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Fast, Dirty Natural Gas Plants Get Boost From Electric Cars

August 17, 2017

By Paul Homewood



From Bloomberg:




Britain’s goodbye to fossil-fuel cars by 2040 could boost the need for dirtier natural gas-powered stations.

The government’s goal to replace gasoline and diesel cars with those powered by electricity could see the construction of so-called open-cycle gas stations, said Carsten Poppinga, senior vice president of trading and origination at Statkraft AS, the Norwegian utility that operates hydro power plants and wind farms across the U.K.

Such units can keep the grid from buckling from the strain of people charging cars in peak demand periods. The catch? While the plants can start generating power almost instantly, they don’t recycle waste heat, making them emit more greenhouse gases per megawatt than the combined-cycle stations that comprise the largest share of the U.K.’s daily power output.

Britain may have no choice but to use the less environmentally friendly option, though. With little spare generation capacity, the nation is vulnerable to power shortages, particularly on cold, winter days when wind and solar energy may be in short supply.

“Fundamentally there isn’t as much overcapacity on the British market as in Germany,” Poppinga said by phone from Dusseldorf. “You could think about building open-cycle gas power plants to increase the flexibility in the system.”

Open-cycle gas generators cost less to build but have higher emissions per megawatt-hour produced than combined-cycle gas turbines. OCGTs convert about 33 percent of their fuel into power, while CCGTs manage as much as 60 percent, according to the fossil-fuel industry environment group IPIECA in London. That’s still less dirty than oil, diesel or coal-fired stations, which can emit double what a gas-fired station does.



Meanwhile a research note from consultants, Wood Mackenzie, takes a closer look at the impact of the UK government’s proposal to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040:

Alan Gelder, Wood Mackenzie’s senior vice president, refining and chemicals research, said: “If auto manufacturers can deliver this, then oil demand will peak and then decline swiftly. Judging by Mr Gove’s comments, this will have a massive impact on the refining sector and the oil markets.”

He added: “According to our base case analysis, we expect there to be over 34 million passenger cars on UK roads by 2035, of which over 4 million are battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

“Sales of BEVs are expected to ramp up quite considerably after 2025, with one in three cars sold in the UK by 2035 expected to be fully electric (with typical new car sales over 2 million vehicles per year). “

Wood Mackenzie expects electricity demand from both these types of vehicles will reach 12 TWh or 3% of total electricity demand in the UK at this time, requiring over 400,000 new public charging points at an investment cost of over £30 billion.

Alan added: “By 2035, we expect the remaining internal combustion engine (ICE) passenger fleet will continue to consume over 6 million tonnes of gasoline and 7 million tonnes of diesel per year.  This amounts to a 40% reduction compared to the amount of fuel consumed by cars today.  However, UK total oil demand decline is projected to be only 20%, due to demand growth from airlines and commercial vehicles. “

The UK currently has over 8000 retail stations. These are  closing at a rate of approximately 100 per year. By 2035, we expect only 6000 sites to remain.

If the government’s proposal permits only BEVs to be sold post 2040, then the situation changes.

Alan said: “It could take almost 20 years for the ICE fleet to fully convert unless incentives are put in place to accelerate scrappage of such vehicles.”

Johannes Wetzel,  research analyst, cross-commodity analytics, EMEARC, said: “Assuming that all ICE passenger cars were to switch to BEVs by 2035, electricity demand would increase by 55 TWH to 16% of overall demand, which would be a challenge for power grid stability, so massive investment in flexible power generation, electricity storage and the grid itself will be necessary.

“Currently peak load on the UK power grid is roughly 53 GW in winter. The introduction of fast charging technology means that EV charging load will rise as well.

“If, in 2035, 5% of the EV fleet were to charge at the same time, the load on the grid could soar by up to 40 GW. Massive investment in flexible power generation, electricity storage and the grid itself will be necessary to keep the lights on.”

Alan added: “The sustainability of the UK refining industry is threatened, as gasoline typically represents one third of the refined products supplied from UK refineries (though currently 20% of UK gasoline production is exported).

“Retail sites could close at a much faster rate than our base case, outlined earlier, and will need to change business models to survive the transition to a battery-led car fleet. On top of this, the impact of government fuel duty revenue lost – currently  around £27.5 billion per year – will be significant. “

The impact on the oil, refining and electricity sectors extends beyond the UK, as if this change is delivered here, it is likely to be replicated across many other parts of the world.



Just read this piece again:

If, in 2035, 5% of the EV fleet were to charge at the same time, the load on the grid could soar by up to 40 GW. Massive investment in flexible power generation, electricity storage and the grid itself will be necessary to keep the lights on

5% may well turn out to be an optimistic assessment.

  1. August 17, 2017 10:21 am

    Not really thought it through have they?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 17, 2017 12:39 pm

      Why would they depart from their normal method?

  2. nigel permalink
    August 17, 2017 10:50 am

    They are madder than all the Mad Hatters at a Mad Hatters’ convention – put together!

  3. Joe Public permalink
    August 17, 2017 10:57 am

    If, in 2035, 5% of the EV fleet were to charge at the same time, the load on the grid could soar by up to 40 GW.

    But Wood Mackenzie’s Alan Gelder “added: “According to our base case analysis, we expect …… by 2035 …. over 4 million battery electric vehicles (BEVs).”

    5% of 4 million is 200,000 BEVs

    The basic home charger is 3.5kW

    200,000 x 3.5kW = 0.7GW

    If all 200,000 simultaneously charging used 7kW chargers, that’s just 1.4GW

    Rapid charging units are ~43-50kW, so again even if all 200,000 simultaneously charging used 49kW chargers, that’s just 9.8GW.

    • nigel permalink
      August 17, 2017 12:25 pm

      Probably he meant FIFTY %, at once.

      Eh, 5%, 50%. Who’s counting?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      August 17, 2017 6:13 pm

      It’s when we reach 30 million vehicles that the sums start getting a bit more difficult.

    • August 17, 2017 7:06 pm

      Quick bag of fag packet:

      If the 55 Twh is right, and assuming half of cars charge up in the same 2-hour period (for an hour each), this would equal:

      27 TWh /8760 hours pa * 12 (ie 24/2) = 37 GW

  4. Jack Broughton permalink
    August 17, 2017 11:17 am

    What does stand out is that Siemens have it well sewn-up: they provide most of the wind turbine white-elephants and also supply the gas turbines that support (i.e. cover-up) for the failings of the white elephants.

    Open cycle gas turbines are more efficient nowadays, aero-derivatives achieve 45 % plus rather than the 33% mentioned: that is how the CCGT efficiencies of 62% plus are achieved. They are the most efficient large scale method of converting gas into power.
    However, they are limited to clean fuels, so depend on cheap natural gas to be economic: how long will the low-cost gas market last???

    The EU say we can’t have our cake and eat it: Siemens do!

  5. Coeur de Lion permalink
    August 17, 2017 11:32 am

    In my flat in Hill Street I have to use the 16 amp 3.5kw street point in Berkeley Square for over four hours so add the parking charge to the mix – and find that both are already occupied? My neighbours don’t like my dinky little diesel generator but I don’t care .

  6. August 17, 2017 11:42 am

    Oh, the unintended consequences. Pesky things.

  7. August 17, 2017 12:08 pm

    In what way is natural gas ‘dirty’?

    • nigel permalink
      August 17, 2017 12:18 pm


      The same way as all sinful LIFE…CO2 is pouring out of our evil orifices, as we speak, don’t you know?

  8. August 17, 2017 12:14 pm

    The Economist has put paid advertising on Facebook today, focusing on a piece announcing the death of the internal combustion engine, in favour of EV.
    These were my comments:

    Mass use of electric cars may be on the way – if battery technology improves, prices come down and the charging infrastructure can be built and funded, in advance of it being required. That is challenging enough. But, so is the word that The Economist used in its headline – TRANSITION. That is not just about technology and infrastructure, but, about people, their lifestyle and their budgets – where the car features strongly. What does the transition mean for them? The debate at the moment is driven by lobbying and ‘top-down’ politics – a risky state of affairs if we think back to the shocks of 23 June 2016 in the UK and 8 November 2016 in the USA. If a change to EV is going to happen, it is the transition that needs thinking through, just as much as the technology and infrastructure. I have not read the report in The Economist, but, I hope that it looks at what customers expect – they pay for everything.

  9. August 17, 2017 12:45 pm

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:
    It’s like the dream in Wayne’s World – “if we build it, they will come”..until the lights go out of course and the nightmare starts

  10. Dermot Flaherty permalink
    August 17, 2017 2:35 pm

    Joe Public’s comment on the maths highlights a key piece of the all-electric car wonderland that seems to have been completely skated over despite the fact that its implications are huge changes in the public consumption of energy.

    As I have posted on related threads, you can make some reasonable assumptions about worst case scenarios.

    There are approximately 30M private cars on the roads today.
    If overnight they all became Teslas, then if they all plugged in at the same time, the Grid would experience a demand of some 222GW (30M x 7.4kW) – i.e. 69 Hinckleys.

    If on the other hand, they were all Leafs, then the power demand when they all plugged in would be slightly half of that at 108GW (30M times 3.6kW) or some 30GW greater than the official DUKES figures for the UK generating capacity in 2016.

    The key point here is that quite apart from the huge changes required in the power distribution infrastructure, there is also an absolute requirement for what is referred to as “demand management” which in crude terms comes down to rationing.

    This aspect of the necessary social engineering to achieve the all-electric nirvana seems to have been completely ignored.

  11. Ian Miller permalink
    August 17, 2017 5:19 pm

    On the supply side, costs of storage batteries will fall as a result of economies of scale.
    But do we know what the world’s reserves of Lithium are ?
    ‘Peak Lithium’ may be sooner than ‘peak oil’ and our EV’s might become ‘stranded assets’ sooner than we think !

  12. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 17, 2017 6:53 pm

    Last week I took 4 minutes to drive in to a filling station, fuel 60 litres, pay and leave again. That gives me 600 miles of driving. A Tesla at a Supercharger takes 30 mins to provide 170 miles (at least on a mild summer’s day, when battery performance is at its best and there is no additional load for cooling or heating the vehicle or the battery, and provided you are content to drive the motorway at 50mph). In order to service EVs, we might need 20 times as many service stations as we have now.

    The ongoing slow decline in petrol station numbers is more about volume being centralised onto high volume outlets where retailing costs are minimised – not any fundamental decline in motor fuel volumes, which have been growing again modestly.

    • August 18, 2017 6:22 am

      Reasonable comments ‘It doesn’t add up…’ , but, I imagine that there would be an issue with petrol station numbers if a transition to EV was seriously under way. Revenues at petrol and diesel outlets would fall and the more marginal businesses would struggle to stay open. People in some areas, especially rural ones, would find themselves travelling long distances to fill up and it would become a political issue. Would the electricity infrastructure have been up-graded (everywhere) to enable those people to dispose of their ICE assets and buy an EV – even supposing that their household budget allowed for that? The technology, infrastructure and funding issues may be huge, but, so are the transition issues – and they are not sexy.

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