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Wot? No Gas?

January 10, 2021
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By Paul Homewood

 

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https://mip-prd-web.azurewebsites.net/

 

Currently the National Grid shows demand for natural gas peaking at about 420 mcm (million cubic meters/day) in the UK. Over the day as a whole, it will probably average out at around 350 mcm.

How much is this in energy terms?

1 mcm = 10.55 GWh, so 350 mcm equals 3.69 TWh/day, equating to 154 GW. At peak of 420 mcm, this goes up to 185 GW.

About a quarter of this goes for gas fired generation, but even assuming this is no longer needed, these amounts would still be massive.

So how can so much energy from natural gas be replaced in a decarbonised world?

 

If we were to opt for full electrification, we would need to quadruple current generating capacity, clearly not a practical option, even before we addressed the problems of surplus generation in summer.

To produce this from wind power would require an additional 462 GW of nameplate capacity, assuming 40% loading and sufficient flexibility for period of intermittency. In essence, all of this would be idle in summer months, effectively doubling its cost.

 

What about hydrogen?

Assuming an energy efficiency ratio for electrolysis of 75% (let me know if there is a more accurate figure), daily demand of 3.69 TWh would need input of 4.92 TWh, equivalent to 205 GW. (And this assumes we can manage intra day peaks in demand).

As this electrolysis would have to use wind power, with an capacity factor of 40 % say, that would require offshore wind capacity of 512 GW, on top of other requirements. We currently have about 10 GW!

This capacity would have to run flat out in winter months, and idle for summer, as we have already seen that the amount of natural gas storage is tiny in terms of seasonal requirements.

 

Finally there are heat pumps, which have a higher energy efficiency than burning gas or electrical resistance heat. However, at these period of peak demand in winter, heat pump efficiency is at its lowest. Given that heating only accounts for less than a half of natural gas consumption, additional capacity needed would still be around 150 GW.

 

Whenever capacity issues are raised, the red herrings of storage, smart meters and EV to Grid are usually thrown in. These are utterly irrelevant, as they only shuffle demand around between different times of day.

As the above analysis shows, you cannot get a quart into a pint pot. No matter how you cut the cake, we still need huge amounts of electricity to replace the loss of natural gas from our energy mix.

And that’s before we even get onto electric cars!

45 Comments
  1. Mack permalink
    January 10, 2021 7:25 pm

    To summarise, with the current muppets in charge of energy policy, we’re all doomed!

    • January 11, 2021 8:55 am

      Watch what happens in California with electricity (non-)supply, and expect the UK and EU to experience many of the same problems. In CA they’re already forcing power companies to extend the life of old gas power plants that were slated for closure.

      • Sean permalink
        January 11, 2021 2:49 pm

        And Governor Newsom is trying to get nuclear power reclassified as “renewable energy” so that it would be allowable under California’s 100% renewable goal.

  2. January 10, 2021 7:30 pm

    when does wind have a capacity factor of 40%? On shore wind has a lower capacity than off shore wind, and on shore wind is only around 25%. Off shore wind may be around 36% or a little higher (although we have yet to see how this pans out in the long term when maintenance becomes an issue).

    We have probably used the best on shore sites already so new windfarms are likely to have a lower capacity factor than those currently up and working.

    I consider the 40% figure to be rather high.

    “as shown in the annual report conducted by WindEurope, onshore wind farms in Europe have an average capacity factor of 24% while offshore wind farms reach 38% of their capacity in 2019.”

    https://www.luvside.de/en/onshore-offshore-wind-energy-comparison/

    • January 10, 2021 9:59 pm

      Maybe, but there is a move towards taller turbines, and further out at sea, which are claimed to give better yields

      • Phoenix44 permalink
        January 11, 2021 9:56 am

        Perhaps but at obviously higher prices.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      January 11, 2021 2:02 am

      You can look at some of the actual performance by individual wind farms here:

      https://ref.org.uk/generators/index.php

      Hopefully there will soon be an update when the reconciled metered data for 2020 are in. But some farms have been managing over 40% reasonably consistently.

      You also need to watch for other factors: Whitelee Wind Farm is notorious for the amount of time it spends collecting curtailment payments for example: uncurtailed, its output would be significantly higher.

    • January 11, 2021 2:24 pm

      Weather Dependent Renewables Productivity: what do the numbers mean?

      An excellent way to undermine Western economies is to render their power generation unreliable and expensive. That objective of Green thinking is progressively being achieved by government policy throughout the Western world.

      Productivity, (or Capacity factor), is the percentage ratio of actual power output to the Nameplate rating of a power generator. The above percentages are the 2019 measured productivity percentages of Weather Dependent Renewable technologies in the UK. Conventional generation technologies are available 24/7 and are dispatchable according to demand except for periods of routine maintenance.

      UK 2019 productivity percentages: REF data
      • Onshore Wind 24.0%
      • Offshore Wind 31.4%
      • Solar PV on grid 1 0.2%
      • UK Combined Renewables 21.7%
      • Conventional generation 90%

      What do the productivity numbers mean? Think about electricity generation as an ordinary business. It provides a product which should be of consistent high quality and which is vital to all the other businesses of the Nation:
      • but on average more than half of the labour force only turn up on 1 day in 5: the day they choose to arrive is unpredictable.
      • quite often, even if they do turn up, they walk out when they feel like it in the middle of the shift.
      • but the unions insist that if they do turn up, they have to be employed, laying off the guys that do work full-time and cutting the pay of those full-time guys.
      • and worse than that, almost a quarter of the work force only turn up 1 day in 10.
      • and those ones usually arrive on days when they are not likely to be needed but they still have to be paid in full.
      • anyway, they always go home by the evening, the time of peak demand, and they don’t like working much at all in the winter when they might be needed.
      • these workers get tired quickly and retire and need replacement a third of the way through a normal working lifetime.
      • the unions also insist that they are payed about 10 times as much as the ordinary productive workers. Quite often they are paid not to work at all.
      • and when these guys do arrive, they cause difficulties with quality assurance, severe industrial disruption and they, at a whim, can suddenly close down production altogether. If they do manage that there is major economic damage across the Nation.
      • when there is a real breakdown, these guys can’t help to reinstate the service.

      But apart from the personal professional pride and the responsibility as managers to providing a good quality of service, in the end the extra costs don’t really matter, either the Government, (or rather the Taxpayer), picks up the tab or the extra costs are just passed the costs on the customers: the customers don’t have any real choice because there is a monopoly for the supply of the product.

      This is the scale of business problems faced by power supply managers that the decision to opt for trying to collect dilute and irregularly intermittent energy from the environment and calling it “Renewable”. These problems can only get worse as the policy makers insist that more and more Weather Dependent Renewables are used in the power industry.

      https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/uk-eu28-renewables-productivity/

      • Mad Mike permalink
        January 11, 2021 3:13 pm

        I like that analogy. Sounds reminiscent of the 70s. Austin Allegro anyone?

  3. GeoffB permalink
    January 10, 2021 7:33 pm

    All our eggs are in one basket…Electricity…When the grid goes down we lose all sources of heating and power. All those electric vehicles with flat batteries, A dystopian world……relying on intermittent wind and solar.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      January 10, 2021 9:03 pm

      It’s down to Constantly Compromised Power. (CCP for short).

      • AllanM permalink
        January 11, 2021 11:51 am

        But there’s so much more money in that than supplying it steadily.

    • PDP permalink
      January 11, 2021 2:06 pm

      Beware the growing threat to the grids command and control infrastructure emanating from Russia / China or any other aggressive state.

  4. John Palmer permalink
    January 10, 2021 7:34 pm

    ‘As the above analysis shows, you cannot get a quart into a pint pot.’
    Not wanting to appear more pedantic than I am already, surely that sentence should read ‘you cannot get a quart (or gallons, in this case) out of a pint pot.’
    The math required here is not even 11+ level (sorry, I’m quite old) but it clearly eludes our “experts”, the Gov’t and all, or nearly all, MP’s.
    The smelly brown matter will surely hit the revolving blades fairly soon as the strain on the Grid gets worse and energy costs skyrocket.
    The Country is likely headed towards a financial crisis as a result of Covid and yet these fundamentalist morons are getting ever-more vociferous about the ‘Climate Disaster’® and there need to further damage our economy and lifestyles in order to counter it.
    I do hope that the screaming and yelling indicates that they’re realising that the game is nearly up.
    … but I’m not holding my breath!!

    • Devoncamel permalink
      January 10, 2021 8:06 pm

      One can only assume (hope) that a massive increase in nuclear generation capacity is in the pipeline (pun intended). Either way the cost will be eye watering.

  5. Malcolm Chapman permalink
    January 10, 2021 8:09 pm

    The victory of the democrats in the USA may bring this nonsense to a head. It looks to me as though the democrat party leadership has promised things to its green lefties that it will now have to deliver; once that starts to happen, then some idea of the real costs may begin to emerge. I’m not exactly holding my breath either, but we’ll see.

    • sonofametman permalink
      January 11, 2021 10:56 am

      It’s been that way in Scotland for some time now, the ruling SNP having relied on the Greens for support, they are ‘obliged’. Scotland thankfully still has three proper power stations (Hunterston, Torness, Peterhead). and an interconnector to England. All this means that until now the powers that be have been insulated from the folly of their policies. When the wind doesn’t blow, we import from England, when the subsidy, sorry wind farm output is high enough, we can export. If/When England ‘catches up’ with Scotland in terms of the ratio of wind to proper power, and the aging nuclear fleet here gets de-commissioned and not replaced, the real fun will start. Most greenies I know are utterly ignorant of the kind of detail that gets discussed here.
      Many thanks to Paul H.

      • Ray Sanders permalink
        January 11, 2021 11:48 am

        Euan Mearns did some good work on the Scottish issue some time ago.
        http://euanmearns.com/blackout/
        http://euanmearns.com/blackout-the-sequel/
        Another interesting point to note is that none of the proposed new interconnectors to Europe runs to Scotland (North Connect proposed link is effectively dead in the water) so on imminent closure of Hunterston B the situation is going to get hugely worse.

  6. Coeur de Lion permalink
    January 10, 2021 8:16 pm

    I see that the CEO of the Climate Change Comittee gets a six figure salary and others part time are well rewarded. How can they be so stupid? Don’t they do the sums we see above? I smell a fraud on the taxpayers.

    • Ian Wilson permalink
      January 11, 2021 9:48 am

      Perhaps not unrelated to his business interests which receive 6-figure sums from the wind industry and manufacturers of electric car batteries?

  7. Graeme No.3 permalink
    January 10, 2021 8:23 pm

    75% is the maximum efficiency you can hope for with electrolysis, using the continuous H.P. process with added mid range heat (about 20%) to boost the figure. On its own 62-63% would be more realistic.
    Intermittent electrolysis is a theoretical 38% but 35% might be a better figure. This doesn’t use high pressure so extra energy necessary to compress the hydrogen gas.

    Both methods are more expensive than steam reforming of natural gas into hydrogen and (lots of) CO2 about 85% of gas supply by weight.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      January 11, 2021 1:48 am

      Electrolysis is going to have to be pretty intermittent. To keep it as a continuous process you’d have to add in extra generation from more costly sources whenever there isn’t a renewables surplus, and you’d be say burning hydrogen in a CCGT to make hydrogen via electrolysis, for a net loss of hydrogen (!!!). Dedicate a wind farm to it, and it must be as intermittent as the wind farm, and it does nothing to solve the surplus in the rest of the system, from which it is isolated.

      The size of surpluses is going to be very variable. There is no way you are going to install enough capacity to make use of all the surplus, because you only get record/maximum surpluses a few hours a year when it’s both windy enough and demand is low in the small hours overnight. In fact, most days the plant gets to operate it will only get to operate a few hours overnight before having to make way for the morning rush hour demand peak. It may be able to add some hours at low demand stormy weekends.

  8. Derek W Wood permalink
    January 10, 2021 9:37 pm

    Don’t worry about the Democrats, they have been found out!

    • January 10, 2021 9:47 pm

      When will we hear more about the Italian job then?

      • Paul H permalink
        January 10, 2021 11:18 pm

        Very soon.

  9. Penda100 permalink
    January 10, 2021 10:20 pm

    Paul – many thanks for your excellent analysis. However, your argument only looks at the supply side. The other way of balancing the equation would be to reduce demand. What population might be consistent with the current plans for electricity generation and zero carbon?

    • Joe Public permalink
      January 10, 2021 10:29 pm

      Good point.

      If all greenies & enviros volunteered for voluntary euthanasia (for the good of the planet) then maybe that would solve the problem.

      It’s worth demanding they sacrifice themselves in order to test my theory.

      • Mack permalink
        January 10, 2021 10:38 pm

        Like it. Need any help drawing up a list of ‘volunteers’?

  10. January 10, 2021 10:24 pm

    Tip : Sargon page and podcast
    What Is the European Green Deal Part 1
    What Is the European Green Deal Part 2

  11. MikeHig permalink
    January 11, 2021 12:20 am

    I am not sure that we can make this assumption: “About a quarter of this goes for gas fired generation, but even assuming this is no longer needed…”
    True, gas will no longer be required for power generation, in this crazy futurama. But the energy it provides will still be required – about 50 – 60% of the energy content of the gas, given the efficiency of modern CCGTs.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      January 11, 2021 1:56 am

      CCGTs are only that efficient when run in continuous operation. All the ramping up and down that they endure means that marginal operations are no better than 40-45% efficient, and the efficiency of the CCGT fleet has averaged around 48% in recent years.

      https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/Br8Mc/1/

      Coal efficiency has also fallen due to a greater proportion of time spent warming up for intermittent operation, while that for oil reflects the change to only using it for diesel STOR. Oil fired Fawley claimed it could manage 36% efficiency.

      • January 11, 2021 2:56 pm

        And that is why Germany has not managed to reduce its CO2 emissions since 2009. It has dramatically increased the amount of solar and wind, but due to intermittancy and non despatchable nature of wind and solar, the CCGTs have had to be used in ramp up, ramp down mode rather than the more efficient steady state operation, and this has led to no net saving of CO2 emiisions.

        It is like your car. When used in start, stop mode in city driving the fuel consumption is far worse than the steady 60mph motorway consumption, such that more CO2 is produced travelling shorter distances in the city, than when motoring larger distances on the open highway.

        The UK Government really ought to look at Germany’s CO2 emissions to realise the nonsense gehind these proposals.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      January 11, 2021 5:57 am

      MikeHig:
      If I understand you, your query is what happens when natural gas used for home heating/cooking (with around 98+% efficiency) is replaced by electricity (generated with CCGTs at 60% efficiency and with added losses in the supply system.
      Quick answer: The Greenies will ban all use of coal and it won’t be necessary to ban gas use, as the variable supply from renewables makes them inefficient and results in higher maintenance and CO2 emissions as they wind up as OCGTs emitting almost as much CO2 (per MWh) as latest coal fired but higher costs to run.

      Slow answer: The Greenies assume that more wind turbines will be the answer with hydrogen as a by-product. Batteries and interconnectors will cover the time when the wind isn’t blowing. No idea what the cost would be, nor how much battery capacity, and no thought that the wind may be minimal across Europe.

      • MikeHig permalink
        January 11, 2021 2:58 pm

        Graeme:
        I was talking about the energy provided by burning gas in power plants which would still be required but, in this hare-brained scenario, would have to come from other sources.

        Idau:
        Thanks for that adjustment. I should have thought of it in my post.

    • January 11, 2021 10:33 am

      Yes, that’s right Mike.

      It may be they will still use gas, but with CCS, or use hydrogen in power plants (which would have to come from gas!)

  12. January 11, 2021 6:36 am

    Very thorough analysis.
    Thank you.

  13. January 11, 2021 8:31 am

    Paul,

    you say this in the article :- “Finally there are heat pumps, which have a higher energy efficiency than burning gas”

    I wonder if this is accurate? I have yet to see any explanation of how this can be?

    When you consider the power for a heat pump comes from generation and it’s consequent losses before it produces any heat in the home, and a gas boiler using the gas directly and producing about 90% efficiency these days. Essentially the heat pump produces heat by compressing a gas and as any engineer knows compressors are energy intensive. Power a tool by air or a similar one by electricity, the latter is more efficient.
    Particularly when you consider that the effectiveness of air source heat pumps drops as outside ambient drops thus a diminishing efficiency when most needed.

    It may be that I misunderstand the heat pump operation but I would like to be shown where I am wrong?

    • January 11, 2021 10:40 am

      There’s an explanation here:

      https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/advice/air-source-heat-pumps/

      • Alan Keith permalink
        January 11, 2021 11:16 am

        Paul. I note that on the Energy Saving Trust’s advice they say “You’re unlikely to save much on your heating bill if you’re switching from mains gas”. Surely the situation here is that you would definitely be losing money! Is their statement not therefore misleading and would a complaint be justified?

      • January 11, 2021 11:38 am

        That Energy Saving Trust page is complete propoganda. Most UK homes heat by gas. The list of “advantages” for air source heat pumps are

        1. Lower fuel bills. – Not if use use gas just now.
        2. Provides an income. – We can’t all get subsidised.
        3. Lower home carbon emmissions. – Debatable. Just switches them from the home to the power network. Anyway assumes UK CO2 is a problem.
        4. No fuel deliveries. – Like network gas then.
        5 It heats your home and your water. – Like gas then.
        6. Minimal maintainance. – Like gas then.
        7. Easier to install than ground source – harder than not replacing a perfectly good gas system.
        8. Radiators won’t feel as hot to the touch as a gas boiler – Won’t heat your home during cold snaps.

        Any of course costs thousands more than sticking with gas.

      • January 12, 2021 8:29 am

        Paul,

        that is not a technical explanation, and is largely gobbledegook. The heatpump requires a load to generate heat and that load is to cool something, air or ground being the two sources used. The heat is not extracted from outside as such, it is to make the compressor work which generates heat.
        This much I know but I fail to see how it can be as efficient as claimed, although that efficiency does not take into account the losses from generating and transmitting the electricity that powers it.

  14. europeanonion permalink
    January 11, 2021 11:21 am

    Why do we occupy ourselves with this issue? Are we all in the pay of big energy and our protestations are payed for? Our perturbations seem rather wasted as we know, from the continuance of the HS2 project, those that support such concepts are working through other, covert, reasoning which we will never be party to. There is the odd campaign and the occasional concession to protesters but little of substance; they are in areas where a bit of PR does no harm seemingly.

    Racial harmony is a subject which the state can use to aggrandise its credentials of thoughtfulness but (like the tolerance of traffic jams) it is at no cost to them. We are in the midst of the ‘nudge’ dynamic. If we see enough ads at the side of the road for some product or other it will, over-time, embed itself in our psyche. See enough polar bears today and the rhetoric attached is about starving, plight and our part in it. But in so many issues this sly manipulation succeeds. Currently, an American owned company is accusing football fans here of being racists and bombarding all and sundry with modifying sentiments through repetition. In such an environment you could some to think that racism is all around you (and on the American model too).

    I caught a sample of the BBC’s review of the week’s output. The first sample it addressed was of a late night BBC5 interviewer, a staffer, blaming the rich for global warming. Not long ago another BBC interviewer was censured for a diatribe about politics and the BBC strained to tell us about its impartiality. This man was treated in the programme as some sort of legend who, despite the thought that his bosses would criticise him, he said, was going to say that which needed saying.

    We have Paul Homewood, the interviewer has the whole of a major broadcast medium (and the probable support of his management). Perhaps we should allow them to go the populist way, it may put Paul out of a job but it would save the rest of us fume and spray in our exasperation at the seeming lack of objectivity amongst those that govern us. There are none so blind as will not see.

    • Paul H permalink
      January 12, 2021 1:55 pm

      I think you may be new to the position you espouse regarding ‘us’ setting up our own media/ information outlets. Myself an old timer in the spheres you touch upon, vouch for the fact it is not allowed. By anybody. No agency would touch it. No MSM outlet would touch it. No rural town newspaper would touch it- they’re all controlled by a central corporate body. There is literally no avenue to make public statements on the scale you suggest is needed. Paul’s site and similar are our ‘safety valves.’ Would that it were different. All we are able to do is highlight the absurdities and provide a buffer against even greater stupidity, and in that respect, Paul and his ilk do a tremendous job. If only they were publicly recognised for their work, but I won’t hold my breath. Come the revolution of course and that’s another matter, but I have my doubts about that!

  15. John permalink
    January 11, 2021 1:59 pm

    The fact gas has been doing the heavy lifting for electricity generation all week, should be sounding an alarm call to those allegedly in charge.
    But on the other hand….

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