Posted by BP SSI on Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Last week I went briefly through the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Even though that tragedy — rightfully — got tons of national media attention, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many industrial power generation accidents happening throughout the world.
Why, not that long ago there was a pretty big scare out in the British North Sea, though there weren’t 24/7 news updates about it.
One of the bigger natural gas drilling wells suffered a significant setback when it sprung a natural gas leak. All of the drilling platforms for a several mile radius had to be evacuated due to worries about possible explosions triggering similar disasters to the one from the Gulf of Mexico.
Unlike 2010’s Gulf tragedy, this North Sea leak has to do with a steady leak of natural gas rather than oil. Though, as we saw last week, gas leaks can quickly lead to massive complications.
One of the large concerns with this industrial power generation accident is that a steady natural gas leak will be extremely hazardous for the environment. Natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas, significantly worse than carbon dioxide. This leak has sprung up just as natural gas has seen a resurgence. The AP recently reported that there’s actually a giant surplus of natural gas, saying, “So much natural gas is being produced that soon there may be nowhere left to put the country’s swelling surplus.” And in the UK, where this recent leak occurred, Britain is in the midst of passing a $4.8 billion tax break to dismantle oil platforms and create natural gas wells.
So far, the leak is just a (rather large) cause for concern rather than a full-blown tragedy. But it will be interesting to see when reports come out as to the leak’s exact causes. Industrial power generation is not for the careless or unfortunate.
In the end, a big leak or explosion would, of course, be terrible. But it could be even worse. I recently came across the strange case of Derweze, also known as the "Door to Hell" (pictured at the top of this post). It resulted from a 1970 Soviet drilling accident in a tiny village in Turkmenistan. When a drilling rig accidentally created a huge hole in the ground that swallowed up the platform, the drillers set the hole on fire to burn off any excess gas. Well, it turns out there's a lot of excess gas, since the hole is still burning today. It is over 230 feet around. No one knows when or if it will stop burning.
Posted by BP SSI on Wednesday, April 11, 2012
I asked some of my friends and family members recently what caused the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. Even though they are all informed, smart people, not many of them knew precisely what happened — even two years later. But the truth is out there, and pretty readily discernible. Unfortunately, the nightly news doesn’t have the time or technical expertise to tell you exactly what happened.
I came across a great, in-depth post over at Energy Bulletin that goes specifically into the known knowns of why the Deepwater Horizon leak, at least, happened, which seems to have cause the massive explosion.
While the thousands of gallons of oil grabbed the headlines, gas is actually what started everything.
Specifically, gas built up very early on in the drilling and oil excavating process, which started way back on April 19. 2010. At that point, not enough cement was used at the point of drilling, some 18,000 feet below sea level. Because of that mistake, the cement seal at the floor of the ocean did not “take”, meaning that gas and mud built up where drilling took place. An increase in the measured amount of gas was charted on April 20, and pressure in the main pipe fluctuated as gas and mud worked their insidious effects at the place the cement seal. Finally, a blowout began when gas pressure overcame the wellhead seals. Gas shot straight out of the water, igniting and exploding.
So in the end, it was not the oil itself that exploded. And in fact, setting the leaking oil on fire was one option during the struggle to get the leak contained — but it was decided against as being too harmful to the local environment.
Simple gas pressure caused a critical breakdown:
The blowout and oil spill on the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico was caused by a flawed well plan that did not include enough cement between the 7-inch production casing and the 9 7/8-inch protection casing.
Case Western Researchers Make Fiberglass Windmill Blades As Long As Two (and a Half) Football Fields
Posted by The Power Generation Blog on Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The pace of technology increases in fiberglass technology is matched, perhaps, by only advances in green tech. And when the two industries align, things can get pretty awesome.
A recent report from MSN lists some advances made by researchers at CAse Western in Cleveland, OH.
Fatigue tests show the reinforced polyurethane composite lasts about eight times longer than epoxy reinforced with fiberglass. The new material was also about eight times tougher in delamination fracture tests, according to the researchers.
The researchers expect to make blades that are 250 meters long, by 2020. To give you an idea, maybe, of that ridiculous size: picture a full football field, then picture another one, then picture half of another one. That's how long the windmill blades will be.
The only expected downside of these huge strides in fiberglass and power generation technology are the usual ones, the NIMBYs. (NIMBY stands for "Not in my back yard.") Of course, I wouldn't necessarily want a gigantic windmill in my backyard, but that seems pretty unlikely. Seeing giant windmills in the distance would actually make me proud of my home area, that it wants to invest in green tech and generating power in a sustainable way. But only time will tell how well implemented Case Western's fiberglass windmill tech becomes.
Posted by The Power Generation Blog on Monday, October 17, 2011
|The SIC Power Grid of Chile|
There’s some unfortunate news out of Chile this week. It looks like the South American nation is facing extended power shortages due to a crushing drought affecting the country. (Remember, south of the equator it’s the opposite season.) Since a good amount of Chile’s industrial power generation comes from hydroelectric plants, the draught is affecting the country in several very bad ways.
This power shortage could have bad effects for the rest of the world, too. Chile is the world’s leading producer of copper — it makes almost a third of the world’s supply. Though the government has said the power shortage would leave the country’s copper mines unaffected, a power shortage should cause infrastructure problems and price increases that have tertiary affects on the economy.
The power shortage is so bad that the government is thinking of instituting a power rationing plan — only the third time the government’s intervened over the last fifteen-odd years. Reservoir levels are at a pitifully low level, and a power-rationing move could reduce as much as 5% to 10% of the country’s power generation.
The main primary industrial power generators supplying energy to the drought-affected SIC power grid are Empresa Nacional de Electricidad SA (EOC, ENDESA.SN), AES Corp. (AES) through its Gener SA (GENER.SN) unit, and Colbun SA (COLBUN.SN).
Posted by The Power Generation Blog on Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Of course I'm talking about the gigantic whale hanging from the ceiling at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The giant blue whale is made of fiberglass of polyurethane. To give you a sense of its scale (life sized, apparently), it is 94 feet long and weighs 21,000 pounds. Despite its massive weight, hundreds of people walk under and sit under the whale model every day.
The big blue whale hasn't been cleaned in two years. Looks like it's due.
Posted by The Power Generation Blog on Friday, September 16, 2011
Sure, you've got your Toyota Prius. Or maybe you've got a Ford Fusion hybrid. Or one of those new Chevy Volts. Those hybrid automobiles are OK. But they lack a certain... custom composite battery technology.
What do composites have to do with hybrid automobiles, you may be wondering? Well, researches out in Germany look to have developed a crash-resistant battery case for automobiles. On the one hand, it's not extremely difficult to create a crash-resistant case for automobile batteries, but given their power output (read: a sight less than a V8 Hemi), keeping weight down is a prime concern. Hence the custom composite casing.
According to this news report,
The Ernst-Mach Institute has developed a mass-production-ready, crash-safe battery housing that meets strict requirements. The battery housing that surrounds the battery that weighs 340 kilograms (749.57 lbs.) only weighs 35 kilograms (77.16 lbs.) [...] The battery housing can withstand a crash, assuming a ten-fold gravitational acceleration.“ And even if a sharp object collides with the housing at 60 km/h (45mph), the highly sensitive battery on the inside remains intact.
Not only are these composite material battery boxes lighter than metal alternatives, but they're also easily mass-producible, making them a potentially cost effective solution.
Posted by The Power Generation Blog on Wednesday, September 14, 2011
In this case, we're talking about the very most demanding nautical application: world-class superyachting. A New Zealand company called Southern Spars has recently unveiled some new custom composites technology it calls "TPT" or "thing ply technology". TPT is a supposedly revolutionary new laminate composite. Says Wayne Smith of Southern Spars,
"Our designers now have the ability to design products using whichever ply angles are optimal for the loading situation at every point on the spar or boom," he says.
"The plotter then lays the carbon fibre laminate more accurately and efficiently than can be achieved by hand.
"It is also possible to individually position pieces rather than being required to lay all adjacent plies parallel to one another."
That's pretty awesome, especially when you consider the unbearable loads these components will be handling on the superyacht circuit. Our neighbors to the very far south are certainly coming up with some sweet composite technology.