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News Article | December 16, 2016
Site: cleantechnica.com

Originally published on EnergyPost by Peter Strachan and Alex Russell On Tuesday the US Environmental Protection Agency released a definitive study concluding that hydraulic fracturing can impact drinking water at each stage in the shale gas production process. Do we really want to see 16,000 or more shale gas wells drilled in the British countryside carrying the same and other risks, ask professors Peter Strachan and Alex Russell?  They assess the case for fracking in the UK against six “stress tests” and conclude that it fails in each case. “Let’s Fraxit now!” Plans for onshore shale gas extraction – or rather high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) or fracking – are proving to be somewhat explosive in the UK. Politically there is a north south divide on the wisdom of engaging with fracking, with the Conservative controlled south hell bent on pushing it at all costs and the Scottish National Party (SNP) north dancing a ‘dinna ken’ highland jig around the issue, much to the chagrin of Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Following the publication of six reports on 8 November the Scottish Government has now announced that it will launch a consultation in January 2017, with a final decision likely to be reached in the second half of 2017. At a recent Westminster All-Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Oil and Gas meeting (see this article for a report), six “stress tests” were discussed on which a decision should logically be based: We believe that fracking fails on all counts and should be banned in Scotland and across the whole of the UK, even if this seems more unlikely in England at this moment (see here). The fracking industry’s Achilles-heel is that it lacks any meaningful public support, even in the US. A recent Gallup Poll undertaken there found that: only 36% favour fracking, with 51% opposing it. Dare an increasingly unpopular UK Government continue to support its business funding links at the expense of the public when even its Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Public Opinion Tracker published in October 2016 found that: only 17% of the general public support fracking.  In comparison: 79% support renewables. Another opinion poll undertaken by ICM (for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers) two years ago found that nearly half of those surveyed would be unhappy to have a fracking play within a 10-mileradius of their homes.  Proximity is an important issue in the UK. In Scotland fracking wells will be located close to densely populated areas. A survey by BMG Research reported in the Herald newspaper last month found that 54% of Scottish respondents said that they supported a ban on fracking and fewer than a fifth were opposed to the ban. Francis Egan, Chief Executive of shale gas producer Cuadrilla, revealed at a recent House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee that his company has found it extremely difficult to get to the point of drilling even one well. This has taken around four years, he said.  In the same timeframe he said the US shale industry has drilled some 120,000 wells. Drilling anywhere near that number of wells in Scotland and England, would amount to the UK becoming one giant gas field.  Lower estimates suggest that around 16,000 wells will be drilled, which in terms of the tiny landmass of the UK is very significant indeed.  Wells will be fracked near and perhaps even under people’s homes, their places of work, and the schools that their children attend. In the US fracking is proving to be a boom and bust industry. At a recent Oil and Gas UK Business Breakfast, Martin Gilbert the Chief Executive of Aberdeen Asset Management also said that fracking is a debt-laden industry. We can expect the same to happen here if we allow fracking. Last month’s KPMG “Economic Impact Assessment and Scenario Development of Unconventional Oil and Gas” report, written for the Scottish Government, revealed that, “If oil and gas prices were to remain at historically low levels, it would be unlikely that Unconventional Oil and Gas resources could be developed economically.” Taking the lower measurements of economic contribution of Unconventional Oil and Gas to Scotland up to 2062, it is astonishing how low these are: Perhaps these negligible economic benefits should be of no surprise. A plain speaking letter written last year by more than 800 people holding public office in New York State, US, to Lancashire County Council, England, stated that:“We are sure that the fracking industry will promise jobs and prosperity. We urge you to treat these claims with deep skepticism. The experience in the US is that these claims are false and vastly overstated.” In terms of impact on jobs, in Australia it has been found that for every 10 new gas jobs created, 18 agricultural jobs were lost. In addition, the New York State letter outlined some of the other immense costs attached to fracking: “Meanwhile, local communities are faced with significant costs including road and infrastructure damage, emergency response, heightened crime rates, and lingering contamination and pollution.” Fracking will prove toxic to other economically important sectors. Drawing on experience from elsewhere it may well damage tourism, the agricultural, food and drink sectors, and even the banking sector. In addition to being famous for its castles, whisky and fare, one of Scotland’s unique international selling points is the scenic beauty of its mountains, rivers and wider natural environment. A natural environment that is free of toxic water, land and air. Any major fracking push will undoubtedly damage Scotland’s brand and the wider economy long term. To date there has been little discussion on the impact on the finance and banking sectors. However, the aforementioned KPMG report did state, “Development of Unconventional Oil and Gas in Scotland will also rely on an ability to obtain appropriate funding (debt and/or equity) to support exploration and extraction.” The recent financial crisis witnessed in the US fracking industry will undoubtedly impact on the banking sector’s appetite to invest up to $100 billion over a 20-year period to make the industry meaningful in the UK.  Since the start of last year, more than 60 North American oil and gas companies have gone bust, with liabilities totaling $22.5 billion. According to one report, “even if crude prices return to $50 to $60 a barrel, half of the shale companies will be unable to stay in business”. Closer to home The Telegraph has recently reported that Cuadrilla had very little revenue in 2015, recording losses of almost $18 million. Yet the independent news site Drill or Drop revealed that Cuadrilla’s directors were paid more than $1.5 million in 2015, with the highest paid director receiving a pay packet of more than $700,000. With such losses the question arises, will the fracking industry ever generate any tax revenue for the Treasury? It would be possible to ask the Office for Budget Responsibility for their best guess but why bother given the inaccuracies of their previous oil and gas forecasts? Based on the US experience, and there is no evidence to suggest it would be any different here in the UK, fracking fails spectacularly when it comes to public health and impact on the natural environment. Following the publication of a high quality report by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, one of their Commissioners said: “High-volume hydraulic fracturing poses significant adverse impacts to land, air, water, natural resources and potential significant public health impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated.” It is clear that government, business, and researchers (medical, natural and social scientists) are only just starting to understand the wider impacts on people and the environment.  The scientific literature that is available has mostly been published since 2013. Further to the comprehensive evidence documented by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation one recent article that reviews the now rapidly expanding field of public health and environment impacts produced some damning results.  For the sake of brevity the results are: This article, “Toward an Understanding of the Environmental Health Impacts of Unconventional Natural Gas Development” and the literature upon which it is based, is a must read for anyone wishing to understand the risks associated with fracking. A filmed presentation of the findings and the methodology that underpins this article can be viewed at the 2016 Shale Gas and Public Health Conference. A second study clearly indicates the dangerous, and arguably unacceptable nature of the chemicals used in fracking.  Undertaken by the Yale School of Public Health and published in the journal “Science of the Total Environment” it found that numerous carcinogens involved in fracking have the “potential” to contaminate water, land and air.  The research team examined an extensive list of chemicals. Both the UK and Scottish Government have scored brownie points in the past by claiming to be family-friendly in their approach to making policy decisions. Here is an acid test for them. Research has shown the most vulnerable section of society through their potential exposure to the carcinogenic pollutants used in fracking are children, with leukemia being a major concern. So a question for Theresa May, Greg Clark, and Nicola Sturgeon: What is more important to you, the dividends that will be paid to shareholders in oil companies or the health of children of ordinary people? The science behind the public health and environment impacts of fracking is now starting to emerge, with more public and privately funded research needed.  But what should concern the general public is that insufficient weight appears to being attached to these issues.  What peer-reviewed medical evidence that is available appears to being overlooked to facilitate fracking.  Fracking without Carbon Capture and Storage  (CCS) technology is a show-stopper. Commissioned by the Scottish Government, the report“Unconventional Oil and Gas: Compatibility with Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets” concludes that emissions from fracking, would be “significant” and “inconsistent” with climate change emission targets. Research by Professor Nick Cowern and Dr Robin Russell-Jones submitted to the UK Climate Change Committee identified a key problem with fracked gas: from a climate change perspective, fugitivemethane emissions make shale gas worse than coal by a factor of two.   Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas.  It has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) 87 times greater than an equivalent mass of CO2 on a 20 year timeframe.  These researchers have further noted, “that overall half of the rise in atmospheric levels of methane seen globally since 2007 is due to oil and gas, notably shale extraction in the US”. Fracking is a gangplank for climate chaos.  As such, where does this leave our commitments to the Paris Agreement? Onshore fracking, rather than being a panacea to the multifaceted energy conundrum confronted by UK, is more likely to exacerbate its dire energy plight.  First, fracking fails lamentably to address the looming 2020 energy crisis for a multitude of reasons, including the obvious fact that a UK shale revolution could never happen quickly enough. It would only take one untoward incident – be it contamination of an aquifer, leakage of methane on a grand scale, flooding from one of the huge number of required decontaminating standing storage units for polluted water from the wells or even a fracking-induced earthquake – to totally derail the entire UK fracking venture. There has to be a better way to keep the lights burning and our homes warm. Second, by placing too much focus on fracking at the expense of other energy options the UK Government is creating energy insecurity.  It is a threat to the offshore oil and gas industry and the renewables sector. Fracking in the US has caused the loss of thousands of UK North Sea-related jobs. It is unimaginable that a UK Government should add to that woe by aping US fracking folly. Third, the focus by the UK Government on “gas” as a bridging fuel is derailing the UK’s transition to a lower carbon economy.  Is the UK really serious about taking a world lead in showing the way forward for others to follow? Or has a short-term fix blinded Westminster to taking an ethical approach to its energy policy? Scotland says Fraxit, England should too The SNP pledged in their 2016 Manifesto, “We will not allow fracking or Underground Coal Gasification in Scotland unless it can be proved beyond any doubt that it will not harm our environment, communities or public health.” Based on this statement, the publication of their six expert reports on fracking and other evidence (including that presented in this article) the SNP Government at Holyrood should, with pride, take an ethical approach and ban onshore fracking. Nicola Sturgeon should meet the challenge head on and show the outside world that Scotland really has the claim to being an independent free thinking nation, not controlled by short-term unethical fixes, or dominated by self-serving resource consuming nations like the US. As it happens, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the nation’s environmental watchdog, has just released an exhaustive study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water in the US. According to the accompanying press release, in the study “EPA identified cases of impacts on drinking water at each stage in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle. Impacts cited in the report generally occurred near hydraulically fractured oil and gas production wells and ranged in severity, from temporary changes in water quality, to contamination that made private drinking water wells unusable.” Is this what we want to see happen in the UK as well? Ban fracking now and put Fraxit into the world lexicon.  Peter Strachan (@ProfStrachan) is Professor of Energy Policy, Robert Gordon University. Professor Alex Russell is Chair of the Oil Industry Finance Association.  The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and not those of the Robert Gordon University or Affiliates. Buy a cool T-shirt or mug in the CleanTechnica store!   Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.


News Article | December 18, 2016
Site: www.theenergycollective.com

On Tuesday the US Environmental Protection Agency released a definitive study concluding that hydraulic fracturing can impact drinking water at each stage in the shale gas production process. Do we really want to see 16,000 or more shale gas wells drilled in the British countryside carrying the same and other risks, ask professors Peter Strachan and Alex Russell?  They assess the case for fracking in the UK against six “stress tests” and conclude that it fails in each case. “Let’s Fraxit now!” Plans for onshore shale gas extraction – or rather high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) or fracking – are proving to be somewhat explosive in the UK. Politically there is a north south divide on the wisdom of engaging with fracking, with the Conservative controlled south hell bent on pushing it at all costs and the Scottish National Party (SNP) north dancing a ‘dinna ken’ highland jig around the issue, much to the chagrin of Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Following the publication of six reports on 8 November the Scottish Government has now announced that it will launch a consultation in January 2017, with a final decision likely to be reached in the second half of 2017. At a recent Westminster All-Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Oil and Gas meeting (see this article for a report), six “stress tests” were discussed on which a decision should logically be based: We believe that fracking fails on all counts and should be banned in Scotland and across the whole of the UK, even if this seems more unlikely in England at this moment (see here). The fracking industry’s Achilles-heel is that it lacks any meaningful public support, even in the US. A recent Gallup Poll undertaken there found that: only 36% favour fracking, with 51% opposing it. Dare an increasingly unpopular UK Government continue to support its business funding links at the expense of the public when even its Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Public Opinion Tracker published in October 2016 found that: only 17% of the general public support fracking.  In comparison: 79% support renewables. Another opinion poll undertaken by ICM (for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers) two years ago found that nearly half of those surveyed would be unhappy to have a fracking play within a 10-mile radius of their homes.  Proximity is an important issue in the UK. In Scotland fracking wells will be located close to densely populated areas. A survey by BMG Research reported in the Herald newspaper last month found that 54% of Scottish respondents said that they supported a ban on fracking and fewer than a fifth were opposed to the ban. Francis Egan, Chief Executive of shale gas producer Cuadrilla, revealed at a recent House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee that his company has found it extremely difficult to get to the point of drilling even one well. This has taken around four years, he said.  In the same timeframe he said the US shale industry has drilled some 120,000 wells. Drilling anywhere near that number of wells in Scotland and England, would amount to the UK becoming one giant gas field.  Lower estimates suggest that around 16,000 wells will be drilled, which in terms of the tiny landmass of the UK is very significant indeed.  Wells will be fracked near and perhaps even under people’s homes, their places of work, and the schools that their children attend. In the US fracking is proving to be a boom and bust industry. At a recent Oil and Gas UK Business Breakfast, Martin Gilbert the Chief Executive of Aberdeen Asset Management also said that fracking is a debt-laden industry. We can expect the same to happen here if we allow fracking. Last month’s KPMG “Economic Impact Assessment and Scenario Development of Unconventional Oil and Gas” report, written for the Scottish Government, revealed that, “If oil and gas prices were to remain at historically low levels, it would be unlikely that Unconventional Oil and Gas resources could be developed economically.” Taking the lower measurements of economic contribution of Unconventional Oil and Gas to Scotland up to 2062, it is astonishing how low these are: Perhaps these negligible economic benefits should be of no surprise. A plain speaking letter written last year by more than 800 people holding public office in New York State, US, to Lancashire County Council, England, stated that:“We are sure that the fracking industry will promise jobs and prosperity. We urge you to treat these claims with deep skepticism. The experience in the US is that these claims are false and vastly overstated.” In terms of impact on jobs, in Australia it has been found that for every 10 new gas jobs created, 18 agricultural jobs were lost. In addition, the New York State letter outlined some of the other immense costs attached to fracking: “Meanwhile, local communities are faced with significant costs including road and infrastructure damage, emergency response, heightened crime rates, and lingering contamination and pollution.” Fracking will prove toxic to other economically important sectors. Drawing on experience from elsewhere it may well damage tourism, the agricultural, food and drink sectors, and even the banking sector. In addition to being famous for its castles, whisky and fare, one of Scotland’s unique international selling points is the scenic beauty of its mountains, rivers and wider natural environment. A natural environment that is free of toxic water, land and air. Any major fracking push will undoubtedly damage Scotland’s brand and the wider economy long term. To date there has been little discussion on the impact on the finance and banking sectors. However, the aforementioned KPMG report did state, “Development of Unconventional Oil and Gas in Scotland will also rely on an ability to obtain appropriate funding (debt and/or equity) to support exploration and extraction.” The recent financial crisis witnessed in the US fracking industry will undoubtedly impact on the banking sector’s appetite to invest up to $100 billion over a 20-year period to make the industry meaningful in the UK.  Since the start of last year, more than 60 North American oil and gas companies have gone bust, with liabilities totaling $22.5 billion. According to one report, “even if crude prices return to $50 to $60 a barrel, half of the shale companies will be unable to stay in business”. Closer to home The Telegraph has recently reported that Cuadrilla had very little revenue in 2015, recording losses of almost $18 million. Yet the independent news site Drill or Drop revealed that Cuadrilla’s directors were paid more than $1.5 million in 2015, with the highest paid director receiving a pay packet of more than $700,000. With such losses the question arises, will the fracking industry ever generate any tax revenue for the Treasury? It would be possible to ask the Office for Budget Responsibility for their best guess but why bother given the inaccuracies of their previous oil and gas forecasts? Based on the US experience, and there is no evidence to suggest it would be any different here in the UK, fracking fails spectacularly when it comes to public health and impact on the natural environment. Following the publication of a high quality report by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, one of their Commissioners said: “High-volume hydraulic fracturing poses significant adverse impacts to land, air, water, natural resources and potential significant public health impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated.” It is clear that government, business, and researchers (medical, natural and social scientists) are only just starting to understand the wider impacts on people and the environment.  The scientific literature that is available has mostly been published since 2013. Further to the comprehensive evidence documented by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation one recent article that reviews the now rapidly expanding field of public health and environment impacts produced some damning results.  For the sake of brevity the results are: This article, “Toward an Understanding of the Environmental Health Impacts of Unconventional Natural Gas Development” and the literature upon which it is based, is a must read for anyone wishing to understand the risks associated with fracking. A filmed presentation of the findings and the methodology that underpins this article can be viewed at the 2016 Shale Gas and Public Health Conference. A second study clearly indicates the dangerous, and arguably unacceptable nature of the chemicals used in fracking.  Undertaken by the Yale School of Public Health and published in the journal “Science of the Total Environment” it found that numerous carcinogens involved in fracking have the “potential” to contaminate water, land and air.  The research team examined an extensive list of chemicals. Both the UK and Scottish Government have scored brownie points in the past by claiming to be family-friendly in their approach to making policy decisions. Here is an acid test for them. Research has shown the most vulnerable section of society through their potential exposure to the carcinogenic pollutants used in fracking are children, with leukemia being a major concern. So a question for Theresa May, Greg Clark, and Nicola Sturgeon: What is more important to you, the dividends that will be paid to shareholders in oil companies or the health of children of ordinary people? The science behind the public health and environment impacts of fracking is now starting to emerge, with more public and privately funded research needed.  But what should concern the general public is that insufficient weight appears to being attached to these issues.  What peer-reviewed medical evidence that is available appears to being overlooked to facilitate fracking. Fracking without Carbon Capture and Storage  (CCS) technology is a show-stopper. Commissioned by the Scottish Government, the report “Unconventional Oil and Gas: Compatibility with Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets” concludes that emissions from fracking, would be “significant” and “inconsistent” with climate change emission targets. Research by Professor Nick Cowern and Dr Robin Russell-Jones submitted to the UK Climate Change Committee identified a key problem with fracked gas: from a climate change perspective, fugitive methane emissions make shale gas worse than coal by a factor of two. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas.  It has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) 87 times greater than an equivalent mass of CO2 on a 20 year timeframe.  These researchers have further noted, “that overall half of the rise in atmospheric levels of methane seen globally since 2007 is due to oil and gas, notably shale extraction in the US”. Fracking is a gangplank for climate chaos.  As such, where does this leave our commitments to the Paris Agreement? Onshore fracking, rather than being a panacea to the multifaceted energy conundrum confronted by UK, is more likely to exacerbate its dire energy plight. First, fracking fails lamentably to address the looming 2020 energy crisis for a multitude of reasons, including the obvious fact that a UK shale revolution could never happen quickly enough. It would only take one untoward incident – be it contamination of an aquifer, leakage of methane on a grand scale, flooding from one of the huge number of required decontaminating standing storage units for polluted water from the wells or even a fracking-induced earthquake – to totally derail the entire UK fracking venture. There has to be a better way to keep the lights burning and our homes warm. Second, by placing too much focus on fracking at the expense of other energy options the UK Government is creating energy insecurity.  It is a threat to the offshore oil and gas industry and the renewables sector. Fracking in the US has caused the loss of thousands of UK North Sea-related jobs. It is unimaginable that a UK Government should add to that woe by aping US fracking folly. Third, the focus by the UK Government on “gas” as a bridging fuel is derailing the UK’s transition to a lower carbon economy.  Is the UK really serious about taking a world lead in showing the way forward for others to follow? Or has a short-term fix blinded Westminster to taking an ethical approach to its energy policy? The SNP pledged in their 2016 Manifesto, “We will not allow fracking or Underground Coal Gasification in Scotland unless it can be proved beyond any doubt that it will not harm our environment, communities or public health.” Based on this statement, the publication of their six expert reports on fracking and other evidence (including that presented in this article) the SNP Government at Holyrood should, with pride, take an ethical approach and ban onshore fracking. Nicola Sturgeon should meet the challenge head on and show the outside world that Scotland really has the claim to being an independent free thinking nation, not controlled by short-term unethical fixes, or dominated by self-serving resource consuming nations like the US. As it happens, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the nation’s environmental watchdog, has just released an exhaustive study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water in the US. According to the accompanying press release, in the study “EPA identified cases of impacts on drinking water at each stage in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle. Impacts cited in the report generally occurred near hydraulically fractured oil and gas production wells and ranged in severity, from temporary changes in water quality, to contamination that made private drinking water wells unusable.” Is this what we want to see happen in the UK as well? Ban fracking now and put Fraxit into the world lexicon. Peter Strachan (@ProfStrachan) is Professor of Energy Policy, Robert Gordon University. Professor Alex Russell is Chair of the Oil Industry Finance Association.  The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and not those of the Robert Gordon University or Affiliates.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 4.73M | Year: 2011

National infrastructure (NI) systems (energy, transport, water, waste and ICT) in the UK and in advanced economies globally face serious challenges. The 2009 Council for Science and Technology (CST) report on NI in the UK identified significant vulnerabilities, capacity limitations and a number of NI components nearing the end of their useful life. It also highlighted serious fragmentation in the arrangements for infrastructure provision in the UK. There is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions from infrastructure, to respond to future demographic, social and lifestyle changes and to build resilience to intensifying impacts of climate change. If this process of transforming NI is to take place efficiently, whilst also minimising the associated risks, it will need to be underpinned by a long-term, cross-sectoral approach to understanding NI performance under a range of possible futures. The systems of systems analysis that must form the basis for such a strategic approach does not yet exist - this inter-disciplinary research programme will provide it.The aim of the UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium is to develop and demonstrate a new generation of system simulation models and tools to inform analysis, planning and design of NI. The research will deal with energy, transport, water, waste and ICT systems at a national scale, developing new methods for analysing their performance, risks and interdependencies. It will provide a virtual environment in which we will test strategies for long term investment in NI and understand how alternative strategies perform with respect to policy constraints such as reliability and security of supply, cost, carbon emissions, and adaptability to demographic and climate change.The research programme is structured around four major challenges:1. How can infrastructure capacity and demand be balanced in an uncertain future? We will develop methods for modelling capacity, demand and interdependence in NI systems in a compatible way under a wide range of technological, socio-economic and climate futures. We will thereby provide the tools needed to identify robust strategies for sustainably balancing capacity and demand.2. What are the risks of infrastructure failure and how can we adapt NI to make it more resilient?We will analyse the risks of interdependent infrastructure failure by establishing network models of NI and analysing the consequences of failure for people and the economy. Information on key vulnerabilities and risks will be used to identify ways of adapting infrastructure systems to reduce risks in future.3. How do infrastructure systems evolve and interact with society and the economy? Starting with idealised simulations and working up to the national scale, we will develop new models of how infrastructure, society and the economy evolve in the long term. We will use the simulation models to demonstrate alternative long term futures for infrastructure provision and how they might be reached.4. What should the UKs strategy be for integrated provision of NI in the long term? Working with a remarkable group of project partners in government and industry, we will use our new methods to develop and test alternative strategies for Britains NI, building an evidence-based case for a transition to sustainability. We will analyse the governance arrangements necessary to ensure that this transition is realisable in practice.A Programme Grant provides the opportunity to work flexibly with key partners in government and industry to address research challenges of national importance in a sustained way over five years. Our ambition is that through development of a new generation of tools, in concert with our government and industry partners, we will enable a revolution in the strategic analysis of NI provision in the UK, whilst at the same time becoming an international landmark programme recognised for novelty, research excellence and impact.


News Article | December 19, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A PROJECT that could lead to major cost savings for UK rail operators has earned a prestigious award for a University of Huddersfield researcher. Dr Yousif Muhamedsalih, of the University's Institute of Railway Research, has been named Best Young Researcher of 2016 by Rail Research UK Association (RRUK), in tandem with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). Judges praised him for tackling "a problem that has been of interest to mechanical engineers since the railways began". The problem is how to extend the life of railway wheelsets - how often and how much they can safely be reprofiled before they have to be scrapped and replaced. One approach is known as Economic Tyre Turning (ETT), described as "the process of turning wheels to a profile that has the same tread shape but a thinner flange, allowing less material to be removed from the wheel diameter". The use of ETT can extend wheel life, especially as modern lathes are capable of the required precision - but current GB railway standards do not permit its use. This was the background to the research conducted by Dr Yousif Muhamedsalih, Julian Stow and Dr Adam Bevan, and described by Dr Muhamedsalih in detail in a presentation for the 11th World Congress on Railway Research that took place in Milan, Italy. His research was undertaken by computer simulation and by carrying out tests on the iconic Pendolino trains run by Virgin Trains. Dr Muhamedsalih has concluded that ETT is not only safe, but it could have the ability to avoid the unnecessary costs in early replacement of wheelsets when they have significant remaining life. This could lead to changes in overhaul strategies, reducing costs to the rail industry. Computer simulations were used to predict both the magnitude of wheel wear and the worn shape of the designed and re-profiled wheels and this provided data for in-service trials carried out by Virgin Trains after it had been given the go-ahead by the Rolling Stock Standards Committee. It was in December 2015 that appraisal of ETT on a Pendolino began, when Alstom Transport had turned 20 axles on five vehicles to thin flange wheel profiles. Trials continued until March 2016, after the train had covered around 70,000 miles travelling between Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston. Dr Muhamedsalih carried out weekly assessments of the wear on the wheelsets. "The outcome supported the simulation results, which predicted that tread and flange wear rate would be the same for thin and full flange profiles. The ride quality assessments results shows that the change of flange thickness had limited overall effect on the average passenger comfort," he states. This helps to make the case for ETT - already widely employed in Europe - being allowed in Britain. The project earned Dr Muhamedsalih a nomination for the RRUK Best Young Researcher of the Year Award, and he was selected by the panel of judges. He has received his certificate and £1,000 prize at the RRUK's London AGM. Yousif Muhamedsalih was born in Britain, but his family returned to Iraq, where he obtained his first degrees. He relocated to the UK for a University of Huddersfield MSc in Control Systems, moving on to doctoral research. After being awarded his PhD in 2015, he was appointed a research fellow at the University's Institute of Railway Research, where he carries out work with the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) as part of a strategic partnership.


News Article | March 15, 2016
Site: motherboard.vice.com

The UK could face power outages and missing emissions targets if the nuclear plant isn’t built – but that doesn’t mean it should be Nuclear power stations are always controversial, but the UK’s proposed Hinkley Point C is particularly so. It may well be the most expensive object ever built; it guarantees higher power bills; and it’s already taken down executives, despite construction yet to start. Hinkley Point C is set to be the first new nuclear power station built in the UK since 1995, poised to hit the grid as older nuclear sites and coal are ditched. However, its high costs are now leaving the project—and the future of the UK’s power supply—in danger. Set to be built in Somerset by energy company EDF, which is majority-owned by the French government, there’s a chance Hinkley Point C may collapse before it’s built, and it’s nothing to do with protesters or environmental complaints. The problem with Hinkley is money: its costs risen to £18 billion ($25 billion)—with some projecting the final cost to be £24 billion ($34 billion)—and EDF has yet to finalise funding. Though it is expected to sign off on the project soon, financial analysts stressed last week that EDF can’t afford to build it. The delays may already cause shortages in the UK’s electricity supply as it's currently planned, which would naturally worsen if the project fails to get off the ground. The plant is supposed to start operations in 2025, when several older nuclear sites are decommissioned and the deadline hits for shutting down coal plants. Tony Roulstone, a professor setting up the University of Cambridge’s new MPhil in nuclear energy, believes the project will take ten years to construct, and given work isn’t expected to start until 2018 or 2019, will miss its deadline. “This will put the UK in a difficult position because they were counting on electricity from Hinkley by 2025,” Roulstone said. “As some have said, the UK does not have a plan B,” he added. “The AGRs [advanced gas-cooled reactors, which make up most of the UK power stations] will close down by 2030 and at that stage we would have just one nuclear power station, Sizewell B.” Hinkley Point C is expected to provide 7 percent of the UK’s energy. At the moment, about a fifth of the UK’s power comes from the eight currently-operating nuclear plants, but seven of those are due to be decommissioned. That, alongside the planned closure of coal plants, which make up 22 percent of our power today, led the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to claim in a report we could see a potential supply gap of 40 to 55 percent by 2025. “If you follow these policies then a gap is likely,” explained Jennifer Baxter, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. “What is not clear is how long extensions to current nuclear and coal fired power stations will be [able] to account for the lack of new build power stations.” For its part, EDF has said it is confident the nuclear plant will go ahead. To see where it’s headed next, it’s necessary to recap its history. Hinkley Point C has been in the works for six years, and will—as the name suggests—be built alongside decommissioned Hinkley Point A and still-operating Hinkley Point B, which is set to be decommissioned. The project was first announced during a five-year span in which the British government decided it wasn’t going to offer public funds for nuclear projects, leaving EDF to stump up the cash. Last year, with help from Chancellor George Osborne, EDF convinced China General Nuclear Power Corporation to pay a third of the project’s cost for a 33.5 percent share. The British government stepped in to help on another front, promising a minimum price per megawatt hour of electricity of £92.50 ($130)—which many have pointed out is twice the current cost and well above that from other power sources, including wind farms. EDF is set to make a final decision on funding the project soon, ahead of a board meeting in April, after multiple delays. However, back in February the project’s director, Chris Bakken, stepped down to “pursue new professional opportunities,” and more recently the company’s finance director, Thomas Piquemal, departed, with rumours suggesting he believed the project would damage EDF’s finances too much. Where Hinkley Point C is planned to be built. Image: EDF The board-level turmoil might actually be a sign that EDF’s remaining executives plan to approve the project, according to Martin Freer, director of the Birmingham Centre of Nuclear Education and Research and a professor of physics at the University of Birmingham. “My take on the resignation of the chief of finance signals that the HPC [Hinkley Point C] decision is being pushed through against the judgement of financial caution,” Freer told me. “EDF are at a point in their history where they roll the dice and hope to be lucky.” Roulstone noted that the new plant’s construction cost is the same as EDF’s capitalisation. “Only major sales of assets and/or funding by the French government can rescue EDF and hence Hinkley,” he said. If Hinkley fails, the UK may have to turn to other sources. While giving a reprieve to coal won’t be good news for emissions targets, stepping back from nuclear could help spur the take-up of alternatives such as renewable resources (solar, tidal and wind, for example). However, the most likely source of energy will be Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT), which use natural gas. “Because CCGT plants can be built quickly, supply can be filled, but it will not be low-carbon,” Roulstone said. Hinkley’s failure need not mean the end of Britain’s nuclear ambitions. There are other nuclear projects in the pipeline, though there’s debate as to how Hinkley Point C failing could impact those too. “If Hinkley does not go ahead the other projects led by Hitachi and Toshiba will also be negatively affected, with either delays or perhaps cancellation,” Roulstone predicted, saying investors could lose confidence in the UK’s abilities to successfully back such large projects. However, Freer believes Hinkley failing would be a “real setback, but not a disaster.” He pointed to Hitachi’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). “This is a cheaper, simpler and demonstrated reactor design, which is widely believed to be a safer bet in terms of the potential for delivery,” he said, adding that the ABWR will likely be built by 2025 regardless of what happens with Hinkley. The Chinese firm that’s backed Hinkley could also step in with a different design, with sites already “earmarked for this purpose," Greer said. Freer suggested that there’s more than power supply and emissions targets at risk. “The governments of the UK, France, and China have invested huge amounts of political capital in seeing Hinkley Point C come to the point of construction,” he said. “This political capital lies with the public, convincing them that nuclear is part of a low-carbon future; [with the] the financial institutions, convincing them that when the UK makes a decision it sticks to it and hence the UK is an investable proposition; and with international governments—when the UK makes an international agreement it is binding.”


News Article | July 14, 2016
Site: www.realwire.com

Leading international manufacturer of components and systems for optical and electrical connectivity, HUBER+SUHNER, is sponsoring two teams at this year’s Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IME) Formula Student event at Britain’s iconic Silverstone circuit. Formula Student is Europe's most established educational motorsport competition, run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and backed by industry and high profile engineers, such as Ross Brawn OBE. The competition aims to inspire and develop enterprising and innovative young engineers. Universities from across the globe are challenged to design and build a single-seat racing car in order to compete in static and dynamic events, which demonstrate their understanding and test the performance of the vehicle. HUBER+SUHNER headquarters is sponsoring the AMZ Racing team based in the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) and also providing cabling for their build. HUBER+SUHNER India has given its backing to the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay Racing team, also supplying cables. “The Formula Student event is a fantastic initiative that champions the great work Engineering students are doing across the world,” said Frank Rothe, who heads the Automotive Market Unit at HUBER+SUHNER. “We’re delighted to have helped two of the teams here today showcase their talents on an iconic stage like Silverstone.” Each participating team is tasked to produce a prototype for a single-seat race car for autocross or sprint racing, and present it to a hypothetical manufacturing firm. The car must be low in cost, easy to maintain, and reliable, with high performance in terms of its acceleration, braking, and handling qualities. During the competition each team must demonstrate the logic behind their proposal and must be able to demonstrate that it can support a viable business model for both parties. “This event is massively valued within the industry, and we are excited to see what the 2016 batch of young engineers has to offer,” concluded Rothe. The Formula Student event runs from 14-17 July, 2016, at Silverstone Circuit, Northamptonshire. Tickets are available from http://formulastudent.imeche.org. To arrange a briefing or product demonstration, please reply to this email or contact the HUBER+SUHNER Team on the details below HUBER+SUHNER Group HUBER+SUHNER is a global company with headquarters in Switzerland that develops and manufactures components and system solutions for electrical and optical connectivity. With cables, connectors and systems – developed from the three core technologies of radio frequency, fiber optics and low frequency – the company serves customers in the communication, transportation and industrial sectors. The products deliver high performance, quality, reliability and long life – even under harsh environment conditions. Our global production network, combined with group companies and agencies in over 60 countries, puts HUBER+SUHNER close to its customers. Further information on the company can be found at hubersuhner.com.


News Article | January 27, 2016
Site: cleantechnica.com

The United Kingdom is walking into an energy crisis it may not be ready to face, according to industry experts. The Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IME) has warned that the UK Government’s policy to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025, in combination with the retirement of the majority of the nation’s ageing nuclear fleet and growing electricity demand will leave the country facing a 40-55% electricity supply gap. Responding in tandem with the IME, the UK’s Renewable Energy Association (REA) has warned that current Government policies are cutting off one of the only ways such an electricity supply gap could be closed — namely, renewable energy in combination with energy storage. A new report from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers has found that the current plan to plug the looming electricity supply gap with Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plants are unrealistic — requiring approximately 30 new CCGT plants within 10 years, compared to only 4 being built in the past 10 years. The significant reduction in existing nuclear and coal-fired power plants may be politically and environmentally beneficial, but the current in-place “solutions” don’t hold up to closer scrutiny. Additionally, the report, Engineering the UK Electricity Gap, claims that “a greater reliance on interconnectors to import electricity from Europe and Scandinavia is likely to lead to higher electricity costs and less energy security.” “The UK is facing an electricity supply crisis,” said Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and Lead Author of the report. “As the UK population rises and with the greater use of electricity use in transport and heating it looks almost certain that electricity demand is going to rise.” “However with little or no focus on reducing electricity demand, the retirement of the majority of the country’s ageing nuclear fleet, recent proposals to phase out coal-fired power by 2025, and the cut in renewable energy subsidies, the UK is on course to produce even less electricity than it does at the moment.” “Currently there are insufficient incentives for companies to invest in any sort of electricity infrastructure or innovation and worryingly even the Government’s own energy calculator does not allow for the scenarios that new energy policy points towards. Under current policy, it is almost impossible for UK electricity demand to be met by 2025.” At the same time, the Renewable Energy Association have weighed in on the discussion, warning that 2016 may result in “being the year where the government subsidises nuclear, gas, and diesel but stifles the most cost-effective renewables such as solar, biomass, and wind.” “This crisis is the clear product of a lack of vision in energy policy,” said James Court, Head of Policy and External Affairs at the Renewable Energy Association. “Technologies are here now that can supply this country’s power needs in a low-carbon, low cost way and can be rapidly deployed, including solar PV, wind, and energy storage.” Specifically, a report published last week by the REA in conjunction with professional services company KPMG, outlined how the decrease in energy storage costs have made the technology economic in many situations at grid scale right now, and stated that by 2017 they will be economic in tandem with solar PV. Such a decentralized energy system will, according to James Court, “lower costs to consumers and increase” the country’s energy security.    Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.”   Come attend CleanTechnica’s 1st “Cleantech Revolution Tour” event → in Berlin, Germany, April 9–10.   Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.  


News Article | December 10, 2016
Site: www.bbc.co.uk

The world's largest cold energy storage plant is being commissioned at a site near Manchester. The cryogenic energy facility stores power from renewables or off-peak generation by chilling air into liquid form. When the liquid air warms up it expands and can drive a turbine to make electricity. The 5MW plant near Manchester can power up to 5,000 homes for around three hours. The company behind the scheme, Highview Power Storage, believes that the technology has great potential to be scaled up for long-term use with green energy sources. Electricity demand varies, influenced by factors like time of day and season. The National Grid is prepared for surges in demand, with power stations on stand-by ready to crank up the power. However, dealing with these peaks and troughs will become increasingly difficult as coal-fired power stations close down and more intermittent renewable energy like wind and solar comes online. In 2015 renewables provided almost a quarter of UK electricity. The intermittent nature of green sources has seen researchers focus on trying to improve energy storage. Pumped hydropower can provide large amounts of energy for long durations, and lithium-ion batteries can respond to demand in milliseconds making them ideal for portable electronic devices and electric vehicles. But hydropower depends on specific geographies as water has to be pumped uphill, and batteries currently cannot be scaled in a cost effective way to store energy for a town or city. "Our technology is a bit like a locatable version of a pumped hydro system. Anywhere that needs large scale long-duration storage, that might be to help integrate an offshore wind farm, a system like ours can help achieve that," Gareth Brett from Highview Power explained, during a visit to the Manchester cryogenic site. "5MW is a bit small for this technology; anything from 10MW and up is the sort of scale we're talking about. "We've already designed a plant that can do 200MW /1200MWh, that's enough to keep a city going for 6 hours." Cryogenic storage works by using renewable or off-peak electricity to cool air down to -190 degrees C, which turns it into a liquid. It's then stored in an insulated tank, similar to a large thermos flask. To release the stored energy, the liquid air is exposed to ambient conditions causing it to expand back into a gas. The volume increase is huge, about 700 times, which is used to drive a turbine to generate electricity. Highview Power's demonstrator plant is next to Pilsworth landfill gas generation site. The large insulated tanks sit across the road from a collection of gas engines. These engines burn methane gas produced from decomposing rubbish to generate electricity. The waste heat from this process is captured and used to increase the efficiency of the cryogenic process. Dr Sheridan Few, Research Associate at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, described a phenomenon unique to this technology. "There's the storage of the energy, and the generating of the energy. You can make use of waste cold and waste heat... because you're putting both electrical and thermal energy in, the amount of electrical energy you get out, can in some cases end up being more than the electrical energy you put in." Alongside the provision of energy storage, this technology can tackle the issues of waste heat which is a by-product of many industrial process. Waste cold, as an example, can be found at liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. While cryogenic storage may be one of the solutions to help the future supply of electricity, there are also new approaches to controlling demand. "One of the most current issues is understanding the demand side," Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, told the BBC. "We tend to just produce electricity to meet the demand. Once we understand demand, we will have more confidence in deploying technologies." Demand side response, the concept of adjusting usage in response to the available supply of electricity, could work easily alongside other innovations like cryogenic energy storage.


« Researchers create graphene-like structure with transition metal atoms | Main | NREL patents method for continuous monitoring of materials during manufacturing; benefits for fuel cell components, semiconductor wafers » A team at the Engine Research Center (ERC), University of Wisconsin-Madison has demonstrated the viability of reactivity-controlled compression ignition (RCCI) in a two-stroke engine. (Earlier post.) A paper on their work is published in Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part D: Journal of Automobile Engineering. RCCI is a dual-fuel combustion technology developed by Dr. Rolf Reitz and colleagues at the ERC. RCCI, a variant of Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI), provides more control over the combustion process and has been shown to have the potential to lower fuel use and emissions significantly. The RCCI process uses in-cylinder fuel blending with at least two fuels of different reactivity and multiple injections to control in-cylinder fuel reactivity to optimize combustion phasing, duration and magnitude. The process involves introduction of a low reactivity fuel into the cylinder to create a well-mixed charge of low reactivity fuel, air and recirculated exhaust gases. For their study, the ERC team modified a two-stroke outboard engine to accommodate two direct fuel injectors for RCCI combustion in one cylinder, while the production direct-injection spark ignition combustion system was maintained in the other cylinder for comparison of performances at equivalent operating conditions. The team found that using gasoline and diesel as the two RCCI fuels resulted in unstable combustion and rapid accumulation of particulate matter in the emissions-sampling equipment. However, RCCI experiments with gasoline and n-heptane (higher volatility) proved to be successful. They found that the low-reactivity fuel fraction and the high-reactivity start-of-injection timing were independent combustion-control levers. At 1500 rpm, an IMEP (indicated mean effective pressure) of 2.5 bar and NO emissions of 1.25 g/kWh, reactivity-controlled compression ignition resulted in a lower coefficient of variation in the indicated mean effective pressure, lower carbon monoxide emissions and a significantly higher gross indicated efficiency than those for the direct-injection spark ignition homogeneous mode and the direct-injection spark ignition stratified mode (36.3% versus 27.0% and 25.7% respectively). At 1200 rpm, IMEP of 2.0 bar and hydrocarbon + NO emissions of about 16.5 g/kW h, the reactivity-controlled compression ignition efficiency was still significantly better than those for the direct-injection spark ignition homogeneous mode and the direct-injection spark ignition stratified mode (32.9% versus 25.2% and 26.6% respectively). The researchers suggested that further design optimization might enable the use of a standard diesel fuel instead of n-heptane.


News Article | January 26, 2016
Site: www.rechargenews.com

The UK is facing an “electricity supply crisis” with the demand for power likely to outstrip supply by up to 55% by 2025, warns the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

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