Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More Cooling from LNG Flowing

"Sempra LNG, a subsidiary of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, said on July 31 that its second North American LNG terminal, this one near Lake Charles, La., has begun commercial operations." And with that, LNG importing into the U.S. Gulf Coast now has 4 terminals operating, plus two under construction. The only LNG terminal on the West Coast is just south of San Diego, as Mexico has fewer qualms about operating an LNG facility than squeamish Californians. But, much of the re-vaporized natural gas is sent to California, where it is burned as fuel in low-emission power plants and used as transportation fuel.

The advent of numerous LNG receiving and vaporization terminals is great news for everyone, as this ensures a low price for natural gas for decades to come, plus ample supplies of clean-burning, reliable, safe, and versatile fuel. No other fuel can match the versatility of natural gas, as it is used for power plants that are base loaded, also load following, also peak load service, for heating in homes, cooking in homes, process heating in industry, and as a chemical raw material for indispensible products such as ammonia for fertilizers, and industrial hydrogen. Natural gas is also used directly as a transportation fuel in cars, trucks, and buses. Natural gas is so abundant and so cheap that there are plants that convert it into synthetic diesel.

Even though the US has discovered and is exploiting huge deposits of natural gas from shale formations, it continues to be economic to import LNG from overseas. Some is from the Middle East, but other areas also have vast deposits of natural gas and convert the gas to LNG for export. Trinidad and Tobago have LNG plants, and so does Australia.

The re-gasification process requires heat input, or, stated another way, the environment cools somewhat around LNG re-gasification.

Natural gas: a safe, clean, non-toxic, abundant, low-cost, fuel that is welcome around the world, and serves as a political buffer to those European nations that suffered last winter from threats and actual shut-offs of natural gas from Russia. Plus, no one has ever been irradiated from natural gas, unlike toxic nuclear fission power plants. No natural gas furnace or gas turbine needs de-contamination after its useful life is over, as do nuclear power plants. When a natural gas power plant reaches the end of its useful life, workers in normal safety attire take the plant apart, bolt by bolt, and send the parts and pieces off to recycling. Production of natural gas does not forever poison the production site, unlike yellow cake for uranium that is used as nuclear fission fuel.

And, no plutonium is created by natural gas combustion.

Why would anyone want to build any other kind of power plant than natural gas? Especially one of the nuclear fission variety that costs 6 times as much, takes 3 or 4 times as long to build, and must charge triple or quadruple the price for the power produced? Nuclear power plants easily cost $10,000 per kW, while natural gas plants cost $1500 per kW. Also, new nuclear power plants under construction attract opposition group lawsuits the way bees are drawn to honey.

The kicker in modern times, though, may be the lower water consumption from a natural gas fired power plant, compared to the vast quantities of water required by a nuclear power plant. On an equal power output basis, a nuclear power plant will require twice as much water due to the inherently inefficient use of heat in the nuclear power plant.

Natural gas. The only logical choice.

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