The Bullroarer - Friday 1st August 2008

NZ Herald - Editorial: Power 'crisis' all just politics
As a disclaimer: I report stories that I find interesting - perhaps because they provide an insight into how people think - I don't necessarily agree with they say.

So why was the alarm sounded? Why were the authorities putting messages on television urging households to conserve power? Politics was the main reason.

Melbourne Herald Sun - Nine new trains in $236 million regional rail package

NINE new fast trains will be added to Victoria's regional fleet under a $236 million package announced today.

Voxy - New Energy Publication Released

This publication is intended for anyone with an interest in oil, and energy sources generally. It is wide-ranging and designed for easy reading. Topics covered include:

Oil production and refining technology Uncertainties surrounding statistics on world oil reserves and resources Alternatives to oil for the future Management of New Zealand's oil resources The structure and regulation of our oil industry The relationship of oil to financial markets The economics of exhaustible resources New Zealand's involvement with international efforts to promote oil security.

You can download this publication from - it is a 5 MByte PDF file. It is intended for people who know little about the industry, but are interested. It is not a Peak Oil Primer, but is written by people who appear to grasp many of the issues - it attempts to provide balanced information about the industry and the future. I don't agree with everything said (I have notable issues with the section on hydrogen), but I found the document well worth the download.

The Australian - Oil rebound may signal pullback over
With volatility like this, you would need nerves of steel to be speculating in oil futures right now

OIL futures rebounded as an unexpectedly large draw in petrol inventories underscored the resilience of US demand

The Age - Eddington critics 'bonkers': Connex chief

The head of Connex says critics of Sir Rod Eddington's $7 billion proposal to build a rail line running from Footscray to Caulfield are "bonkers".

NZ Herald - Brian Fallow: Peace at the pumps won't last long
A fairly detailed discussion:

For oil-importing countries, an oil shock of the kind which has occurred over the past four years is wholly bad news. It drives up inflation and by crowding out spending on other things retards growth.

Smart Company - Saving tax on fuel used in a business

This might seem a bit “left field” in a tax sense, but a tax is a tax is a tax – and that includes fuel tax. If fuel tax can be saved, that’s a saving for any business.

So why am I talking about fuel tax? Well, because since 1 July 2008, many SMEs may for the first time been eligible to save on their tax bill via a fuel tax credit.

A short one today. That should give you time to look at the New Zealand oil primer:

Anyone hear qualified to comment on the possibilities for using pumped storage with seawater in Australia?

As in, any reason we couldn't build giant wind farms along coastal cliff tops, with giant water basins at the top of cliffs, with the wind turbines pumping water into the basins and hydro turbines generating electricity as it flows back out?

Obviously there's issues with scale, corrosion, environmental impacts etc. etc., but does it at least sound feasible?

Its possible and the idea has some consideration elsewhere.

Personally I think its worth investigating further - not sure how wind + pumped sea water storage compares to CSP + storage or wind + hydrogen, as examples of alternatives.

See here for some thoughts and links:

I think the biggest obstacle would be the NIMBY and BANANA and the eco-naturalist greenies. Salt water is nasty stuff and the last thing you want to do is risk any more salt escaping into agricultural land.

Of course if it could be desalinated first and sent to the interior, generating power along the way, it would get a much better reception. my feelings are that it is really only hydro storage that is scalable to make Solar CSP or wind viable.

The limiting factor is always going to be having the storages big enough to both store the water as it goes up and back down the hill. Leaving enough airspace in a large dam is necessary to allow for rain events and you still need to have a certain amount of throughput to keep downstream rivers supplied.

The Snowy Scheme is largely about water security rather than power generation but it could be utlised better if it had a reliable source of water such as from large scale desal. This would allow it to release water for irrigation when its needed rather than releasing or keeping water in storage for power generation only.

You don't pump the salt water inland - you build an artifcial "island" (actually the reverse of an island) on the coastline - pump the water out (into the sea) then let it run back in again when your wind or tidal or wave or solar power plant isn't generating and grid prices are good. Farmer resistance should be non-existant and greenie opposition limited.

Looking at other storage options, pumped hydro is just one alternative - CSP plants use molten salt or graphite (or just hot water, in Ausra's case) to store energy in the form of heat. There are wind power projects using compressed air and hydrogen as the energy storage mechanisms. Flow batteries seem to be getting used in a few applications now too.

Curious. Is there a reason that the tower structure of a wind turbine can't incorporate a large compressed air storage vessel?
And instead of generating electricity (using wind) to drive a compressor, why, if we want to store compressed air cant we just disengage the generator - and engage a compressor on the same shaft?
Anybody with thoughts?

On the pumped storage. The head of water is critical.. although different turbine designs can be used for low heads... you are going to have to move a greater volume.

As it happens there's highly educational new post over on the Canadian TOD page which talks about the efficiency of compressed air energy storage.

Using a turbine tower as a great big air cylinder is a good bit of lateral thinking, but as the Canadians discuss at length, the efficient storage of compressed air requires multi-stage compression and efficient secondary storage for the enormous waste heat, such as firebrick heat-sink structures.

This is still not out of the question, and maybe a neat design could be dreamed up that could fit say ten air tanks inside the tower along with associated piping and heat sinks, and make the whole thing work reliably several kilometres offshore, but as you can see, this is much more complex than your original concept.

Perhaps we couldjust use an existing natural structure like Sydney Harbour. No farmers to upset!

I wonder if you could use abandoned mines as hydro reservoirs. You could pump water out when the wind blows and then run it back into the hole to run a turbine. I mean there are two hundred years of coal mines under the hunter valley alone, surely there must be some gigantic spaces down there.

Re the Victorian fast trains. $26 Million per train???? You've got to be joking.

This penny-packet purchasing of transport infrastructure by each State has got to stop! The economies of scale obviously suck if the purchase quantities are as small as nine trains.

All the States are going to need lots and lots of trains in the future. And they'll need them produced quickly and above all cheaply.

Somebody should start knocking heads together so that we only have large, steady orders of standardised, efficient trains being produced in one specialist factory. (Yes I realise that the gauges are different between States, thanks to the famous shortsightedness of politicians over 100 years ago, but in Japan I've ridden on bullet trains that actually change gauge as you go along!)

My favourite solution would be to abolish State Governments all together...

$26 Million per train???? You've got to be joking.

Hey, that would only buy you 500 metres of highway here in Victoria. EastLink was $2,500 million for 45km.

The ripoffs of mass transit are nothing compared to those for roads...

Yes, that comparison should wake people up... especially when you add on top of that the extra maintenance cost you have just created by building that highway.

My cynical take on the whole "black spot" road campaigns is that with a few exceptions (with speed or drink being big factors in a lot of accidents) the black spot improvements just move the fatalities down the road a bit... and the cycle repeats.

Kiashu, I feel your pain. NSW shelled out $1.1B for the Lane Cove Tunnel, and that's only 3.6km long!

After a string of construction stuff-ups and surface-road funnelling controversies, now we find that the whole bloody enterprise is a financial basket case.

Oh well, I suppose these tunnels will make nice cycleways once petrol is up to $8 per litre.

We have more boondoggles along the way. They plan to spend $9 billion on an underground rail tunnel between two stations people never want to go between... no doubt they will claim this is big spending on public transport... But I think it's more to do with the $9 billion road tunnel they plan to build... Sir Rod Eddington, thanks very bloody much.

All we want is new management of the rail system. 270 million passengers annually in 1950 when signalling was a guy with a stick poking a switch sign and track changes were a guy with a crowbar and communications were rotary dial telephones, and 190 million passengers in 2007 and the management claims "we're at capacity!" Is that system capacity or management capacity.


They need someone like Gordon Ramsay to come in and sort them out.

If petrol gets to $8 per litre there will plenty of roads above the ground carrying much less motor vehicle traffic which will make for a much more pleasant ride than cycling down a tunnel.
Instead maybe it will be turned into a railway tunnel as part of a more direct rail link between Macquarie Park and St Leonards.

It's not just passenger trains the suffer from this sort of thinking. Rail freight companies often only order a dozen or so of a particular locomotive type, which keeps the per-unit cost up.
In the US, GE and EMC (nee EMD) offer a handful of locomotive types, with customer-specific additions (like number and location of headlights, for example). Here in OZ, every new order is for another new type of locomotive, and each with a different chassis/body/control system/engine. It's insane. With the locomotive power shortage we're seeing atm (primarily caused by the continued use of museaum pieces on mainline freights), it's make sense for QR/PN/SCT/CFCLA, or even the loco manufacturers, to build a hundred or so of a particular type and then rent them out. CFCLA already does this on a small scale, renting out their various loco types and wagons, but not nearly at the economy of scale needed to bring the per-unit cost down.