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pellets for European power plants

Post in 'The Green Room' started by RustyShackleford, Sep 25, 2013.

  1. RustyShackleford

    RustyShackleford Minister of Fire

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    I didn't even know this existed, until I was forwarded a link to an op-ed written by a local acquaintance. Here is it and a couple other relevant articles:

    http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/09/24/3224721/nc-trees-are-not-trash-wood-pellets.html

    http://www.nrdc.org/media/2013/130827a.asp

    I thought about posting this to the Pellets forum, but figured it'd just start a sh*tstorm there, and I have no idea if the pellets sold for pellet stoves are manufactured in as an (apparently) environmentally irresponsible manner.

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Sure doesn't seem terribly efficient or eco-friendly to manufacture here and ship there.
  3. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Its a lot easier to ship pellets than liquefied natural gas, and they're talking about that as well.

    I hate it. Now that the pellet/ chip mills are sucking up the grapple loads you can't get a truck to stop at your house.
  4. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    This quote from the first link:
    "In fact, the most recent data show that burning whole trees is worse (per unit of energy) for the environment than burning fossil fuels like coal."

    I'd sure like to see the stats behind that claim. Its hard to imagine how use of a fossil fuel would ever be more sustainable than use of a renewable fuel like trees, basically captured carbon and sunlight.
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2013
    BoilerMan likes this.
  5. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    The problem with terms like "worse for the environment" is that everyone has their own interpretation of such. You are focused on sustainability, whereas I assume the author was focused on air quality.
  6. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Local air quality only? Freighters burning bunker fuel are very dirty burners.
  7. pdf27

    pdf27 Member

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    The theory (at least the one I've seen) doesn't apply to coal. It is that if you burn natural gas rather than wood then use the trees for something that ensures the wood doesn't rot (e.g. build houses out of it) then total CO2 emissions to the atmosphere are lower than burning the wood and leaving the gas in the ground.

    http://www.aecb.net/wp-content/plugins/aecb-publication-library/librarian.php?id=336&file=337
  8. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    It seems like that would work for the short term, but you will eventually run out of places to store that carbon.
  9. krooser

    krooser Minister of Fire

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    This is nothing more than appeasing the current administrations Euro friends... they are also getting millions of gallons of our diesel fuel which helps keep our domestic fuel prices high... it's not about being eco-friendly. It's about money...
  10. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

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    cutting, trucking, debarking, grinding, reducing the chips to meal, extruding, drying, shipping, each stage is energy intensive and much of it is fueled by carbon releasing energy. Compared to just burning whole logs it gives much less of a carbon reduction.
    Much like the way ethanol looks like a great substitute for gas, unitl you compare the energy required to grow, harvest and convert corn into a less energy dense fuel. in that case it is almost negative on carbon reduction.
    As far as the hysteria about cutting the forrest, most of the US has been clear cut at least once, trees are a crop, there are more of them here today than when Columbus showed up.
    I was a pellethead, I liked employing locals with my fuel money, the big savings in heat bills (just about half of oil), the ease of loading the boiler (5 days per load). The rest doesn't matter to me.
    I burn wood now for the bigger savings in money. carbon is no issue to me, but young trees take in much more than old ones...
  11. RustyShackleford

    RustyShackleford Minister of Fire

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    "Our fuel prices high" ? What are you smoking ?
    woodgeek and Joful like this.
  12. RustyShackleford

    RustyShackleford Minister of Fire

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    So you have no grandchildren ?
  13. blades

    blades Minister of Fire

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    Yes, Rusty, fuel prices high, with the exception of natural gas, but you must remember some of us have very long memories and our perspectives differ greatly from the current yuppyisms. The base fuel price itself might not seem high but the added costs charged separately now essentially double it, where as before they were not separate items. Auto fuel is 100 times more expensive now than 30 years ago with 2/3 thirds of that increase occurring in the last ten years. I do not know anyone who has had a 75% increase in disposable income in the same time period.
    Wildo and BoilerMan like this.
  14. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

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    4 kids, not old enough for grandkids, they will be laughing at the carbon hoax, or suffering from the disaster the hoax caused to the economy
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  15. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Glad you caught that, Rusty. I suspect that statement is the perspective of someone who's not traveled too much outside our country. Back when we were paying $0.89/gal to fuel our cars, most of Europe was already paying $4.50 - $5.00/gal. Not looking to start a debate on why (taxes), but the fact is our fuel prices are very low, compared to much of the world.
  16. pdf27

    pdf27 Member

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    Errr... what actual effects is belief in global warming having on the US economy? So far as I can work out, apart from a negligible subsidy for wind farms there really isn't one.
    woodgeek likes this.
  17. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Cut the politics folks or this is headed for the can.

    FWIW I can remember this coming up a long time ago. We were shipping lots of pellets overseas for years including in the previous administration. It is not the govt. that is selling fuel to foreign countries, it is international companies which only care about their bottom line.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  18. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    If they don't worry about that bottom line they could go out of business. That leaves us without pellet manufacturers also, or at least not as much competition and that will drive prices up too. I'd rather them have the capacity to expand US sales when they come. If they use that capacity to sell to foreign markets so be it. The pellets are being made here so they are feeding US families.

    Matt
  19. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

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    the current continuing war on coal plants and coal production, ethanol in the gas, the EPA's ever increasing demands from manufacturing and industry. Most of it is driven by the carbon believers, and they are in both parties....
    the expense of all this regulation and gov't policy is drivng jobs to other countries. My kids and grandkids need jobs...
    BoilerMan likes this.
  20. pdf27

    pdf27 Member

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    The coal isn't being burnt because natural gas is currently so cheap in the US - American coal is by and large being exported to Europe, where it gets burnt in German coal fired power stations (European gas prices are MUCH higher than US prices). Ethanol in gasoline is a blatant farm subsidy masquerading as an environmental protection (burning it in cars shifts the balance between supply and demand, pushing the price up). The vast majority of the EPA regulations relate to SOx, NOx and the like, which have everything to do with air quality rather than global warming. There are some regulations relating to global warming, but they're actually pretty limited - and businesses spend a huge amount of money on fuel they tend to be early-adopters of the fuel-saving technologies which are the only way to get CO2 emissions down.

    If they're competing on price with the likes of China then unless they fancy working for a dollar a day then they're going to lose. If they aren't, then the cost of regulation gets lost in the noise. Blaming government regulations just causes people to ignore the real reasons for loss of competitiveness (lack of innovation, failing to focus on quality rather than price, responsiveness to customer needs, etc.). It is perfectly possible to build things more cheaply in a high cost economy than in China (I've been part of a project team doing so in the UK), but it's hard work and requires skill and ingenuity. If you just try to cut out costs or regulations here and there, they'll beat you.
    woodgeek and Frozen Canuck like this.
  21. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    The "war" on coal started long before carbon was even an issue when coal mining methods and stack emissions were identified as primary environmental polluters.
    Agreed, jobs are important but what at what expense? Think about the impact of mercury emissions on your grand kids alone. You probably don't "believe" that's a problem either.
    Broad stereotype I know, i live in coal country and observe cars with "Friends of Coal" on the bumper, smoking driver with kids in the car, usually no seatbelts. Its hard to believe they really give a crap about their kids, or anyone else's. I know, ingnorance, but still.
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  22. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I can't speak for today, but Germany used to have a very big coal mine industry of their own. I'm surprised to hear they're buying enough from us, to affect our homeland pricing.
  23. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Coal is still being mined. As pdf27 pointed out, we are burning gas more and more now. Gas is cheaper and with significantly lower emissions and associated health issues. We are still mining a lot of coal and exporting it in greatly increasing quantities.
    coal-quarterly_imports_exports.png

    For more info and full reports go here:
    http://www.eia.gov/coal/production/quarterly/
  24. pdf27

    pdf27 Member

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    That's the effect of fracking - Natural Gas in the US is now really, really cheap - enough so that burning coal for electricity is actually pretty marginally economic (nobody is going to build new coal plant, but running old plant just about works). Gas everywhere else is much more expensive - such that coal shipped from the US is cheaper than domestic natural gas, even for new plant. So far as coal mining in Germany goes, they aren't the only people to be burning US coal, but their own environmental regs are making coal mining (particularly opencast) harder so it's cheaper to import it. Remember that most US coal is opencast, while European coal tends to be deep pits (much more crowded countries making opencast pits more disruptive).

    Probably worth noting that European coal consumption is going to drop a lot over the next few years - lots of coal fired power stations are being closed rather than comply with the SOx/NOx/Particulate rules associated with the Large Combustion Plant directive. Something like half of the coal plant in the UK has either already closed or will by the end of this winter, and most of the rest is getting very elderly. After that goes, we're going to be running on nuclear, wind and gas.
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  25. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Also worth noting is the increase in coal sales to Asia which are now about 50% of what we sell to Europe and that number is growing quickly.

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