        We have no chance at 2C/450ppm and it is important that we stop pretending that we are doing enough.

        We must also stop destroying the opportunity for Nuclear and CCS technologies with the underlying subsidies for natural gas power generation. We will need both of the targets to meet any kind of meaningful climate change targets.

        I have said this before, but it is worth repeating.

        If we all had the same “objective”, we would use the current lower cost of natural gas to offset the added cost of CCS, put CCS on Natural Gas Combined Cycle power plants, and in so doing, actually be on both the CCS learning curve and the 2C°/450ppm trajectory.

EIA 2040 Forecast

May 29, 2016

The Center for Strategic and International Studies published its International Energy Outlook 2016 on May 11, 2016.

A reference to the follows the tag line “Independent Statistics & Analysis”. I’m all for that! What’s not to like?

What is fascinating about this report is that it actually makes a forecast out to 2040. Most forecasts done to date stop at 2030, a date corresponding to the new Clean Power Plan (CPP) and other advertised Climate Change initiatives.

The report breaks down energy use between OECD and Non-OECD countries 35%/65%, as can be seen in the chart, shown below. The comment identifies most of the increased energy use in the Non-OECD countries.

The report further breaks down the energy related CO2e intensity of energy use, expressed in kilograms CO2 per million Btu, again, between OECD and Non-OECD countries. Those values are 49 kg-CO2/mmBtu for the OECD and 55kg-CO2/mmBtu, respectively and as indicated on the chart below.

The weighted average intensity is 52.9 kg-CO2/mmBtu.

The interesting part of this report is that, unlike others, the forecast includes projections to 2040, with the impact of the new Clean Power Plan.

I have “eye-balled” these charts and have estimated this is 820 Quad, which at 52.9 kg-CO2/mmBtu is 43.4Gt of CO2 from the energy sector. The report says 43 and 815 Quads.

I plotted this forecast value on the previously published chart of scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR5 review, shown below.

The summary conclusions in the report state that 75% of energy use in 2040 will come from fossil fuel.

The unavoidable conclusions are:

  • The world is not even close to where it needs to be on prevention
  • We are on an increasing trajectory and headed toward 4°C, if we are lucky
  • The CPP contribution is minimal and only affects Coal
  • Natural Gas generation is unaffected by CPP, since it has a waiver on its “½ of Coal” emissions
  • We are not yet being honest with ourselves
  • President Obama does not know this

The EIA presentation is available here:

“Mission Accomplished?”

May 16, 2016

That would depend on how the “mission” is defined…right?

The Sierra Club published a Fact Sheet dated November 3, 2015, “Accelerating the U.S. Coal Phase Out: Leading by Example in Paris and Beyond”, in preparation for the COP21 conference.

Their Figure 1, shown below, offers a summary view of the progress to date for both the Electric Power Sector and the U.S. in total.

Their Figure 3, below, indicates the Electric Power Sector contribution along with several important future scenarios. The graph and the paper itself, provide important understandings, insights on the projections and their associated assumptions. I have added the vertical lines to pick off data for the various referenced dates.

The actual write-up offers further information on assumptions, as well as a few specific values for these scenarios. I have used those values, where available, to tabulate the data. The U.S. totals are also shown, if electric power generation is 38.5% of the total.

The scenarios and their end-point values are:

  • -Coal Replaced with Natural Gas at 1790Mt in 2025
  • -Projected Electric Power Sector Emissions under the Clean Power Plan at 1600Mt in 2030
  • -Coal replaced with Clean Energy at 1563Mt in 2025

The Sierra Club has defined its mission in their “Beyond Coal” initiative, but their actions and words suggest the mission to be “Killing Coal”. They make a point of their success in the document with their Figure 2, below.

But, shouldn’t the mission be “Killing the Emissions from Coal (& Gas)”? Or, even more appropriately, something like “Achieving 2°C/450ppm by 2050”? 

The 2°C/450ppm trajectory at 16Gt world total requires a total U.S. emissions level of 1.3Gt (1300Mt) in 2050. The Electric Power Sector portion of that at 38.5% is 500Mt, assuming balanced contribution. If a balanced contribution proves too difficult, as is likely, the Electric Power Sector may have to reach 200Mt.

Why is this so-called “...Leading by Example…” document silent on actions beyond 2030 and below 1500Mt?

If anything, I find the Sierra Club position to be “misleading” and very much in service of their mission of “killing coal”, but not our mission of dealing with Climate Change. The combination of fuel switching and a further shift to renewables, alone, will not put the world on a trajectory to reach 2°C/450ppm.

I have said this before, but it is worth repeating.

If we all had the same “objective”, we would use the current lower cost of natural gas to offset the added cost of CCS, put CCS on Natural Gas Combined Cycle power plants, and in so doing, actually be on the CCS learning curve and be on the 2C°/450ppm trajectory.

The current course of action will likely waste time that we simply do not have.

You can find their fact sheet here:

Competition Under the 2015 EPA Clean Power Plan

Nov 21, 2015

Under the new Clean Power Plan, the EPA calculates state goals based on the Best System of Emission Reduction (BSER), and has now established separate emissions performance rates for coal and natural gas plants, as follows:

  • An interim emissions rate for existing coal units of 1,534 lbs CO2 per Net MWh, and a final rate of 1,305 lbs-CO2 per Net MWh
  • An interim emissions rate for existing natural gas units of 832 lbs CO2 per Net MWh and the final rate of 771 lbs-CO2 per Net MWh

The following table has been modified from the original 2014 version to calculate the Advanced-USCPC CO2 emissions based on a 50% LHV value with the 203.3 lb-CO2/mmBtu carbon factor. The NGCC values are shown, as before.

The Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) power plant meets the 832 lb-CO2/MWh interim level now, and the final 771 level without any form of CO2 abatement, if expected efficiency gains are realized.

The graphic shown below was developed as part of an International Energy Agency “Road Mapping” exercise toward a High-Efficiency, Low-Emissions (HELE) coal fired power plant, shown as an Advanced Ultra-Supercritical Pulverized Coal (Advanced-USCPC).

The graphic indicates that at 50% LHV efficiency, the CO2 emissions would be ~1477 lb-CO2/MWh (~670 gCO2/kWh).

The Advanced Ultra Supercritical Pulverized Coal Plant(USCPC) at 1540 lb-CO2/MWh, would appear to meet the interim full load threshold level of 1534 lb-CO2/MWh, but another 15% efficiency improvement would be required to meet the final threshold of 1305 lb-CO2/MWh. Either that, or 15% Carbon Capture would be required.

In the most optimistic scenario, these new thresholds would position a NGCC without abatement against the Advanced-USCPC, also without abatement.

There are no first cost estimates for the Advanced-USCPC, but its lower efficiency predecessor was at least 3x the first cost. The efficiency, defined above, favors the NGCC. It should be noted that this comparison assumes significant efficiency improvement in both the NGCC and the Advanced-USCPC. Industry experience to date suggests that gas turbine concepts are much more likely to realize these efficiency improvements than coal-based efforts, and to reach them sooner.

The fuel cost differences are also narrowing, as shown in the following data extracted from the Energy Information Agency’s August 2015 year-over-year comparison, reducing coal’s historical price per mmBtu advantage.

At a nominal 550MW, the annual fuel cost difference is $23 million per year, in favor of the Advanced-USC, requiring a 40-year simple payback on the ̴$1.0 billion first cost difference.

If the differences in CO2 emissions were added at $60/Mt, the combined fuel and CO2 operating costs would shift in favor of the NGCC at $30 million per year.

The breakeven point would be about $25/Mt of CO2 at the fuel and efficiency rates.

A couple of things are happening here:

  • This dual standard concession is the result of the successful coal industry challenge on whether CCS was a “commercially available” technology. The EPA is prohibited from mandating a technology that is not “commercially available”.
  • The EPA is pandering to the coal industry by giving them their own standard and more importantly, the opening to dismiss CCS as a laboratory-level R&D level technology in hopes of building coal plants without CO2 abatement.
  • Natural Gas Combined Cycle Power Plants will continue to be built without doing anything about CO2 emissions. This has been the EPA’s primary objective throughout and that objective remains intact. This is Business as Usual dressed up to look like climate action.
  • In so doing, this EPA has, once again, chosen not to support CCS technology development, acknowledged to be part of any 2°C/450 ppm target.
  • CCS has been “kicked down the road” until 2030, at a minimum, when we “finally” realize that deploying CCS on NGCC plants is required to reach at 2°C/450 ppm level. We know that now! We are just wasting 15-years that we will wish we had. Mother Nature does not allow “do-overs”.
  • This is a recognition that we are on 4°C/720-1000 ppm trajectory, and that seems to be OK!
  • ……Really?

OBTW….It should be noted that CO2 that comes from a coal plant is the same as the CO2 that comes from a gas plant. The original standard was correct in that the threshold(s) was independent of source.

In the end, it is just CO2!

Competition under the EPA Clean Power Plan.pdf