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Friday, January 31, 2014

Survey says

A new Franklin & Marshall public opinion poll of registered Pennsylvania voters has found enduring favorable views of the natural gas industry, and strong support for both environmental protection and conserving the state’s public lands.

64 percent of Pennsylvanians have a favorable view of the natural gas industry, but opinion is split (emphasis mine) on whether or not the economic benefits outweigh potential environmental damage, with 40 percent saying they do, 37 percent saying they don't and 22 percent unsure.
Significantly…the poll also shows more than two-thirds of voters - 68 percent - oppose opening more state forest land to drilling.
The latter result in consistent with previous polls that showed strong support for public lands conservation over gas drilling in the Appalachian region and in Western states.

The results, pollsters found, are stable, despite the heated debate that swirls around the issue in Pennsylvania:
The results of the poll, conducted Jan. 22 through Jan. 27, changed little since the same questions were asked more than two years ago, in August 2011. Although there were small shifts, none were outside the poll's margin of error.
Part of that, (highly respected pollster G. Terry Madonna) conjectured, is because the majority of the drilling is happening "in the more remote areas of the state - it's not something most voters have a daily or even frequent contact with."
And it's unlikely to change unless there is some big pollution event, he said: "It's not like there haven't been things that have happened, but they have not been to the degree that has ratcheted up concern."
The industry and state leaders should not be sanguine about these numbers - for the former's insecure social license to operate, and the latter's job security. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Can wind power actually improve grid reliability?

Wind does not blow all the time. For that reason, wind power's variability, uncertainty, and inability to respond to demands for electricity compared to conventional energy generation have all been viewed as impediments to reliability of the nation’s electricity grid, and knocks against wind power. But according to a new study from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), wind power can actually improve electricity systems reliability – perhaps better than conventional energy generation.

Active Power Controls from Wind Power: Bridging the Gaps is a study that NREL undertook with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the University of Colorado.

“The study’s key takeaway is that wind energy can act in an equal or superior manner to conventional generation when providing active power control, supporting the system frequency response, and improving reliability,” according to NREL.

Will these findings be game-changing for wind power?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

LNG: lessons for CCS?

Dennis Van Puyvelde of the Global CCS Institute in Australia has written this interesting blog about the similarities, differences, and synergies between the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The Global CCS Institute commissioned WorleyParsons (a company I had the privilege of working with in developing the Pennsylvania CCS model) to complete a study, CCS Learning from the LNG Sector, which lays out the issue succinctly:
There is an essential role for CCS to contribute to…limiting GHG concentrations in the atmosphere at levels consistent with limiting global temperature rise to less than 2°C by 2050 as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The challenge for development of CCS is to demonstrate and commercialise the entire value chain and to have established a framework business case for CCS that enables the market to take over from early government intervention and establishment. The rate of commercialization ramp up must then be capable of attaining the targeted emissions reductions.
As Van Puyvelde’s writes, there are significant similarities between LNG and CCS – both involve a wide range of industries from upstream oil and gas exploration and extraction, to transport via pipelines, to gas processing, and then further shipping. Both LNG and CCS require huge investment, and as he observes: 
when the economic drivers are right - industries do spend tens of billions of dollars per year over long sustained periods to meet the demand created by those economic drivers. 
The differences are also significant. LNG is well established, and has grown in response to demand. There is yet no demand driver for CCS, and regulations are still being developed. Interestingly, he writes that LNG projects are about ten times as costly as CCS projects, yet are still economic because of market conditions.

The synergies between the two may be key.  LNG processing requires removal of CO2, producing a pure stream that would be easier to handle for CCS. Oil companies are heavily involved in the development of LNG projects, and their expertise and involvement may be required to deploy CCS projects.

WorleyParsons identified these key findings:

In my view, they point to the wisdom of the Pennsylvania CCS model and the need for urgent governmental action to enact strong carbon limits, establish a price on CO2, and to stimulate the creation of business opportunities and markets for CO2 that will drive investment in CCS.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Quoted by StateImpactPA on monitoring impacts of natgas development on PA's state forest

I’m quoted in this StateImpactPA article about the program that monitors the impacts of natural gas development on Pennsylvania’s state forest. (Audio is here.)

A little background. When I was Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) during the last two years of the administration of Governor Ed Rendell, I was ordered by the General Assembly to lease state forest land for gas exploration to help balance the state budget. I voiced concern about it at my professional peril, and worked with the women and men of the agency to minimize the impact of the mandated leasing, and to understand its potential impacts. I also worked with my former colleague John Hanger, then-DEP Secretary, to enact (for a time) additional protections for state forest and park land that would be drilled. I ordered the development of best management practices for gas development on state forest lands – a process that resulted in an excellent document that was issued after I left the agency. John Hanger and I wrote and helped convince my boss Governor Rendell to sign a moratorium on further state forest leasing. (More background on that here.)

I also ordered the development of the subject of the StateImpactPA report - a permanent, comprehensive, and transparent DCNR monitoring program that would enable - over time - a full understanding of all of the unfolding impacts of natural gas development on state forest lands. During my limited time as Secretary, the framework of the program was developed, its resource needs were identified, and staffing levels were approved. The challenges of implementation were taken up by the Corbett Administration.

The monitoring program is of central importance to the future of Pennsylvania’s public lands, to our state’s economy, to our quality of life, and - as the state Supreme Court has recently ruled - to the rights of all Pennsylvanians.