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American Gas Association Playbook

February 27, 2015 Comments off

American Gas Association Playbook
Source: American Gas Association

The American Gas Association 2015 Playbook covers the history of natural gas, the challenges and opportunities of the natural gas industry, and the priority issues and strategies with respect to the production, transmission, distribution and use of America s clean and domestically abundant energy source. It also contains information about innovation and direct economic benefits including industry-related jobs.

The European offshore wind industry – key trends and statistics 2014

February 27, 2015 Comments off

The European offshore wind industry – key trends and statistics 2014 (PDF)
Source: European Wind Energy Association
From press release:

In 2014, 408 new offshore turbines were fully grid connected, adding 1,483 MW to the European system. The total installed capacity for Europe now stands at 8,045MW in 74 offshore wind farms in 11 European countries.

In 2014, the UK accounted for over half of all new installations (54.8%) with Germany in second (35.7%) and Belgium (9.5%) making up the rest. But for 2015, Germany is expected to install more offshore capacity than the UK, which has dominated installations in Europe for the past three years.

CRS — The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief (January 16, 2015)

February 24, 2015 Comments off

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which mandates that U.S. transportation fuel must contain a minimum volume of biofuel, is a federal statutory requirement. The mandated minimum volume increases annually, and can be met using both corn-starch ethanol and advanced biofuels. In order for a biofuel to be applied toward the mandate, it must meet certain environmental and biomass feedstock criteria. A variety of factors (e.g., infrastructure, technology, weather, the “blend wall,” and federal assistance) have led to challenges, including delays by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in setting the annual volume standards and a lack of cellulosic biofuel production. Further, it is not clear how declining oil and gasoline prices will impact the biofuel industry. Challenges in implementing the RFS have led to investigations of the RFS by some in Congress, and to court rulings. More specifically, the 113th Congress held seven hearings where the RFS or renewable fuels was the focus or a recurring topic of discussion, and since 2010 there have been five legal challenges regarding EPA’s administration of the RFS. Because of concerns about the implementation and feasibility of the RFS, some Members of Congress have questioned whether it is time to amend or repeal the RFS, or to maintain the status quo.

This report provides a basic description of the RFS, including some of the widely discussed issues.

CBO — Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2015 to 2024

February 23, 2015 Comments off

Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2015 to 2024
Source: Congressional Budget Office

CBO estimates that over the 2015–2024 period, the Administration’s plans for nuclear forces would cost $348 billion, an average of about $35 billion a year, and an amount that is close to CBO’s December 2013 estimate of $355 billion for the 2014–2023 period. (Both estimates are given in nominal dollars; that is, they include the effects of inflation.) Although the two estimates of total costs are similar, projected costs for nuclear programs of both the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have changed. Over the next 10 years, CBO estimates, DoD’s costs would total $227 billion, which is about $6 billion (or 3 percent) more than the 10-year estimate published in 2013, and DOE’s would total $121 billion, which is about $13 billion (or 9 percent) less than CBO’s 2013 estimate.

This report describes the major differences between the two sets of estimates. The cost projections have risen for some categories of expenses but have declined for others. One might expect the total to increase because the current estimate spans a 10-year period that begins and ends one year later than the estimate published in December 2013 (2015–2024, compared with 2014–2023 for the December 2013 estimate) and thus includes one later year of development in modernization programs (development costs typically increase, or ramp up, as a program proceeds). Nevertheless, budget-driven delays in several programs, including a three-year delay for the new cruise missile and its nuclear warhead and longer delays in some programs for extending the useful lives of nuclear warheads, have reduced the costs projected for the next decade.

Direct measurements of methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania

February 18, 2015 Comments off

Direct measurements of methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Abandoned oil and gas wells provide a potential pathway for subsurface migration and emissions of methane and other fluids to the atmosphere. Little is known about methane fluxes from the millions of abandoned wells that exist in the United States. Here, we report direct measurements of methane fluxes from abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, using static flux chambers. A total of 42 and 52 direct measurements were made at wells and at locations near the wells (“controls”) in forested, wetland, grassland, and river areas in July, August, October 2013 and January 2014, respectively. The mean methane flow rates at these well locations were 0.27 kg/d/well, and the mean methane flow rate at the control locations was 4.5 × 10−6 kg/d/location. Three out of the 19 measured wells were high emitters that had methane flow rates that were three orders of magnitude larger than the median flow rate of 1.3 × 10−3 kg/d/well. Assuming the mean flow rate found here is representative of all abandoned wells in Pennsylvania, we scaled the methane emissions to be 4–7% of estimated total anthropogenic methane emissions in Pennsylvania. The presence of ethane, propane, and n-butane, along with the methane isotopic composition, indicate that the emitted methane is predominantly of thermogenic origin. These measurements show that methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells can be significant. The research required to quantify these emissions nationally should be undertaken so they can be accurately described and included in greenhouse gas emissions inventories.

Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States

February 12, 2015 Comments off

Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Commonly considered strategies for reducing the environmental impact of light-duty transportation include using alternative fuels and improving vehicle fuel economy. We evaluate the air quality-related human health impacts of 10 such options, including the use of liquid biofuels, diesel, and compressed natural gas (CNG) in internal combustion engines; the use of electricity from a range of conventional and renewable sources to power electric vehicles (EVs); and the use of hybrid EV technology. Our approach combines spatially, temporally, and chemically detailed life cycle emission inventories; comprehensive, fine-scale state-of-the-science chemical transport modeling; and exposure, concentration–response, and economic health impact modeling for ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). We find that powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or “grid average” electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline. Conversely, EVs powered by low-emitting electricity from natural gas, wind, water, or solar power reduce environmental health impacts by 50% or more. Consideration of potential climate change impacts alongside the human health outcomes described here further reinforces the environmental preferability of EVs powered by low-emitting electricity relative to gasoline vehicles.

Roundup of Recent CRS Reports About Energy and the Environment

February 12, 2015 Comments off
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