Can Natural Gas be Bridge? Shell Ad Says Yes

There is an interesting article at National Geographic titled Can Natural Gas Be a Bridge to Clean Energy?.

That eminent magazine is promoting the article and wants people to help answer the question it poses; here is a copy of the Tweet that provided me the initial link.

When I followed the link, I could not help but be amused by the way the page appeared when I landed there. Surprise, surprise, Google Ad words saw fit to decorate the page with a frequently served Shell ad – part of the super major oil and gas company’s Let’s Go campaign.

Here is a window capture:

Any guesses on how Shell would answer the article's headline question?

Any guesses on how Shell would answer the article’s headline question?

I understand how Google Ad Words work and realize that your experience might be different, but I just had to share the image with you. Now I’ll go back and finish reading the article.

Update: I’m back. The article was a lot shorter than I expected. It was mainly an introduction to the following poll question:

National Geographic Poll: Can natural gas be a bridge to clean energy?

National Geographic Poll:
Can natural gas be a bridge to clean energy?

I left the following comment:

I’m sorry I could not complete your poll question because there is no appropriate choice available. I can accept natural gas as a bridge to a clean energy future, but renewables alone will never be able to serve modern society.

While I personally believe that nuclear energy can fit a reasonable definition of “renewable,” I realize that the renewable energy industry that claims that word as its brand will resist any attempt to allow nuclear energy to qualify. That seems to be true even for nuclear energy systems that are designed to run on “nuclear waste” since it still contains about 95% of its initial potential energy.

Without a choice that includes nuclear energy, there is simply no way for me to honestly participate.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights
Host and producer, the Atomic Show Podcast.

About Rod Adams

46 Responses to “Can Natural Gas be Bridge? Shell Ad Says Yes”

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  1. Daniel says:

    Follow the smart money. Soros is accumulating Cameco like crazy and Rio just hired Anne Lauvergnon.

    • NP says:

      Soros is no longer smart money, just big money.
      what percent has Soros bought so far?

      Didnt Rio recently have a massive hazmat pond flooding?

  2. Daniel says:

    And evacuation zone are lifted April 1 in Fukushima.

    Land slide in Washington are going to be a pain. Some say it is caused by gas extraction. Fracking.

    • Smiling Joe Fission says:

      However, making bold claims like fracking is causing land slides is the same as anti-nukes making bold claims that nuclear is causing all sorts of disease among the population.

      • John T Tucker says:

        Facking by definition is the creation and utilization of seismic fracturing: earthquakes, and the process as well as the fluid disposal process is known to cause seismic activity.

        I really dont think you can say anything even marginally close to that level of scientific correctness when it comes to risk and low dose radiation.

        As for this particular incident I don’t know. I didn’t know they fracked there.

        • Smiling Joe Fission says:

          If there is absolutely no evidence that fracking caused this, it is quite a bold claim to jump to that conclusion. Land slides happened before fracking existed.

          This is the same sort of non-sense that anti’s are known for. Ex: Radiation has been shown to cause cancer. Some say any cancers occurring where “man-made” radiation is measurable is causing these cancers. Radiation.

          That is the same baseless type of claim being made here.

          I am pro-nuclear, but making scare claims about something with no backing evidence is straight out of the anti-nuclear playbook.

          • John T Tucker says:

            Yes, yes, yes joe as you may have noticed I said: “As for this particular incident I don’t know.”

            Actually I looked it up after that post and beyond a few exploratory wells its not much of an issue in Washington state.

            But has seismic activity in the US increased in the last decade. Absolutely. Is fracking implicated?, Yes most very probably. Could it lead to landslides etc… for sure.

            Does very low dose radiation involve significant increased cancer risk. No.

            I see no conflict here.

            Man-Made Earthquakes Update – January 17, 2014 ( http://www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/man-made-earthquakes/ )

          • PissedOffAmerican says:

            “But has seismic activity in the US increased in the last decade. Absolutely”

            I realize that some areas subjected to fracking are experiencing unusual, (for the that specific area) seismic activity. But how do you substantiate your claim that “seismic activity in the US increased in the last decade”.

            It seems to me that you are squirting around trying to give Daniel’s claim credibility, when really, it deserves none. I am no proponent of fracking, but claims like Daniel’s are really harmful to the credibility of those seeking to buttress such a claim. Who are these “some” that Daniel claims exist, and where did he hear about them?

            I was heartened to see some here, who are pro nuke, take Daniel to task for making such an assertion with no substantive sourcing and using the vague employment of the term “some”. Such assertions, applied in such a shallow context, have no business on a site that is engaged in trying to popularize and advocate for the use of nuclear energy by offering factual and concise argument.

          • John T Tucker says:

            “Nearly 450 earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and larger occurred in the four years from 2010-2013, over 100 per year on average, compared with an average rate of 20 earthquakes per year observed from 1970-2000.”

            From the USGS link. Follow the links in there for more.

          • John T Tucker says:

            Well I feel none of you really wants to discus the seismic stuff but perhaps rod will not notice this last link. And no, to be honest im not sure if beyond the waste water disposal thing if this is a significant issue. I never claimed that. I just know its likely real and out there.

            ( http://earthquakes.bgs.ac.uk/research/earthquake_hazard_shale_gas.html )

            As are the real water quality issues.

            ( http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3858&from=rss_home#.Uz5mcpj08am )

            These are not half rate blogs and gossip pieces. Follow the links in the articles.

    • POA says:

      Hmm…maybe Bill oughta sue ya.

    • NP says:

      yeah, I heard some areas 2000 mSv per year…should be no problem, right?

      • Rod Adams says:

        @NP

        Where did you hear there were areas of 2 Sv per year? Where are they and how large is the area with that kind of dose? Are you sure they are not very limited “hot spots” of just a meter or two in diameter?

  3. Mitch says:

    Sounds like a Brooklyn Bridge sell.

  4. Eino says:

    Nothing wrong with natural gas. It comes naturally with beans.

  5. starvinglion says:

    “…but renewables alone will never be able to serve modern society.”

    Neither can NPP provide electricity alone. Natural gas is required for surge demand. In fact, nobody actually even knows how France utilizes its NPP’s. But I can say with certainty what is happening in France.

    1. Natural gas usage is rising
    2. It is becoming less than wildly enthusiastic about Nuclear

    #2 is not surprising. Every industrialized nation is initially optimistic about NPP’s. Then after a significant buildout and 40+ years of operating experience, in *every* single case the enormous problems of retiring aging reactors while maintaining/increasing percentage of electricity generated overwhelms the ability to even maintain status quo.

    • Australian physicist says:

      Fortunately natural gas isn’t required for surge demand and an all nuclear grid is quite simple. Current power reactors are designed to produce huge amounts of base load power. These could easily be complemented by smaller reactors designed to change output quickly, similar to the reactors used in naval propulsion. This would provide plentiful base load power while also handling changes in demand reliably with minimal greenhouse gas emissions.

    • Ed Leaver says:

      I say, old man. Don’t you research any of your comments?

      Don’t get me wrong — I mostly agree with your contention “neither can NPP provide electricity alone. Natural gas is required for surge demand.” Because I’ve actually run some numbers. But we need to stress the reason is economic, not technical. As Rod and the odd Ontario grid operator are wont to observe, NPP can (and do) follow load just fine. But its a matter of degree. Ontario’s Bruce power operates around 83% capacity factor, most variable load is met by fossils and hydro. “Nuclear power in France has a total capacity factor of around 77%, which is low due to load following. However availability is around 84%, indicating excellent overall performance of the plants.” France is the largest net energy exporter in the EU, though during summer peaks she must still import some power to meet load.

      EDF charges households 19 c/kWh, and industry half that. Average U.S. residential cost is 11.5c/kWh, commercial 10.4, industrial 7. (See EIA Electricity Monthly Update.) In recent years U.S. nukes have attained about 93% capacity factor, which is a bit mind-boggling as LWR’s are typically down 6 weeks every two years for refuel and scheduled maintenance.

      More numbers. In its monumental 2012 Renewable Energy Futures Study, NREL and friends conclude “Renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country.”

      The devil, of course, is in the details.
      1. Demand growth is projected at but 0.17% yearly.
      2. 80% carbon reduction from electric generation is not the same as 80% net national reduction.
      3. A full 15% of the proposed generation is from biomass. (Seriously.)
      4. Capital cost is estimated at $4.8 trillion to 2050 assuming Incremental Technology Improvements, with a final power point of about 15.5 c/kWh.

      This from REF table A-4, 2009 dollars. Your mileage may vary. Me, I’d prefer to purpose a bit more fossil fuels to the transportation sector, and grow electric use a bit more to cover heat pumps and EV’s. Conservation is good, but it can only go so far. I’m also an outdoors type who would like to save at least a few forests for recreation. Prairie and native grassland also retains a certain charm. To this end, if one merely(!) replaces baseload coal in REF’s baseline bau scenario with nuclear at constant capital rate of today’s $5.50/watt, retaining the baseline’s hydro, natural gas, and (negligible) wind+solar, one finds an 85% ghg reduction at about $600 billion less than the all-renewables pseudo-solution.

      But here’s your point: That sustainable and scaleable “just replace coal with nuclear” solution ends up with 357 GW nuclear capacity at 85% capacity factor, and 395 GW natural gas capacity at 20%. Overall capacity factor for the entire sustainable generation system is 46%, versus 31% for the 80% renewables. Sure, you can replace that 395 GW gas generation with nuclear — but at 20% capacity factor you aren’t going to do it any time soon. Hydrogen production might eventually take up some of the slack, but there’s plenty of room for wind+solar to reduce the gas bill in the meantime.

      • Eino says:

        “But here’s your point: That sustainable and scaleable “just replace coal with nuclear” solution ends up with 357 GW nuclear capacity at 85% capacity factor, and 395 GW natural gas capacity at 20%.”

        From what you’ve written, it’s obvious that energy storage means could be very valuable for peak shaving. It’s hard to store electricity, but stored heating and cooling where buildings could draw on the stored energy may help a lot.

        • Engineer-Poet says:

          It’s probably best to make storage do double or triple duty, such as EV charging during the off-peak hours.  That gets demand-side management, petroleum replacement and air-quality improvement in one fell swoop.

          Once you’ve gotten the base load taken care of (even if it’s elevated by EVs and whatnot), the peaks need to be addressed.  One way is with peaking generators, but another is to boost the base load again using dump loads.  Any energy demand that can be deferred for days to months works beautifully as a dump load.  There are a number of possibilities.

    • simple touriste says:

      “2. It is becoming less than wildly enthusiastic about Nuclear”

      Who is “it”?

      EELV (the Green Party)? PS (Socialist Party)? The majority of French population?

      EDF recently back-fitted a core catcher on the oldest plant, Fessenheim (2*900 MW). There is no reason to close this plant (François Hollande promised to close it in order to get a political deal with EELV).

  6. Eino says:

    “#2 is not surprising. Every industrialized nation is initially optimistic about NPP’s. Then after a significant buildout and 40+ years of operating experience, in *every* single case the enormous problems of retiring aging reactors while maintaining/increasing percentage of electricity generated overwhelms the ability to even maintain status quo.”

    No beans in your argument. It took me lees than a second to arrive at an exception, Russia.

    • John T Tucker says:

      2. His/her opinion depends on mass media farmed interpretations without perspective. Not legitimate science, study or real world comparison.

      My Opinion: France’s experimental shift towards the “green” is ending rather badly for the greens politically. They perhaps made some inroads but the tide of public opinion seems to be turning against them. As a matter of fact, and as a point of possible concern the political rubber band seems to be going a bit too far in the opposite direction with green/far leftist fatigue. ( http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26715061 ).

      • agimarc says:

        I don’t think France’s shift away from nuclear was voluntary or experimental. I think it was forced out of the EU in Brussels. Cheers -

        • John T Tucker says:

          There really hasn’t been much of a “shift away” IMHO. They made the obligatory public commitment to a happy future of “renewables” I think, and retired a old plant and that is about it.

          I thought someone would go after me more on France’s far right wing anti nuke sentiment. It was based in kooky conspiracy (ultimately much like all anti nuke sentiment) but they kinda backed away from it recently and have sided with the more mundane and marginally kooky nuclear terror fear stuff and advocated securing the country’s reactors better.

          • Dogmug says:

            @ Ed Leaver: Every time an anti starts in with the terrorist FUD, I point out that the ONLY terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant was Chaim Nissin’s rocket-propelled grenade attack on the Superphenix.

            As I’m sure you know, he wanted to cause it to melt down and kill a huge number of people, possibly making him a martyr, but definitely making him a hero.

            The reactor was not operating at the time.

            M. Nissin later became the head of the Green Party of Switzerland and represented his canton in the Swiss Parliament. I’m sure he didn’t campaign on the strength of his association with the Red Army Faction (what the US media called “the Bader-Meinhof Gang”) and Carlos the Jackal. They were the ones who got him the RPGs.

            Of course, security is a serious matter with nuclear technology, but I don’t see any evidence that there’s been significant slacking, particularly in the past decade.

          • John T Tucker says:

            Such an attack would be of little consequence on a fully constructed, concrete encased and operational reactor. Even the worst event involving a more modern reactor, as we have seen to some degree with Fukushima, is likely is going to be incredibly manageable and result in few if any radiation casualties. Even if they were able to significantly damage the core. It wouldn’t be pretty, but as terror mass causality events go its probably going to be very disappointing, if not completely unsuccessful.

            Greenpeace are cowards too. There are older reactors and much older designs in the former soviet bloc. They don’t mess with them for obvious reasons.

          • Ed Leaver says:

            Absobulutely. Since 2001 several numerous detailed analysis of NPP vulnerability to terrorist attack. Due to its proximity to New York City there has been some focus on Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, NY. The short answer is here. It doesn’t look pretty for any wannabe terrorists. A snippet of the long answer is at Indian Point Worst Case Nuclear Accident Scenario is not Credible, and the first comment thereto.

            I use Indian Point as a highly relevant local example, as its 2GW emissions free generation currently tops the hit list of the anti-environment movement. As for Mr.Nissan’s 1982 RPG attack on Superphenix, it’s hard to believe he did not understand the plant was not yet completed or fueled. (Although with these types one never knows.) Being an unpressurized liquid metal design, SuperP did not have the same containment requirement of contemporary LWR’s, although it still proved more than adequate to shrug off Mr. Nissan’s RPG-7. Anymore of course, all reactor containments share the same explosive and aircraft resistance requirement.

            (See Vogtle 3 and 4 Construction Photos.)

      • simple touriste says:

        New renewables are inefficient, according to the “Cour des comptes” (Court of Auditors):

        http://www.ccomptes.fr/fr/Publications/Publications/La-mise-en-aeuvre-par-la-France-du-Paquet-energie-climat (in French)

        Too few people in France talk about that.

  7. John T Tucker says:

    Thinking out loud:

    Issues/risks with natural gas/natural gas extraction. (not necessarily in order of concern)

    1. Global Environmental: Warming/acidification. At BEST around half as bad as old coal. At worst near the same.
    2. Safety: highly flammable – explosive under certain circumstances. Near zero percent survivability/certain death near a “significant” mishap. (which occur rather regularly)
    3. Geologic: subsidence/EQ hazard(withdrawal issue, but more from waste water disposal probably)/additional EQ hazards via warming mass changes
    4. Local environmental: water quality issues(wells, waterways and reservoirs). Huge land use/development issues/some habitat loss concerns.

    Disputed ?? / Did I get them all?

    • John T Tucker says:

      The elephant in the living room too of course:

      5. Price stability, logistic/distribution bottlenecks/infrastructure/use volume issues.

      • John T Tucker says:

        The above should be “Economic/marketplace issues:” and added to it should be pricing pressures in other industries like plastics/chemical/fertilizer.

        6. Rapid well depletion/legacy production/uncertainty.

        7. Huge Waste issues (fracking) – [around 280 bn US gallons]. Produces large amounts of wastes with no firm, researched and proven safe long term repositories.

        8. Technological direction/heritage: distributed hydrocarbon combustion infrastructure. Bestowal and almost certain deliverance to the “Hydrogen economy.”

  8. John T Tucker says:

    Yesterdays impressive NG explosion prize went to Texas:

    Ruptured Natural Gas Pipeline Explodes Near Copano Causeway ( http://www.kiiitv.com/story/25068699/ruptured-natural-gas-pipeline-explodes-near-copano-causeway )

    And of note in the recent Brooklyn NG disaster:

    New York explosion exposes nation’s aging and dangerous gas mains

    Leaks cause the city’s top utility company, Con Ed, to lose more than 2% of the gas it delivers to customers each year,

    McDonald and other experts said underground pipes are a major source of gas leaks, with the escaping gas typically traveling through the soil and dissipating into the air. During winter, however, soil is hardened by frost, which traps the gas and causes it to travel sideways.

    That Greenpeace is out there protesting 37 y/o N plants that are heavily inspected and ALL worn/suspect parts replaced several times over while uninspected 127 year old pipes leak explosive levels of NG all over the place out there is beyond believable.

    • John T Tucker says:

      Another story on the issue:

      Beneath Cities, a Decaying Tangle of Gas Pipes

      In 2012 alone, Con Edison and National Grid, the other distributor of natural gas in the city, reported 9,906 leaks in their combined systems, which serve the city and Westchester County. More than half of them were considered hazardous because of the dangers they posed to people or property, federal records show. (There are more than 1.2 million miles of gas main pipes across the country. Last year, gas distributors nationwide reported an average of 12 leaks per 100 miles of those pipes.) ( http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/nyregion/beneath-cities-a-decaying-tangle-of-gas-pipes.html?_r=0 )

      Thats too many leaks on top of everything else. I dont think Gas is really any better than coal for combating climate change and acidification.

  9. SteveK9 says:

    You don’t think ‘clean energy’ meant nuclear power?

    • John T Tucker says:

      Good point. Strangely enough they said “Renewable” specifically and not “Clean Energy.” For sure they know that no bridge could ever stretch to the point “renewables” as is today make up the majority of power production.

      Knowing that it is forever and a day away and something of a philosophical absurdity [nothing is completely “renewable”] they clandestinely sell it as the specific target and destination.

  10. SteveK9 says:

    In other news … China getting ready to turn on 2 new reactors,

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Start-up-nearing-for-Chinese-units-2503144.html

    At least we have Vogtle and Summer, otherwise this would be downright depressing.

    • jmdesp says:

      Yangjiang 1 is now officially commercial :
      http://www.nucnet.org/all-the-news/2014/03/27/china-s-yangjiang-1-begins-commercial-operation

      On the other hand I’m reading than the 2 EPR are delayed and will not start operation until mid-2015.

      A remark about that, surprisingly anti-nuclear sources are the very first to be aware of this delay before any industry source that I’m aware of. This shows that when it’s convenient for them, they can be extremely well informed.

      But for me, this demonstrates also that when they propagate completely wrong information, that’s certainly not because they aren’t able to get the proper one.

      I’ve seen that about wind power also. For a long time, there was continuing claims of prices going down, even though the data from 2004 until 2009 has been showing a clear rise in wind power prices in the US and UK. Just as if the wind proponents had no information about what the actual prices were.
      Then there was a turn of events in 2009, prices have been going down again. So last year, we’ve seen very detailed informations appear about how strong the lowering in prices after 2009 has been ! Correct information, but however conspicuously ignoring the fact there had been a rise previously.

  11. John T Tucker says:

    A few interesting points in the very fluid and ever developing German/Russian/US/Europe/Ukraine/Gas situation.

    Gazprom deal in Germany raises alarm

    Gazprom, Russia’s state-run energy group, is finalising an asset swap with BASF, its long-term German partner, under which it will increase its stake in Wingas, a German gas storage and distribution business, from just under 50 per cent to 100 per cent. In return, BASF will obtain stakes in west Siberian gasfields.

    I didn’t understand the extent of that deal and now cant believe it is still on. What are they thinking.

    Schroeder also has recently dug himself in deeper defending Russia in the Ukraine situation, he is, to me remembered also as something of the father of the German nuclear phaseout and Gas facilitator.

    Putin’s apologist? Germany’s Schroeder says they’re just friends

    Schroeder, 69, has been excoriated for speaking out in favour of Moscow and against the German government position, not least because of his 250,000 euro salary as board chairman for a pipeline joint venture with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom.

    Less than three months after losing power to Merkel, he became advisory board chairman at Nord Stream. Opponents said the haste with which he took up the job was unseemly and the link to Russian interests too direct for a former chancellor.

    Also:

    Merkel fury after Gerhard Schroeder backs Putin on Ukraine

    Mr Schroeder was Germany’s Social Democrat leader from 1998 until 2005. He is a personal friend of Vladimir Putin and once described the Russian President as a “ flawless democrat”.

    Mr Schroeder accepted that Russia’s intervention was in breach of international law but compared the Kremlin’s action to his own government’s military support for the NATO bombardment of Serbia during the Kosovo crisis in 1999.

  12. Mitch says:

    >> SteveK9 — At least we have Vogtle and Summer, otherwise this would be downright depressing. <<<

    Worst od All, the answer is so easy and quick if nuclear industries REALLY want to turn their image around on a dime —

    ADVERTIZE!

    Give that Natural Gas lady some nuke company!!!

  13. John T Tucker says:

    Germany still got more electricity in 2013 from Nuclear than wind, solar and biofuels COMBINED.

    Year-to-Date Jan-Dec 2013 GWh

    + Combustible Fuels 387
    + Nuclear 92
    + Hydro 26
    + Geoth./Wind/Solar/Other 78

    ( http://www.iea.org/stats/surveys/mes.pdf )

  14. John T Tucker says:

    Large explosion rocks Washington natural gas plant; 5 workers hurt, 400 residents evacuated ( http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2014/03/31/4-hurt-200-evacuated-after-washington-plant-fire )

    I wonder what the event was rated on the natural gas safety scale of incidents? Oh wait there is none.

    • John T Tucker says:

      Could have been horrific:

      Liquid natural gas blast threw fragments of steel 300 yards

      Some of the debris flew more than 100 yards and damaged the tracks of the main rail line on the Washington side of the Columbia River. Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Gus Melonas said more than 40 trains were delayed until the repairs were completed Tuesday afternoon and normal traffic was restored,

      Vaporized gas was still leaking from a gash in the outer wall of the 1.2 billion cubic foot storage tank, and blowing away on the wind, presenting little danger. Major piping is all underground and was not damaged. ( http://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/1950888-151/liquid-natural-gas-blast-threw-fragments-of-steel# )