The Bullroarer - Monday 3 December 2007

SMH - Price of petrol set to drop - Eastern Bay people put their heads together over oil shortage

TV NZ - Tidal power rides wave of popularity

The government is being urged to give more support to the development of wave and tidal power after a study found it is greener than other forms of renewable energy. Despite the rush to build wind farms around the country, two Auckland University students say tidal power is superior.

Hydro electricity is the backbone of the nation's energy system but when the students looked at whether it was more sustainable than wind, geothermal or tidal power, they got a surprise. "We were sort of expecting hydro generation to be the winner, but as it turned out tidal came out first," says student Zeb Worth.

Tidal power doesn't exist in New Zealand yet, but there are at least 24 wave and tidal power projects under development. "Wave pattern and tidal energy probably have less impact in terms of visual pollution, noise, and competition with other human uses," says John Huckerby, Wave and Tidal Energy Association.

Tidal power projects leave their renewable rivals for dead when it comes to carbon footprint, because geothermal plants use stacks of stainless steel, and hydro dams involve huge amounts of energy intensive concrete and steel. "Steel and concrete have a lot of carbon emissions associated with their manufacture and construction," says Worth.

The findings have been welcomed by Crest Energy, which wants to create the world's largest tidal power plant in the Kaipara Harbour. - Surging demand for fertiliser will keep NZ prices high

World fertiliser prices soared during 2007, driven by a dramatic upturn in demand for agricultural fertiliser in both developing and developed nations. Price pressures have been compounded by a limited world supply of key fertiliser ingredients - nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium - with structural constraints on the speed at which the fertiliser industry can increase production.

Ms Richardson said the intensified demand for fertiliser is the result of a combination of factors including increased need for higher agricultural yields due to world population growth and improving economic prosperity, high agricultural commodity prices and the emergence of the biofuels industry. "The economic need for increased yields in order to feed a growing population from limited arable land has driven this increasing fertiliser consumption," she said.

The Age - Air car to call Melbourne home

MELBOURNE is set to be the manufacturing home base for a car that operates with zero emissions and can run solely on compressed air. Guy Negre, who used to design engines for Formula One team Renault, has spent the past 15 years developing the air engine and says the first manufacturing plant will be established in Melbourne with cars expected to go on sale next year.

Radio New Zealand - November parched, particularly in South Island

Farmers could be facing a drought as devastating as in 1988/89, according to the climate outlook. NIWA agricultural climatologist Alan Porteous says the problem farmers currently face is that soil moisture levels in the east of the country and parts of Otago have already reached summer deficits.

Federated Farmers says a predicted drought for parts of the South Island could be a disaster for the industry. Its Otago president, Richard Burton, says its members are already facing rising costs for fuel, resource consent and power. ...

Meridian Energy says the predictions of a dry summer for the South Island prove its proposed wind farms are needed. Meridian manages several hydro electricity stations linked to lakes in the Otago region, where conditions are already dry. Spokesperson Alan Seay says it is used to managing low lake levels, but the forecast shows the need to explore other sources of energy. - Pine trees could fuel New Zealand's future

New Zealand could become self-sufficient in sustainable fuel, heat and power by 2050, according to state science company Scion. The forestry researcher is preparing to release a document proposing radiata pines be used as a bio-ethanol crop.

The document is understood to say plantation forestry could provide ethanol to add to the three billion litres of petrol New Zealand motorists use each year. If New Zealand planted 3.5 million hectares of the species - turning the celluose in the trees into sugars that can be fermented and refined into ethanol fuel - "we could become fuel, heat, power self-sufficient by 2050," the company's general manager of biomaterials research, Elspeth Macrae, said.

NZ Herald - Climate talks 'last chance' to avoid catastrophe

SMH - Bali talks to seek global climate deal - Govt to reap $5.6b carbon trade windfall

SMH - Land biobanking will push ecology over the edge, critics fear

A NSW scheme that puts a dollar value on trees and animals could push more endangered species towards the brink of extinction, say critics of the State Government's so-called "biobanking".

Regulations released last week for the controversial scheme, which allows property companies to offset or trade environmentally sensitive land for developments, have allegedly been watered down to allow areas previously considered no-go zones to be cleared.

Critics of the scheme are also worried a less stringent set of land-clearing rules are being applied to mining companies and coastal developers than to farmers.

TVNZ - More companies going green

SMH - Business backs green push

The Age - Carbon consultant moves through the new frontier

Eco-Frontier's other activities include work on a 50-megawatt power plant using gas recovery from what it claims is the world's largest landfill, near Seoul. Mr Lim is also working on building two biomass-powered generation plants — one in China and the other in Malaysia.

The plant in Malaysia will burn oil palm residue, which would otherwise rot and release methane gas. The $100 million plant would have a payback period of seven to nine years, a rate that will be cut by about half once the derived carbon credits are sold.

SMH - NSW Premier woos MPs to sell off electricity

The Australian - Foreshore land in short supply for resource infrastructure developments - Govt calls for Taranaki petroleum block bids

The offer of the onshore Taranaki blocks was being supported by a large and modern technical data package which would be made freely available to explorers from today.

While the New Zealand Energy Strategy emphasised a renewable energy future, it also recognised that more gas needed to be found to fuel current thermal baseload and peaking plant for electricity generation, as well as industrial and residential uses, he said.

The Australian - AED earns reprieve with Puffin order

AED maintains that when commissioning is completed, 20,000 barrels a day output is considered achievable.

While the market was absorbing the news that oil production was not as high as forecast and the oil/water contact in the field had been achieved somewhat earlier than expected - not an unusual event on Australia's northern coast - an exploration/appraisal well, Puffin 10, was being drilled in the southwest portion of the permit near Ashmore Reef.

"The well encountered more complex geology than expected," AED told the stock exchange last week while announcing that two sidetracks had been drilled.

The sands encountered by Puffin 10, while oil bearing were thin, which led analysts to suggest its failure raised a question on the existence of an estimated 40 million barrels in the Puffin southwest region, which still remains AED's objective.

The Australian - Roe targets international exploration for Target Energy

SMH - Sydney Buses celebrates 75th anniversary

SustainaBundy - Managing waste: there's no such thing as away

Our rubbish is buried in the earth, left for future generations. The landfill at University Drive is nearly full, and the new facility 20km outside of Bundaberg on the Isis Highway is expected to last 30-35 years - which isn't very long in the greater scheme of things, particularly with a growing population.

Recycling is very energy intensive. Australia has no recycling facility for plastic so all recyclable plastics are sent to China. We're happy to use the stuff, but we don't want to deal with it here when we're done - we pollute China instead, with it's looser environmental restrictions.

Remember that there's no such thing as "away" when we throw something away - every place is someone's backyard.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. It's not just a catchphrase!

Eat The Suburbs - Friends in print - urban food production in The Age

Eat The Suburbs - Making the most of Australia’s disappearing backyards

It's freakin' amazing. Here in SW Tassie it rained every day in October, then November was the driest on record. So I've cut hay ready to be baled and now December appears to be non-stop rain. If this is the new normal it may become impossible to plan ahead.

Had some big thunderstorms up here today - not sure how much fell across the divide (it looked like a bit on the radar), but Sydney got drenched.

SW Tassie hey ? You really did try and adapt to climate change early :-)

It would be more than a little ironic if the area was struck by drought and somewhere like south west WA got wetter (in defiance of Mr Flannery's predictions)...

I was not aware that hay was grown in SW Tasmania. I was born on the fringes of that area and all we managed to grow on our hill-sides was small fruits. But I guess that depends on how you define the “South West”. My rough rule of thumb is the area enclosed by the line from Strahan, to Ouse, to Catamaran. Where do you stand in relation to that?

I am very interested in this rainfall matter as I had been planning to return to Tasmania in response to peak oil and climate change. But from recent CSIRO reports it seems that coastal NSW looks a better (though much more expensive) option ---especially those bits adjacent to a railway line.

I'll be interested to see how much energy this car uses, ie how many kWh of electricity to compress the air which gives it its 150km range.

I mean, if it's 1kWh for each refill, awesome, we could have everyone driving for an extra 1kWh/day, that's nothing. But if it's 1,000kWh well then that's something else.

As always, these Science! technologies we're offered, they show us the shiny part but won't give us the details.

I'm semi-enthusiastic about this but like you say - more data required.

I'm too snowed under to investigate but if you do some digging let me know the results...

Looking at the car website it is clearly vapourware. I can't believe the Age printed this nonsense.

I looked at the company web site a week or two and I agree totally - its awful and smells of vapour.

However, air cars seem to be getting a bit of investment in India and France IIRC, so The Age's story makes some sense (and does a much better sell job than the company site).

I'll withhold judgment for now - air cars are an interesting experiment - and company web sites aren't a definitive way of judging if they know what they are doing.

That said, I wouldn't bet much on them myself just yet.

The Age likes to print hopeful stories about Melbourne being a "world leader" in things ;)

If I remember my high school physics and chemistry right, the energy E required to compress air at 25C is,

E = 110,000 x ln (P1/P2) /m3/mol

There are about 45mol air in 1m3, so,

E = 110,000 x ln (P1/P2) /m3

This howstuffworks article tells us that an air car tank might have 300lt at 4,561psi, which is 29,999,087.707 - call it 30,000 kPa. Atmospheric pressure is 101.3kPa. 300lt at 30,000kPa will be 90,000lt at atmospheric pressure, or 90m3. And so we get,

E = 110,000 x ln (30,000 / 101.3) x 90
= 110,000 x 5.69 x 90
= 56,331,000J
which is 15.6kWhr

However, a company which supplies air compressors tells us that "Most systems typically waste 25 to 50 percent of the energy required to generate compressed air that actually provides useful work."

Let's be optimistic and assume that with lots of air cars zooming around, service stations will buy the most efficient (expensive) compressors. So we get just a 25% loss. This brings us to 20.9kWhr.

Let's round it up to 21kWhr to refill the tank. Again, this isn't the air car referred to in the article, but it gives us an idea of the order of magnitude.

21kWhr to travel 200km.

A regular small city car gets about 10km/lt. Petrol costs about $1.30/lt, and causes 2.32kg CO2e/lt. So to go 200km in a regular car would cost $26 and cause 46.4kg CO2e in emissions.

Electricity from coal cost $0.1355/kWh and 1.21kg CO2e/kWh, so the 200km journey would cost $2.85 and cause 34.9kg CO2e in emissions.

Electricity from wind costs $0.19/kWh and causes 0.04kg CO2e/kWh. So the 200km journey would cost $3.99 and cause 0.84kg CO2e in emissions.

The average Australian car is driven 15,000km annually. That'd be 75 refills, or 1,575kWh energy in all. That's not bad when the average household uses 6,000kWhr annually.

Presumably service stations could do things better than we could at home, since they can buy the big heavy and efficient equipment; if service stations supply so much compressed air, they'll start charging more for it, more than the power costs. Still, it seems that running it on compressed air will be significantly cheaper in money terms.

However, if the air is compressed by electricity got from coal, the greenhouse gas emissions will be comparable to simply burning petrol in the car.

Again, not perfect calculations, but the best we can do with the data we've got, and they give us an order of magnitude idea of the numbers involved.

Thanks very much Kiashu. I'm puzzled why they're not manufacturing in China - maybe its Australia's fine history of subsidising carmakers. I'm willing to be optimistic.

Well, this thing will require new infrastructure. Lots of air compressors at stations which can refill the tank, or swap in a new tank, in just a few minutes. Remember it's a 300lt tank for 200km of driving, which with a fossil fuel vehicle would be 20lt of fuel. So you're talking about a tank 15 times bigger. It's basically the average family car's boot. That also means 15 times bigger "fuel" tanker trucks, and so on. So it's not a simple thing to change over all these servos.

You come then to a bit of a problem. Nobody will buy the thing unless it can be refuelled at most servos, and no servos will buy the infrastructure unless lots of the things are on the roads already.

And there's the refuelling time. And as with electric vehicles, people don't want to drive 100km and then wait four hours before they can go again. A fossil fuel vehicle, however shitty its mileage may be at least you can fill it up quickly.

So the thing would be a difficult sell, I'd say. Realistically if it gets you 100km and can be recharged overnight, then that's going to take care of 99% of trips private drivers make. But drivers will say, "what about if I want to drive to Woop Woop which is 450km away..." They might in fact do it only once every two years, but when you sell people something, you're not just selling them what they actually do with it, you're selling them a dream. That's why all those 4WDs get sold. "Ah, if only I had a 4WD then I'd drive all round Australia instead of just to work as a boring old accountant. All I need is the right vehicle, and I'll be freeeee!" Of course it's bullshit, but it's what sells stuff.

Also my understanding is that this air car, along with the electric vehicles, has a very light body and shell. That's necessary to get good "mileage", they couldn't get anywhere with steel, but it gives problems with current Western safety regulations. Carbon fibre's nice and light, but if you smack into it you don't get that energy-absorbing crumple, it just shatters.

I dunno, it looks like another example of Science! at work. We're forver being promised some wonderful new technology, and it's always "just a few years away from commercial sale." I'm glad to see innovation, but I'll believe it's practical when I see it for sale in the shops.

You come then to a bit of a problem. Nobody will buy the thing unless it can be refuelled at most servos, and no servos will buy the infrastructure unless lots of the things are on the roads already.

A little like the hydrogen syndrome (albeit with less additional baggage).

However, they seem to be selling it as a hybrid, so these concerns may not be important - much like a regular hybrid, you use up your compressed air charge, then go to the fuel engine.

Not perfect but I guess we're talking about some early steps in improving overall fuel efficiency and getting renewable energy into the transport sector. From The Age (sounds overly optimistic on the Perth-Brisbane thing admittedly):

Running on compressed air alone, the car can travel 150 kilometres, but when the air is heated externally and incorporated with a fuel source, such as ethanol or diesel, it is possible to travel from Perth to Brisbane without refuelling.