Thursday, February 25th, 2010
Bloom Energy has unveiled its long-awaited and much-hyped fuel cell technology, which it says can convert natural gas into electricity through an electrochemical process that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and at a price competitive with far-dirtier coal-fired electricity.
With California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in attendance, Bloom co-founder and chief executive K.R. Sridhar unveiled his Bloom Energy Server at the Silicon Valley headquarters of one of its first customers, eBay.
Taking up no more room than a parking space and looking like a large refrigerator, the servers (at left) — which cost roughly $750,000 — convert natural gas or another fuel into electricity by creating an electrochemical process on a series of small, stacked disks.
Thursday, January 14th, 2010
A period of extremely cold, windless weather has brought home to the British the drawbacks of relying on wind power and the need to keep a supply of natural gas in reserve. While the cold spell has strained natural gas supplies, leading in some cases to cutoffs to industrial users, it also has highlighted the unpredictability of wind power. Although Britain’s wind farms are supposed to provide 5 percent of the country’s electricity, they were in fact only providing 0.2 percent during the recent run of frigid, still days.
Saturday, December 26th, 2009
The headline on Tuesday’s editorial in Investor’s Business Daily – “Get the Frackin’ Gas” – is both clever and on the mark. The publication gets into trouble, however, when the body of its editorial veers into mischaracterizing ProPublica’s reporting on the environmental risks that need to be dealt with to produce the huge amounts of natural gas available underground in the United States.
Our reporters, led by Abrahm Lustgarten, have researched and written more than 50 stories on the subject over the past 18 months and are as expert on the topic as anyone in America.
Here is what is beyond dispute: The gas is highly desirable as a fuel, because it burns relatively cleanly and produces less greenhouse gas per unit of energy than oil or coal. There is lots of it obtainable within the U.S. using an enhanced version of an old drilling technology, called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – much more than was widely supposed just a few years ago. That means using natural gas to power cars and electrical generation doesn’t require sending huge sums abroad, weakening the dollar and strengthening countries that aren’t particularly friendly to ours – Russia, Iran and Venezuela among them.
Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
As environmental concerns threaten to derail natural gas drilling projects across the country, the energy industry has developed innovative ways to make it easier to exploit the nation’s reserves without polluting air and drinking water.
Energy companies have figured out how to drill wells with fewer toxic chemicals, enclose wastewater so it can’t contaminate streams and groundwater, and sharply curb emissions from everything from truck traffic to leaky gas well valves. Some of their techniques also make good business sense because they boost productivity and ultimately save the industry money — $10,000 per well in some cases.
Sunday, November 22nd, 2009
Pennsylvania residents whose streams and fields have been damaged by toxic spills and whose drinking water has allegedly been contaminated by drilling for natural gas are suing the Houston-based energy company that drilled the wells. A worker at the company is among the 15 families bringing suit.
The civil case, filed Thursday in U.S District Court in Scranton, Pa., seeks to stop future drilling in the Marcellus Shale by Cabot Oil and Gas near the town of Dimock. It also seeks to set up a trust fund to cover medical treatment for residents who say they have been sickened by pollutants. Health problems listed in the complaint include neurological and gastrointestinal illnesses; the complaint also alleges that at least one person’s blood tests show toxic levels of the same metals found in the contaminated water.
Sunday, November 15th, 2009
For years now, many members of Congress have insisted that cutting carbon emissions was difficult, if not impossible. It is not. During the two years since 2007, carbon emissions have dropped 9 percent. While part of this drop is from the recession, part of it is also from efficiency gains and from replacing coal with natural gas, wind, solar, and geothermal energy.
The United States has ended a century of rising carbon emissions and has now entered a new energy era, one of declining emissions. Peak carbon is now history. What had appeared to be hopelessly difficult is happening at amazing speed.
For a country where oil and coal use have been growing for more than a century, the fall since 2007 is startling. In 2008, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal 1 percent, and carbon emissions by 3 percent. Estimates for 2009, based on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data for the first nine months, show oil use down by another 5 percent. Coal is set to fall by 10 percent. Carbon emissions from burning all fossil fuels dropped 9 percent over the two years.
Wednesday, November 11th, 2009
Five years ago the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assured the nation that the technology credited with opening vast new natural gas supplies was safe. Now Congress has ordered the agency to take another look.
As part of the $32 billion Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill recently signed by President Obama, lawmakers asked the EPA to re-visit hydraulic fracturing, the process where copious amounts of water and sand mixed with toxic chemical additives are furiously pumped underground to break up gas-bearing rock thousands of feet below.
Friday, October 23rd, 2009
New York’s recently released review of the environmental risks (PDF) posed by natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale offers the clearest picture yet of the chemicals used in the drilling process called hydraulic fracturing.
The document makes public the names of 260 chemicals, more than eight times as many as Pennsylvania state regulators have compiled. The list is the most complete released by any state or federal agency and could help answer concerns about hydraulic fracturing in Congress and in states where gas drilling has increased in recent years.
Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
Global emissions of carbon dioxide will drop 3 percent in 2009, including a 5.9 percent decrease in the United States, as a result of the economic recession, according to energy forecasts.
A decrease in industrial activity accounts for three-quarters of the global emissions decline, the International Energy Agency reported at United Nations climate talks in Bangkok. The rest of the decline is the result of nations switching to renewable energy sources and nuclear power.
In the U.S., coal demand will likely drop 9 percent this year as electricity demand slips and more states switch to natural gas in the face of stiffer government oversight of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Economic recovery would likely reverse the trend, and the agency predicts a 1.1 percent increase in CO2 emissions in 2010.
Thursday, August 27th, 2009
For the first time, scientists have discovered chemicals used in a controversial natural gas drilling technique in water wells near the gas sites.
Scientists for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), testing wells near a major gas drilling area in Wyoming, have found traces of drilling chemicals in three wells, and other contaminants — including oil, gas, and heavy metals — in 11 of 39 wells recently tested, according to the Web site Pro Publica.
The chemicals are used in a process called hydraulic fracturing, in which drilling fluids and sand are injected under high pressure to break up rock and release gas.