2 Aug

The recent announcement that Fonterra might convert from coal to gas is definitely not a move in the right direction. It may in fact be worse than coal.

The burning of what is largely methane, in energy terms, produces about half the CO2 of coal and this fact is used to suggest that the switch to natural gas constitutes a reduction in emissions, but this comparison conveniently ignores the leakage of methane during the extraction, processing and transport. The industry often suggest rates of less than 1% … However a 1% leakage of methane with a GHGe impact some 80 times that of CO2 (over a 20 year period) one can readily verify that the “well-to-wheel” impacts of using gas are worse than that of using coal in global warming effects.

More recent research puts the leakage rates at between 4-9%, so considerably worse than the Industry estimates. The evidence is that fracking in the US in particular has greatly accelerated GHG emissions and this global temperature rises are accelerating as a result of this industry shift.

All of the methane ultimately over time becomes CO2… 1 tonne of methane (CH4) results in approx three tonnes of CO2 … four Hydrogen each with molecular weight 1 is replaced by two Oxygen each with molecular weight 16, Carbon having a molecular weight of 14.

Leakage of natural gas from a single event hit an all time record in 2015 with the Aliso Canyon leak in Californian and requiring the evacuation of thousands.

But there are many other significant leakage which are arguably a result of the the oil and gas industry “However NASA researchers concluded in 2016 that oil and gas production and distribution activities were principally responsible for the methane releases”

The idea that gasses may be safely sequestered into underground natural geological structures is in serious question… as is the suggestion CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) is at all possible or practical, energy costs aside.

It is for such reasons that our attention to Huntly should address not just coal but indeed Genesis’ move to gas… Meeting industrial heat requirements will be challenging for companies like Fonterra, but there is absolutely no excuse for the electricity industry not to embrace wind and solar, both capable of undercutting coal and gas cost in the generation of electricity. Storage options are available and proven, albeit at a price.

ā€œShould they be converting to electric or wood chips rather than gas?ā€

It should be thermal solar, augmented by PV solar and wind with suitable energy storage (zeolite looks interesting as a lossless store for heat energy). I don’t believe any sort of burning or combustion process is appropriate.. Its a moot point as to whether wood chips are any more sustainable, than coal, oil or gas. Have just watched a DW video exposing how the FSC accreditation of wood product has been seriously subverted by the timber industry… same sort of dishonesty that pervades the fossil fuel industry.

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