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Pickens’ natural gas plan makes no sense and will never happen

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"Pickens’ natural gas plan makes no sense and will never happen"

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[Climate Progress has covered the Pickens Plan many times since Memo to T. Boone Pickens: Your energy plan is half-brilliant, half-dumb. Here Earl Killian makes a strong analytical case that the "half-dumb" part of the plan is in fact a wasteful, wildly impractical -- if not outright absurd -- distraction.]

Thomas Boone Pickens is a billionaire who made his money in oil and corporate takeovers. He began investing in natural gas in 1997, and in wind power in 2007. In 2008, he went public with the Pickens Plan via a website and a well funded advertising campaign. Here we analyze the Pickens Plan, as presented here, which begins by correctly observing:

America is addicted to foreign oil. It’s an addiction that threatens our economy, our environment and our national security.

The Pickens Plan as presented consists of two parts:

  1. Take the natural gas that we currently use to generate electricity in the U.S., and use it to fuel transportation instead, and
  2. Build wind power to produce the electricity lost in step 1.

The Plan As Presented — CNG vs. Electricity

The plan is not spelled out in detail, and already appears that it is being interpreted or misinterpreted to be whatever listeners want it to be. Let us for the moment accept this plan as presented, and look at what it means.

The Department of Energy (DOE)’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) publication Electric Power Annual 2006 has most of the information needed. Table ES1 has the power generated from Natural Gas (NG) as 813 Tera Watt hours (TWh, or million Megawatt hours). It gives the NG consumed as fuel for that as 6,869,624 million cubic feet (ft3). From these two numbers and the energy content of NG (its Lower Heating Value, or LHV) of 301 Wh/ft3, we can calculate the efficiency of generation as 39%. New Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) plants are up to 60% efficient in comparison, e.g. the GE H-System turbines and the Siemens Gas Turbine SGT5-8000H, but there are many older non-Combined-Cycle plants out there.

So Mr. Pickens proposes to divert 6,869,624 million ft3 of NG (about 20% of NG usage in the US) from generating electricity, and use it for transportation. In place of those NG power plants, Mr. Pickens proposes that we build wind turbines sufficient to generate at least 813 TWh/year. I say at least that much wind, because it is difficult for wind to substitute for NG electricity. NG power plants are often used to fill in gaps between supply and demand on the grid. Such “peakers” must quickly turn on and generate power whenever there is a mismatch. Wind on the other hand generates based upon weather, not the directives of grid engineers. Mr. Pickens does not spell out on his webpage how this mismatch is to be rectified. Nonetheless, let us proceed with a simple 813 TWh/year of wind.

We now compare how much of US passenger vehicle travel can be powered by 813 TWh of electricity and by 6,869,624 million ft3 of NG. To estimate the latter, go to http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/sbs.htm and click on first 2008, then Honda, then Civic CNG. You see 28 MPG, and the footnote

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is normally dispensed in “equivalent gallons” where one “equivalent gallon” is equals to 121.5 cubic feet of CNG. The fuel economy for natural gas vehicles is shown in miles per gallon-equivalent.

So dividing 28 by 121.5 you get 0.23 miles per ft3. So if you take the Table ES1 NG quantity, and multiply by 0.23 you get 1,588 trillion miles. That is 57% of the 2.76 trillion passenger vehicle miles traveled in the US in 2005. This is only for vehicles as small and aerodynamic as a Honda Civic; a smaller percentage of the US fleet could be powered by CNG. The rest would be presumably powered by gasoline under the Pickens Plan.

Now let’s estimate miles that could be powered by electricity. A Lithium-Ion EV the size of the Honda Civic CNG should require at most 250 Watt hours per mile (Wh/mi) at the garage plug, probably less. At the power plant that is 270 Wh/mi. So take the 813 TWh, divide by 270 Wh/mi, and you get 3.01 trillion miles, which is 109% of the 2.76 trillion miles driven in the US in 2005.

Which would you choose, 57% or 109%? It seems pretty straightforward that electric vehicles beat CNG vehicles almost 2:1, even using existing NG power plants. If the US upgraded its NG power plants to be 60% efficient, instead of 39% efficient, we would have 54% more TWh, or even better, use less 35% less NG.

Most importantly, while 813 TWh/year of wind energy would have a hard time substituting for 813 TWh/year of NG energy, because of intermittency. There are ways to address this, primarily by linking wind to hydro and solar, and building excess wind. However, intermittency would not be a problem for charging EVs. In a build-out of this scale, smart grid technology would be used to make sure that EVs wait to charge when wind power is producing beyond what the grid requires, and that they throttle back on charging when there is a lull in wind. This makes EVs an excellent consumer of wind energy. A vehicle driven 12,500 miles per year averages 34 miles per day of recharge, or 8,562 Wh at the plug. For a 208V, 32A circuit, this charge can be accomplished in just 1.2 hours. Since the vehicle is plugged in for approximately 9 hours a night, this represents flexibility to respond to wind conditions. If the wind fails to provide enough energy all night long, then either vehicles can remain undercharged (for PHEVs this just means using a little more gasoline), or for vehicles that require a full recharge for the next days usage, the NG “peakers” could be used at night to meet the demand (normally “peakers” are completely unused at night).

It seems particularly foolish to propose a massive infrastructure change to a fuel as inefficient as CNG. If we are to change technology, it is time to abandon Internal Combustion Engines, not change from one fossil fuel to another.

The Real Pickens Plan

Perhaps you noticed the really strange thing about the Pickens Plan. It calls for us to shut down all the NG power plants in the US. The investors in those plants would surely object. Politically, it would be necessary for the US to compensate them. In essence the US would have to buy the plants to shut them down. How likely is this? Moreover, how likely is the US to transition such a large fraction of its fleet to NG? If this part of the plan is unlikely, why is Mr. Pickens proposing it? What is the likely outcome of making this proposal?

What Mr. Pickens likely expects to happen from his proposal is: (1) get Congress to renew the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), and (2) convince a few additional Americans to use NG as a transportation fuel.

Renewal of the PTC is an urgent priority for the US, and Mr. Pickens plan could well succeed in unblocking Republican opposition to the PTC in Congress (the Senate has just done so on a 93-2 vote). The wind and solar industries in this country need a stable environment to receive private investment, but unfortunately Congress just barely manages to extend the PTC for a single year at a time, creating uncertainty for renewable energy investors, and slowing private investment here. As a wind investor, Mr. Pickens stands to benefit from a PTC extension. Thus half of the Pickens Plan is good for the Earth, for the US, and for Mr. Pickens.

The second half of the plan is to increase demand for NG by convincing more Americans to use it as a transportation fuel. As discussed above, the US is unlikely to close any NG power plants, so this has the effect of increasing total demand for NG in North America, and thus increasing the price. As an investor in NG, Mr. Pickens stands to profit from any increase in NG demand and price. This half of the plan is good for Mr. Pickens, but bad for the Earth and the US.

Climate progress readers already know that electric transportation is the answer to the multitude of problems facing the US and the world, including Peak Oil, Global Warming, national security, and economic security. The Pickens Plan is a diversion from electric transportation that wastes time.

–Earl K.

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68 Responses to Pickens’ natural gas plan makes no sense and will never happen

  1. Larry Coleman says:

    To paraphrase ClimateProgress, this posting is half brilliant and half brilliant. Killian’s analysis is clear and unassailable. A measure of the level of debate in this country will be whether clear-eyed analyses like this one drive policy, or whether politics-as-usual and sound bites do.

  2. charlie says:

    My reading of the “Pickens” plan is the CNG would be used for fleet and trucking. I would be glad to get those dirty diesels off the road, especially in cities.

  3. Scott Greenstein says:

    Look up the company on the Nasdaq – CLNE – this is Picken’s company that has the Clean Energy Fuels stations scattered across the country. His idea is real and some consumers have embraced it.

    However, he is a blabbering idiot that is only interested in pumping up his stock price to profit for himself. Natural gas is “cheap” now because the demand story is weak but if we increase demand by canceling natural gas plants and replace them with NG cars (the use in cars may be more efficient, but would over power the demand from gas plants), the price will follow. How can anyone argue any fossil fuel is “plentiful”? Don’t we all remember natural gas was “plentiful” at $1/decatherm? Now its $7 after reaching $13/decatherm only a few months ago. This is ridiculous. In addition, what he doesn’t say is that LNG and other sources of gas come from THE MIDDLE EAST. Isn’t that what we are trying to avoid here?

    We should be pushing products that will NEVER be dependent on foreign entities. Screw those people. We should be pushing battery and other technologies that allow for truly domestic industries to flourish. How about this novel idea? Solar to PHEV! You can plug in your car to a socket that is entirely powered by the sun. That suffices the argument against me that PHEV will increase electricity demand, well duh! We should endorse a “demand reduction” campaign so that people will learn how to TRULY be efficient with energy use (ie products that don’t suck the life out of your electric bill (aka wallet) and teach people that just changing out lightbulbs is minuscule compared to what can really be accomplished with efficiency), and push solar financing. Solar financing can benefit the mortgage market, can reduce electricity use on the grid, can increase electricity grid inflow (excess power from home/ commercial solar), can increase home value, and finally, can reduce the need to keep building new plants!

    The reason he is on the wind kick is because his stupid Texas elite friends (no offense to normal Texans) want the excess wind from the state to be transported to where the electricity demand is greatest. Texas overbuilt wind, it’s a fact. In addition, Texas can’t export electricity out of the state due to the transmission association that is called ERCOT.

    Don’t people realize that you can’t solve an oil problem with electricity, two different topics. I just wish people like Boonie would do their due diligence before coming up with a completely asinine plan.

  4. Earl Killian says:

    charlie, if The Pickens Plan is about trucking, then why doesn’t it say so on the webpage? Why does the webpage use the Honda Civic as an example? This is what I meant when I wrote that the plan “already appears that it is being interpreted or misinterpreted to be whatever listeners want it to be.”

  5. Drew L says:

    Earl, thank you for this great review and analysis.

    I would love to see you analyze the other mainstream energy plans as well. With the various proposals out there today, I am struggling with which is the best step forward. And it’s clear that I am not the only one. We need a consensus.

    Can we all agree that solving the energy climate crisis begins with the agreement on a plan?

  6. Ronald says:

    Good writeup on the plan.

    But Pickens has always said in his interviews that he wants to replace diesel trucks with natural gas.

    Also on his website: ‘The Pickens Plan is a bridge to the future-a blueprint to reduce foreign oil dependence by harnessing domestic energy alternatives, and buy us the time to develop even greater new technologies’

    The website doesn’t say what those greater new technologies are, but that might include batteries with greater capacities tan those we have now.

    With Pickens coming out with his Pickens Plan, it’s given alot of people ideas of a different future and other ways of doing things. It’s legitimized wind power those people who would’ve thought that wind power was just for enviro’s and could be pushed by an oil man.

    The Pickens Plan can be implemented faster than all those batteries and battery cars can be built and because of that, it could same hundreds of billions of dollars going to the United States instead of other countries, just as the plan says.

    The Pickens Plan ca

  7. Joe says:

    Yes, Pickens also told me that he wants to use of natural gas for fleets and big trucks. The problem is that a bunch of fleets already use natural gas and you’re just never going to make a big dent in US oil consumption and the trade deficit by focusing on those two areas.

    Pickens keeps complaining that we are going to have a $7 trillion trade deficit in oil over the next decade unless we make radical change. Fleets and big trucks ain’t radical change. If all we did was the Pickens plan, I seriously doubt we would even lop $1 trillion off the cumulative trade deficit.

  8. Dan says:

    I think the value of a Pickens-style plan is that it provides an alternative to petroleum for fleets and long-haul trucking. When combined with the electrification of passenger vehicles, increasing the amount of renewable energy on the grid and moving to domestically-produced natural gas for big trucks certainly would have a marked effect on reducing our trade deficit and reining in GHG emissions. We would need to keep some NG for use in the electricity sector for peak-load capacity.

    Joe– you have any stats on the % of large trucks that already use natural gas? I was under the impression that it wasn’t overwhelming.

  9. Earl Killian says:

    Ronald, I too am thankful for the attention that Pickens has focused on wind, but I think the CNG portion is misguided. Do you really think the US is going to shut down its NG plants? If it doesn’t, then it will have to import LNG from Russia (27% of reserves), Iran (15%), and Qatar (15%). (North America in contrast has something like 3-4% of reserves–these numbers are from memory, so look it up if you want to be sure.) That does nothing for the trade deficit or dependence on foreign governments.

  10. Earl Killian says:

    Dan, but where is the CNG for these diesel fleets going to come from? See my reply to Ronald above.

  11. Dan says:

    My understanding is that it will come from the natural gas that is displaced due to increased wind penetration. I agree with you that displacing 6 quads of natural gas is unrealistic, but it certainly is possible to back off some portion of that for heavy transportation and other high-value uses (home heating, fertilizer, etc)… Obviously some NG plants will be needed for peaking.

    I also agree with you that it will be difficult to get NG investors and operators on board, but I don’t share your cynicism that this is an effort to raise the price of NG.

  12. Earl Killian says:

    Dan, what little detail there is on The Pickens Plan says, “better utilizing our natural gas resources can replace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports in 10 years.” Let’s do the numbers. In 2007 we imported 4,915,957,000 barrels of crude oil. One-third of this would be 68,823,398,000 gallons of crude. The refineries in the US yielded from crude, 45.5% gasoline and 26.1% diesel. So we’ve got to eliminate 31,314,646,090 gallons of gasoline, and 17,962,906,878 gallons of diesel. That gasoline is the equivalent of 3,804,729,499,935 cubic feet of NG or 55% of the NG used in U.S. power plants. That is the story we are being sold by Pickens. Now, tell me how you think that we are going to cut NG use in U.S. power plants by more than 55%?

    I think the numbers make it clear we’re not just talking about trucking here. Trucks don’t run on gasoline. You’ve got to save more than 31 billion gallons of gasoline to reduce imports by “more than one-third”.

  13. David B. Benson says:

    A recent Univ. Maine study stated that providing food for algae to make biodiesel would take about 13% of croplands in the U.S. So I suppose we’ll still have diesel trucks; biodiesel trucks.

  14. Earl Killian says:

    David Benson, unfortunately black carbon (produced by burning diesel, even biodiesel) is a greenhouse pollutant.

  15. Ronald says:

    Maybe the Pickens Plan is only (only) a trillion dollar plan. That’s what his website says somewhere, that 20 percent of electrical power could be produced with windpower in 10 years and would cost about a trillion dollars. An additional 200 billion for the transmission lines.

    If you don’t like the Pickens Plan because Natural Gas power plants aren’t going to allow their plants to be idle, then you must really think the Gore Plan of 100 percent renewables in 10 years is stupid. Or that it would ever happen.

    Maybe it will deplete the Natural Gas faster and increase the cost, but then we’d have to start building more Ground Source Heat Pumps and installing them in buildings quicker along with the renewables to power them. We’d still be using less oil from foreign countries in the near future.

    Like it or not, the Pickens Plan would be a good start and the better start so far on the Forever Plan, where everything can run off the grid instead of carbon fuels and then as much of the electrical grid as possible is supplied with non-carbon fuel power. Try to add to the Pickens Plan instead of taking away from it.

    Why does this matter? Politics. I’d like everything to be the ‘makes most sense way,’ but people aren’t willing to wait for that. If we don’t do and advocate for the people who are living and working today, people will vote and buy from somebody else. Getting nationalistic can help put up renewable power. Getting immediate about people’s needs, jobs and earnings now can also help. American jobs and earnings now. Isn’t that the drill, drill, drill message?

    Maybe we should write about how the Pickens Plan and the Gore Plan can all be turned into the Forever Plan.

  16. David B. Benson says:

    Earl Killian — Yes, I know. The exhaust can be filtered, at a rather high efficiency cost.

    Even without that, I suspect that biodiesel is less damaging than burning yet more natural gas.

    Oh well, the world will soon run out of natural gas, nomatterwhat.

  17. Earl Killian says:

    Ronald, I believe we will eventually have to close the NG plants, but closing the coal plants is a far more urgent priority. Pickens gets the order seriously backward. Moreover, when it does come time to close the NG plants, it will be for a reason far more powerful than we need to the NG for inefficient transportation.

    Ronald wrote, “Try to add to the Pickens Plan instead of taking away from it.

    Why shouldn’t we get it right the first time, instead of doing something stupid and then trying to fix it later? That just wastes time.

    Ronald wrote, “but people aren’t willing to wait for that.

    In case you haven’t noticed, plug-in vehicles and announcements are running 10:1 over CNG vehicles and and announcements. The thing that you will wait for is the Pickens Plan. You’ll be able to drive on electricity directly before you can drive on CNG, unless you get a Civic.

  18. Dan says:

    First, that while wind power is intermittent, if the wind generators are spread out over a very big area, like the American prairies the wind is blowing hard in at least 2/3 of the places at any one time. That is what a grid is for.

    As well, wind turbines can be used to compress air to be stored in depleted natural gas fields, to be used to power turbines when the wind is not blowing.

    Electric cars are not practical in the northern tier states because THEY DO NOT HAVE HEATERS! Electric heaters in the cars would make the battery die a lot sooner. Also, when it is very cold, batteries cannot release as much energy as in a warm climate. Same for A/C. Of course you could put a gasoline burning heater in the electric cars and just live without A/C in the summer.
    [EK: This paragraph is completely untrue. Response in separate comment below.]

    Natural gas powered vehicles have heaters, A/C and plenty of power, just like now. That is, they are suitable for all climates and we need not sacrifica any performance. That is, they are cars people will actually want to buy. Electric cars are only usable in a small part of the country. And gas can be sent all over with only a small fraction of the transmission losses of electricity. You can lose up to 30% of the energy in transmission losses with electricity.

    Almot any car on the market can be converted to run on natural gas. For example, in Canada, virtually all the taxis there run on natural gas already. In Orange Couty CA, the city usses run on gas.

    As well, natural gas, also known as methane, can be generated from bio sources without using food crops.

    These are merely engineering problems. They are merely difficult, not impossible to overcome. We engineers love to solve problems and this is just one that needs the political will to stitch together and co-ordinate so that private companies can find the solutions.

  19. Cyril R. says:

    My reading of the “Pickens” plan is the CNG would be used for fleet and trucking. I would be glad to get those dirty diesels off the road, especially in cities.

    If you’re worried about that, then for 1-2k per vehicle you can have high performance NOX and particulate abatement controls. Much cheaper than NG retrofits and doesn’t need new infrastructure.

    There have to be other clear benefits. Replacing one imported fuel with another is not a good idea, and should only be done when domestic energy isn’t practical. That’s not true, for most transportation needs, electricity works just fine. Plugin-hybrids are a no-compromise option, and as Earl shows us, even when NG is used to generate electricity, EVs use much less of it.

    So the question is: are we going to make the infrastructure investments for niche transportation applications like long-range trucking? Or might we just as well build an entire fast charge electrical infrastructure, engage in a crash program for more electrified rail, and skip the transitional methane phase?

    What is not clear to me is that an automotive NG fuel switch is easier and faster than electrification. Sure, you can convert a gasoline ICE to methane quite easily. And yes, there are extensive NG pipelines all over the US. However the NG vehicle refuelling infrastructure itself will take decades to build. Surely, an electrified extensive railsystem and plugin-hybrid fast charge infrastructure can be build in such a timeframe. This is an important aspect, because electric is so much better in the end. Do we really need the transitional NG vehicle phase?

    Then there is the market effect of increasing NG demand. Price goes up.

    If we do decide to go for methane, then I suggest it be produced domestically – which would require heavily subsidizing biogas and coal to methane plants, but would easily be justified by a quick calculation on the effect on the trade balance. The CO2 has to be offset or sequestered, of course. Trees, terra preta, olivine sequestration, that seems manageable and at a reasonable cost.

  20. Cyril R. says:

    Earl Killian — Yes, I know. The exhaust can be filtered, at a rather high efficiency cost.

    Poppycock! New systems already in use use less than one percent of the vehicles’ normal energy requirements. NOX rare metal catalysts are cheap and use a bit of the heat that would otherwise be wasted anyway. Particulate filters require a tiny amount of power due to increased resistance of the filters.

  21. Earl Killian says:

    Just to clarify, the comment cited in Cyril’s comment above was David Benson’s, not mine.

    I don’t know much about the efficiency of diesel soot filters except that Mark Jacobson in his testimony on black carbon before a House committee wrote:

    Although controlling soot emissions from existing diesel engines is beneficial for reducing particle emissions, the addition of a trap decreases mileage, thus increases the carbon dioxide emissions from such vehicles by 3.5-8.5%.

    He cites three references for this paragraph, which you can lookup in his written testimony.

  22. Earl Killian says:

    Dan wrote, “Electric cars are not practical in the northern tier states because THEY DO NOT HAVE HEATERS! Electric heaters in the cars would make the battery die a lot sooner. Also, when it is very cold, batteries cannot release as much energy as in a warm climate. Same for A/C. Of course you could put a gasoline burning heater in the electric cars and just live without A/C in the summer.

    Why would you post such disinformation? What you wrote is utterly untrue.

    We have two electric cars in our garage, and both have heaters and AC, so I know what I’m talking about, whereas you are simply making up BS. Estimates by RAV4-EV drivers are that the AC and heater consume about 5-7% more power than normal operation. (The RAV4-EV uses an electric heat pump for heating and cooling.)

    Even hobbyist conversion EVs tend to have heaters. See Darryl McMahon’s comment at http://climateprogress.org/2008/07/11/plug-in-hybrid-faq/ about his 30 years of experience driving EVs in Ottawa, Canada.

  23. Cyril R. says:

    Earl, older systems have larger parasitic loads, but there has been a lot of research in more efficient and cost-effective particulate filters lately. From the EERE, you can see that advanced filters have negligible impact on fuel economy.

  24. Cyril R. says:

    Earl, apologies for making that quote look like it was yours. Don’t worry, readers will know that Earl Killian doesn’t make such blanket statements.

    Earl, have you considered running for Secretary of Energy during the next presidency?

  25. Cyril R. says:

    About vehicle heating needs. It’s not difficult to power these using the waste heat from the battery and electric motor. Cooling is more difficult, but advanced, compact absorption chilling is being investigated for ICE cars. The foam evaporator designs work very well in tests. Even with the EV’s lower grade heat, suitable refrigerants and systems look doable.

    And 5-7 percent isn’t a whole lot to begin with anyways.

  26. Earl Killian says:

    Cyril R, that’s a nice link on filters. I wonder what has happened since 2006?

    I was hoping Art Rosenfeld or Joe Romm would take the Secretary of Energy job.

  27. Cyril R. says:

    Very simple things have happened since 2006. Like advanced geometries with higher specific volumetric surface area making for a more compact design. Very simple things that reduce the parasitic load a lot, while making the filter system cheaper.

    Many older systems on the road are less efficient, but it’s not a huge stretch to think that the more efficient and compact systems will dominate in the future (especially with today’s high oil prices).

  28. David B. Benson says:

    Cyril R. — Thanks for the link. Can these be used on diesel powered boats and ocean vessels?

    I’m not so sure about truck economics, but 5–7% is a killer for ocean vessels.

    (and anyway, I was using the same source as Earl Killian, without remebering just where I had seen it.)

  29. Ronald says:

    Earl,

    You wrote that the coal plants should be shut down before the NG plants. probably true in a global warming reason. But not because of an economic reason. And that goes to what we need as part of a national energy program.

    What happened to real estate inductry? Some people could make money selling subprime mortages, if the those with the mortgage paid up, the lender made money, if those with the mortgage didn’t pay up, the lender made money because they could sell the house later for a larger profit. If everybody started to do it, a tipping point or people who couldn’t pay the mortgage and unsold housed occurred and the whole real estate market would be flooded with to much housing real estate.

    What is happening with biofuels? 30 percent of our corn goes to make 3 percent of gasoline type transportation fuel and we have some increase in food prices. If everybody started to do it, 100 percent of our corn to make 10 percent gasoline type fuels, we’ll have much greater increased food prices.

    What that has to do with natural gas and coal is that natural gas is to valuable to use to make electricity. Natural gas is versatile and can be in small burners, small and large furnaces to heat water in homes, heat individual houses and for heating in industrial processes. Coal not so easy to use every where. Its ok for some to use natural gas for electricity, at 20 percent of total elec. production, but if everybody started to use natural gas for elec. production instead of coal, we would be using natural gas for 70 percent of our electrical production and run out of it so much quicker. Which is why California sometimes pats itself on the back for using so much natural gas for elec. production instead of dirty coal, if everybody did it, we would more quickly come to fuel limits and economic problems.

    Even though we might like to shut down coal plants before the natural gas plants because of global warming, economically it makes more sense to shut down the natural gas plants first because of the valuable versitile advantages of natural gas over coal.

  30. Ronald says:

    The Pickens Plan is more than just about Btu’s and efficiency rates. It’s about how we pay for these things. By not having as much money going to other countries. That’s how we can pay for these wind turbines that are going up, by keeping more of the money here in the United States.

    It’ll give a big boost to our economy if we could lower the cost of diesel in the United States for our truckers and shippers all accross the country. We do that by substituting natural gas for diesel fuel in fleet trucks and buses. We can also do that by increasing house insulation, increase the use of ground source heat pumps instead of fuel oil to heat homes. That fuel oil could have instead been made into diesel fuel.

    Here’s a website about trucks and buses that run on CNG that are already operating and there sure can be more built. And from that fuel substitution to only buy from the United States we might be able to pay for more renewables.

  31. Ronald says:

    didn’t get the website on that one.

    here.

    http://www.cleanenergyfuels.com/main.html

    keep America strong.

  32. Earl Killian says:

    Ronald, but plug-in vehicles are an even better solution to the balance of trade problem than CNG. It is the CNG portion of the plan that is being criticized because it is inferior to using the wind electricity directly to fuel transportation.

  33. Earl Killian says:

    Ronald wrote, “natural gas is to valuable to use to make electricity.

    Turn this around and you’ll find it is too valuable to burn in internal combustion engines, because they are too inefficient. In my example, burning NG in NGCC plant and shipping the electricity over the grid to plug-ins results in one-half to one-third as much NG burned.

    Ronald wrote, “economically it makes more sense to shut down the natural gas plants first because of the valuable versitile advantages of natural gas over coal.

    You forget that economically coal plants cannot operate without NG. Baseload technologies require associated “peaking” power plants. Today that is NG. If you remove NG from the grid, you get rid of most of the peakers. The existing coal and nuclear power plants then cannot do the job.

    In contrast, using wind for plug-ins is a great match, as argued in the post.

  34. Ronald says:

    What Pickens Plan is about is using the natural gas as a substitute for diesel fuel in fleet truck sales. The way to pay for that is put up windturbines instead of buying all that oil to make diesel fuel. Would you rather make payments on a house or pay rent.
    [EK: show me where the Pickens Plan says that CNG is a substitute for diesel fuel in fleet truck sales. You need to replace 31,314,646,090 gallons of gasoline, and 17,962,906,878 gallons of diesel. That doesn't sound trucking only to me.]

    Sure, you are still going to need NG to modulate the elec. grid, it’s just that now the NG turbines don’t have to be at full and higher power levels, they can be cranked down. NG saved.
    [EK: do you just make things up to suit yourself? On what basis do you claim that we can reduce NG consumption by 55% at load-following and peaking power plants without causing blackouts?]

    There are more NG powered vehicles on the road today than battery vehicles. The research into those batteries isn’t even complete yet. The engines for NG trucks that some of the engines are of 450 horsepower only have to be ordered and manufactored.
    [EK: My family has put 83,000 miles on a 2002 Toyota RAV4-EV. On what basis do you claim the research on those batteries isn't complete? There are always new battery technologies being researched, but that doesn't mean adequate technologies haven't been available for some time.]

    The NG can be used in the PHEV’s instead of buying oil that’s turned into gasoline.

    The trade is that we put up Pickens Windturbines and then we can buy less crude oil to turn into gasoline and diesel.

    You are saying that we build batteries and then we will buy less crude to turn into gasoline.

    These are not either or. This can be both. It is a false choice.

    The Pickens Plan allows us to buy, build and install windturbines and then we pay for that with money from not having to buy crude oil to turn into gasoline and diesel.

    Do both.
    [EK: The CNG half doesn't work. Crunch the numbers. It doesn't work.]

  35. Cyril R. says:

    I’m not so sure about truck economics, but 5–7% is a killer for ocean vessels.

    Oil price increases of 500-700% over recent years have not killed ocean shipping, the sector took a blow, but is still alive and relatively healthy right now.

    5-7% is nothing. I’d worry more about the financial crisis developing; any investment intensive sector can suffer badly. And the shipping biz is very capital intensive.

  36. Theta B. says:

    Earl, thanks for this article and discussion. It is really quite helpful.

    Suggest you take a look at the hour-and-a-half pickensplan special that was shown 10/29 on RFD-TV. Hopefully, it’s on the web somewhere.

    On this show, Pickens verified that Phase One of the plan is to bring the 70% down to 38%. i.e. to bring our percentage of foreign oil imports down from 70% to 38%. He says we can do that without any cars, but by focusing on moving 1 million 18-wheelers from diesel to CNG.

    Do those numbers jibe with your 17.9 billion gallons of diesel number?

    He also contends that electric will not work for 18 wheelers. On the face of it, this seems believable, but do you have reason to think otherwise?

    As far as the NG infrastructure goes, I would think if just limited to 18 wheelers, the truckstops would be amenable to installing CNG compressors, if it was clear that the CNG trucks would be there. This would be small but easily-identifiable portion of the overall transportation fuel infrastructure, I would think.

    Again, thanks for this discussion.

  37. Jim Bullis says:

    It would be useful if arguments would be based on current reality. Then we could discuss possible technical developments and the economic feasibility of such without quite so much going around in circles.

    I am confused about Picken’s claim that natural gas is so plentiful. If that is true, someone needs to explain why there is such a big push for LNG terminals that are ports for importing LNG.

    As to real data, Argonne measured the production Prius engine at 38.2% versus the plug-in Hymotion Prius version, where the engine efficiency dropped to 32.6% due to the plug-in conversion for the UDDS driving cycle. (see SAE2007 World Congress, Argonne number 2007-01-0283) This production Prius engine is an example of what is presently done in production quantity, though not by Detroit. I imagine that similar performance could be obtained from NG fired car engines, assuming the Prius style implementation.

    I agree that the US car production is an abysmal example of waste. However, I have a hard time not thinking of the production Prius as the standard of comparison, since it is a reasonably practical machine in actual existence. I think Detroit could be shamed into coming up to this standard, along with the public. It would really cost very little to get to this level.

    When people propose solutions, it might clarify things if the evaluation was made relative to the benefit of simply switching to the Prius standard. When people think about buying an electric or plug-in, they should think of it relative to the alternative of buying just a regular Prius.

    But beware of the deception of Detroit’s version of the plug-in car and their hybrids.

    Another frequent source of confusion comes from basing calculations on the assumption of combined cycle gas plants. Efficiency calculations for the USA do not support that there is a lot of this. (See http://www.miastrada.com/analyses for calculations and references.)

    Then when there is an urge to make assertions about how coal, natural gas, and hydro are loaded and mixed, look at:
    http://reports.ieso.ca/public/GenOutputCapability/PUB_GenOutputCapability_20080916.xml

    Here it is made clear how actual coal plants are operated. This hour by hour, day by day data, happens to be for Ontario Canada, which seems to have similar inclination to minimize CO2 and also has some government regulation regarding reduction of that CO2. Curiously, California does not seem willing to publish such data. It also gives a clue about the dependability of wind power. I have not had time to examine this amazing data set as thoroughly as I want.

  38. Theta B. says:

    Jim,

    There was indeed a big push for LNG terminals. It has taken years for the associated construction process. In the meantime, there has been dramatic technological improvements in the process for extracting NG from shale. This has increased the estimated U.S. reserves of NG by a great deal – I apologize for not being able to quote the numbers. These shale plays, such as Barnett, Haynesville, and Marcellus have blessed the U.S. with so much NG that our domestic price is the lowest in the world. This would correctly imply that there is a substantial surplus in the U.S. right now. Even without looking at LNG, which of course adds additional processing and shipping costs, you can merely look at the reduced import of NG from Canada to bear this trend out.

    The bottom line is that there is not currently a market for LNG in the U.S. The folks who invested in the LNG terminal infrastructure are not going to be able to recover their costs anytime soon. It would not surprise me if several of these building projects are halted.

  39. Jim Bullis says:

    Theta B.– Thanks for the information. Sorry however, I have to dispute.

    What you say about domestic price sounds incorrect. My memory may not be exact but the Russian price to itself and Ukraine and Europe, I think was quite low. Maybe there is something I am missing, and maybe the EIA does not count the shale plays, but the fundamental facts are (1) USA has 211 Trillion cubic ft of natural gas reserves and (2) we used 27 Trillion cubic ft in 2006.

    That works out to 7.8 years to the point where we have NONE.

    Something is very wrong.

    EIA data from two sources agree. See:

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/international/iea2006/table81.xls

    EIA data is from:Gulf Publishing Co., World Oil, Vol. 228, No.9 (September 2007).
    PennWell Corporation, Oil & Gas Journal, Volume 104.47 (December 18, 2006).

    Even Boone should be able to look this stuff up.

    Seriously, this needs further discussion.

  40. Jim Bullis says:

    Theta B., one other comment I have:

    My sense of things would suggest that the price of coal actually is what sets the price of natural gas. Even though that has gone up a lot as a percentage increase, it still is a dirt cheap. And that is still going to be a big problem.

    Watch the political fallout when serious restrictions get placed on coal.

  41. Theta B. says:

    Jim B., as you say, let’s take this discussion a bit further.

    Looks to me as if folks (EIA) underestimated unconventional gas by a significant degree. Not surprising really, since EIA’s latest numbers are from 2006, and shale gas plays (and associated technological improvements) are a fairly recent phenomenon.
    Take a look at this website for some more discussion:http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4436

    I am quite confident that Boone has in fact looked this up, and I would tend to give Boone more credence than a 2006 EIA report.

    Have you a good source to compare European gas prices to American gas prices? That would indeed be very interesting. Will do a bit of legwork on this as well. I admit to taking Boone at his word when he says that America has the cheapest NG in the world. It is worth checking that assertion.

    I agree with your comments about coal. Sentiment would seem to indicate that more coal will be exported, as opposed to increasing domestic consumption.

  42. Theta B. says:

    Jim B., here’s a bit more on the NG pricing issue:

    A Goldman Sachs research note of 10/13/08 included the following:
    “Goldman said it lowered its 2008/2009 winter, 2009 summer and 2009/2010 winter UK NBP prices to $15.35 per million British thermal units, $10.60/mmBtu and $14.20/mmBtu, respectively.

    Goldman also lowered its 2008/2009 winter NYMEX natural gas forecast to $7.60/mmBtu, from $9.50/mmBtu previously.”

    Looks to me like British NG gas is about double the price of US NG. I don’t pretend to know all the reasons, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Gasprom had something to do with it.
    (see http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssFinancialServicesAndRealEstateNews/idUSN1351320220081013)

    On the coal issue, in that same research note “Goldman said it still expects summer 2009 NYMEX natural gas to price at parity with coal, but at lower levels.”

  43. Jim Bullis says:

    So here is the real Pickens plan:(and I am only half joking)

    Since there really is actually NOT a plentiful supply of natural gas in the USA, the logical thing is to bring it here. We know how to do it with LNG terminals and ships. And Russia would be delighted to have an energy glutton like the USA as a customer for their huge volume of natural gas.

    And Pickens has said he doe not mind who he deals with. I wonder if he is quietly buying up LNG facilities.

    So its Pickens and Putin forever?

  44. Jim Bullis says:

    The data at “The Oil Drum” is actually a blog comment that references a report from Navigant Consulting which did a study paid for by the Clean Skies Foundation which was founded by Chesapeake Energy with the stated purpose of promoting use of natural gas. The Navigant report speaks of estimates by the EIA but fails to notice that the EIA itself says it does not make estimates, rather it relies on World Oil and the Oil and Gas Journal. Much of the additional production and reserves that Navigant talks about seems to come from producers. From my own experience, any report from oil producers should be discounted by about 90% if any kind of reality is needed.

    The supposed new technology is old stuff that is just being worked a little harder to get more production. The only such new technology mentioned is horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. This stuff is not new. Maybe it is better than when I last heard about it. Whether that will in fact change the basis of the reserve estimates is not clear.

    I think we should stick with the EIA until better information comes along.

    And back to Boone’s statement that natural gas is plentiful, aside from the facts we have been looking for, why would we need wind at all if that were so? Of course it would help with CO2, but Boone does not seem to much focused on that problemz; he mostly talks of dependence on foreign oil if I recall correctly.

    The smell gets stronger.

    I continue to examine theories. Perhaps he predicts that there will not be trillions of dollars to make enough wind towers to matter much. By using natural gas to fuel cars and trucks, there will be increased demand for that natural gas. It will still be needed for electricity generation. And he can sell his product for ever more dollars as we approach the end of domestic supply.

    Comments please.

  45. Theta B. says:

    Jim, if you want to have a serious discussion, then I’m with you.
    If you want to be half joking, that implies you are only half serious, and the problem is I don’t know which half is which.

    Are you joking when you say the USA does not have a plentiful supply of NG? I suspect you are, or you haven’t been reading about any of the latest huge discoveries. Do a little research on the Haynesville or Marcellus shale plays and you might come away with a different “joke”.

  46. Jim Bullis says:

    Theta B., I think our messages overlapped. My half joking comment only related to the idea that Pickens might have motives beyond what he says.

    Please pay no attention to that comment of 10:57 PM.

    I recap my 3:08 pm comment: I do not think I have yet seen sufficient evidence that natural gas is plantiful. Of course there will be additions to the reserves, but the kind of technology discussed in the references is not the sort that opens great new reserves. It seems that natural gas will be getting to be quite undependable as an energy source in about eight to ten years, and certainly not a fuel on which we should build future systems.

  47. Theta B. says:

    Jim B.,

    Well, if you discount the Navigant report, then you’ve eliminated the single report that attempts to look forward in calculating U.S. natural gas reserves, as best I can tell. If you want to wait for definitive EIA data, the EIA report that includes 2008 production should be available in 2010.

    Here’s an excerpt from a USA Today article, which also references the Navigant report:

    “The U.S. has enough natural gas resources to last up to 118 years, or 2,247 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), says the study by Navigant Consulting for the American Clean Skies Foundation. That group is largely funded by natural gas companies.

    The Potential Gas Committee, an independent research group, estimated in 2006 the U.S. has 1,530 Tcf of gas, an 82-year supply.”

    So, Navigant says 118 years of gas. Potential Gas Committee says 82 years of gas. The disparity with your 8 to 10 year figure is significant.

    Again, my suggestion those interested in this topic is to look for articles on the Marcellus and Haynesville shales. While still early in the production stage, these gas shale plays are producing at phenomenal rates. Another place to look for additional info is the Chesapeake web site…

    To your point on NG not being a fuel on which we should build future systems, even Boone describes NG as a transitional fuel, until the next technology becomes available and affordable in large numbers.

    I don’t know what smell you’re talking about, but I suppose you can see a conspiracy if you want to. Personally, I believe the energy crisis is real, and T. Boone is the only person to put forward a plan. If you’ve got a better plan, believe me I’d love to hear it.

  48. Jim Bullis says:

    Theta B., I did not say conspiracy. It is not illegal to mislead the public. I use the metaphor of smell to suggest that there is something to look at carefully.

    Actually I do have a plan which I think is far better. It is briefly shown at http://www.miastrada.com.

    The formula is simple and it is Joe’s “the core solution.” Simply by using one tenth as much fuel in personal transportation, and still get around just as fast, we could accomplish much of the needed CO2 reduction and the people could continue with their present lifestyles. The cost is zero or less, since it only requires that people replace their current cars with a new kind of vehicle. The possibility of selling this seems real.

    However, it does require getting used to a very different kind of car.

    Operation of this new kind of vehicle would be natural as a plug-in, with a range extending engine, but it differs from the much publicized plug-ins because it first cuts the energy needed to push it down the road by a large percentage. (80% to 90%). The present design needs only 12 hp to go at a steady 80 mph.

    Miastrada is my project and I hope to realize some future return on my investment, just like Boone, though I am starting with somewhat less, and do not seem to be getting as much attention.

    Miastrada is not the only vehicle that will accomplish this. Another example is the Aptera, which is close if not actually in production.

    There is another of Joe’s favorite solutions inherent in the very low power vehicle system, which is distributed cogeneration of electricity.

    My reason for objecting to the “plug-in” cars currently emerging is that they mostly ignore the possibility of making aerodynamics a lot better. Thus they will continue to guzzle, more or less, but people will think the problems are solved.

    Comments please?

  49. Theta B. says:

    Thanks for sharing the website, Jim. I had looked at the Aptera, but the miastrada is not something I’ve seen.

    Good luck with this effort.

    Still, I don’t see, on the face of it, a conflict between Pickens Plan and the miastrada.

    Pickens wants to replace 1 million diesel-powered 18 wheelers with 1 million NG-powered 18 wheelers. The miastrada and aptera seem to be aimed at totally different market segments.

    That 1 million (he says) will get us from 70% imported oil down to 38% imported oil. I think those numbers agree with Earl’s number above, but he has not verified that yet, so I suppose that should stand as unconfirmed. Nonetheless, it does seem to be a way to reduce a big chunk of foreign imports using known technology that is available today. Yes, there would have to be some infrastructure, but my focusing on 18 wheelers, you could concentrate on NG compressors being placed at truckstops. Still seems reasonable to me…

  50. Jim Bullis says:

    Theta B., you observe correctly that there is not a direct conflict between the Pickens Plan and Miastrada plan. The conflict is indirect; by this I refer to efforts that have no real validity, yet are distractions from the search for the kind of solutions that could make a very substantial difference in CO2 emissions. It is worse still when invalid concepts drain National resources which are seriously limited.

    So at the moment there does not seem to be much evidence that Boone’s claim that natural gas is “abundant, cheap, and it’s ours.” I also am skeptical that natural gas engines would be very effective as replacement for over the road diesels. There is not that much of it, the price will go up a lot when it is used a lot more, and it will probably end up being imported as LNG from Russia, Iran, or somewhere else in the Middle East.

    Wind energy is a more promising part of his plan, but even that does not seem to be economically viable and this includes the problem of both generation, dependability of strong winds, and cost of distribution systems. Just because Boone says so, does not mean we should hear real details with numerical analysis before getting very excited about it.

    Another area that I am inclined to reject is the idea of “mandates” which Boone states would be necessary. Mandates sound like burdens that will be carried by power companies and utilities, but they rather immediately come around as higher bills for consumers. This is not technically a tax but it really is exactly the same in all practical respects. So here again is a way that Pickens would drain resources that need to be used for better things.

    Still to be fully written up, and subject to serious discusion, there are measures that can be applied to trucks that would be vastly more effective in CO2 reduction than the Boone approach. These include in the aerodynamic area (1) rear end fairings that would be unloaded rear end fairing structures, (2) active fairings that make the gap between tractor and trailer virtually zero, (3) underbody fairings that prevent repeated aerodynamic actions along the truck length.

    As to rolling resistance of trucks, there is an in road rail system possibility which involves embedding steel rails in highways which protrude about an inch above the road surface, such that these would be noticed when cars drove over them, but would provide a base for steel wheels mounted next to truck rubber tires, The steel wheels would be smaller in diameter than the rubber wheels such that on regular road surfaces, the rubber truck wheels would be operative and where the rails were available, the steel wheels could be engaged. This would make truck efficiencies much more like that of railroad systems.

    Certainly the in road rail system would involve some infrastructure, but it would be far less expensive than many other proposed systems. The benefits would be to reduce fuel usage by 70% to 90% for long haul trucking. Boone’s plan would probably not reduce fuel usage at all; he even presents it as only a measure to shift away from foreign oil.

    These are just examples that are on my working list. I expect there are quite a few other things that merit consideration. I think subjects like this should be getting our attention. And yes, if they do not prove out when the numbers are worked out, they should also be rejected.

    Thanks for the discussion. It is great to get interactions from people that delve into real detail.

  51. Theta B. says:

    Jim, some interesting ideas there. Here’s a bit of feedback:

    1. Of course, the market will dictate the price of NG, and sometimes it may be cheap and other times it may be expensive. So, I agree with your critique of the word “cheap”. I do happen to believe it’s abundant in the U.S., but we can certainly agree to disagree on that, and even there, it is a reasonable question to ask for how long will the abundance last.

    2. Your road rail system is intriguing to say the least. My first reaction is that approach would involve a substantial infrastructure investment, but I’m OK with that. My second reaction is that approach could be combined with NG-powered 18 wheelers to get the best of both worlds: reduced fuel usage combined with a shift away from foreign oil. I would favor the NG shift as a step we could take immediately, while the road rail system (I imagine) would take decades. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how quickly such a plan could be implemented.

    regards,
    theta

  52. Jim Bullis says:

    There is a lot hinging on the issue of how long the domestic natural gas will last. Whatever that answer really is, it will be extended by LNG imports, but obviously such imports will be not so cheap.

    In my scheme of things natural gas is important for electricity cogeneration based on the low powered equipment in high efficiency cars, where home heating and airconditioning and such would be run from the otherwise wasted heat of running heat engines that charge batteries. In this way we would get two to three times as much electricity per BTU as they now get in central power plants. Not everyone is familiar with the rather non-intuitive process of absorption chillers which run from heat. I throw in the history of gas powered refrigerators of days gone by, Servel being a common brand from that past. (owned by Electrolux of Sweden and an Italian company has some involvement)

    An interesting quirk of recent history is that absorption chiller type refrigerators were wiped out as a possibility in California by the efficiency laws here. These laws miscalculated true efficiency in the same way many purveyors of electric cars miscalculate efficiency. This is part of the reason I make such a fuss about how electric motors are evaluated.

    But back to comparing distributed cogeneration of electricity and running trucks on natural gas as competing climate solutions: The natural gas engines that run trucks would not be as efficient in use of energy as the cogeneration system, since there would be waste heat which would be hard to use effectively.

    So I hope this kind of explains why I am seriously concerned about the natural gas situation.

    I read the natural gas references you provided. One reason for my skepticism on the Navigant report is that particular part about the PGC, which as near as I could tell was no more than a few phone calls to gas producers. My immediate reaction was to discount such by 90% based on my limited experience in that field. But to say a little more, not only is this world full of overblown optimism, “all hat-no oil” being a watchword, but there are some real ways people can get mislead by reading production reports. And it looks like the Navigant analysis was inferring reserve expansion on the basis of current upticks in production.

    So this gets to the matter of natural gas production, which is both relevant here and as an explanation of the history of methane in the atmosphere. I had some experience tromping around in played out oil fields looking at equipment operating to squeeze the last drops from areas around Bartlesville OK. Most of these wells were electric powered. Then we got further from civilization where there were massive cast iron engines pop popping along on natural gas, which is usually a wasted product of an oil well. These ran the oil pumps for these sites on gas that is typically vented to the atmosphere. In big amounts it is flared off. To capture this natural gas requires pipe line access which is a problem for the widely distributed oil well placements. As the price of natural gas goes up, there is then adequate financial justification to fund more pipeline spurs. I am suggesting that the supposed new technologies that are greatly increasing natural gas production are not much more than the practical actions here described.

    So it looks to me like domestic natural gas and oil, both of which exist in vast quantities, are simply getting very expensive to get out of the ground. And both are subject to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations. And there is an ever dwindling amount of easy availability for these fuels.

    I hope this is not information overdose. Thanks for responding,
    Regards, Jim

  53. Theta B. says:

    Jim, a bit of overdose, I’m afraid. I’ll try to ask a few specific questions to gain a better understanding.

    I think I understand the basics of cogeneration, also known as CHP – combined heat and power, right? To make CHP work, you need to have a way to use the heat. Short of running steam pipes throughout communities, you would need to distribute the generation facilities to get them closer to where the heat is needed. So, does your scheme envision putting generators in individual homes and factories, to augment the electrical grid? These small-scale generators would be powered by NG or biomass, or of course wind/solar would easily fit this model as well.

    So, your world would have home or neighborhood generation & heating units, super-efficient electric automobiles, and heavy trucks on imbedded highway rails. You would not want to waste the NG on the trucks, because there will be not be sufficient supplies of NG to fuel both trucks and cogeneration. Plus, it’d be easy to envision a situation where truckers “get addicted” to cheap NG just as they have with cheap oil. Then, we’d have lost the flexibility to use NG for cogeneration.

    Though you haven’t said, I imagine you view NG as more or less a peak fuel, to handle windless or sunless periods.

    Does that about cover it? Let me know where I’ve missed the boat.

    regards, Theta

  54. Jim Bullis says:

    Theta, it looks like you swallowed it quite well.

    Some places it is possible to do effective cogeneration by running steam pipes through compact communities. This should be done wherever it makes sense.

    The distributed cogeneration scheme I propose does not put generators in homes. They are in high efficiency cars parked next to each home. The magic is that if the engines and generators in the cars are small, then the discharged heat can be fully utilized by the household. Space heating, water heaters, and clothes dryers are easy adaptations with elementary plumbing. Air conditioning requires a shift to absorption chiller types, which is of varying cost depending on the type (and of course, the more efficient ones cost more).

    The engines in cars would be capable of efficient operation on natural gas or gasoline, this being a relatively easy dual fuel setup.

    The electricity would be used first to charge batteries, second to power the home, and third to sell to the grid. There would be a profit to the homeowner because there would be two to three times as much energy squeezed out of a BTU of natural gas in this scheme than is the case with central power plants. They have to dump huge quantities of heat.

    This should make the natural gas go further than the status quo where it is inefficiently used in central power plants. That same kind of inefficient use would occur in truck engines. They also dump huge amounts of energy, whether the engines are diesel or natural gas. To use your analogy of “addicted to cheap NG,” under Boone’s plan the “pusher” would raise the price after the addiction was well established.

    Regards, Jim

  55. Theta B. says:

    Jim, here’s an article & feedback that has a bunch of interesting tidbits about cogeneration scattered throughout. Thought it might prove useful to you, if you haven’t already seen it:
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3723

    …theta

  56. Theta B. says:

    Jim, here’s an excerpt from the most recent Devon earnings call:
    “This includes 153,000 acres in the Horn River, 580,000 acres in Haynesville and 650,000 acres in two new Shale plays that we are not ready to identify or discus. When we provided the street with the resource update last March, we mentioned these plays and at that time we estimated that our net risk resource potential for these four plays totaled 2.4 trillion cubic feet equivalent. Since, then we’ve continued to de-risk these plays with additional drilling and evaluation.

    Through this de-risking the additional acreage we have acquired and the transactions we planned to complete during the fourth quarter. We have increased our estimated net again risk resource potential more than tenfold in these four plays up to 26.5 trillion cubic feet, in comparison of the 2.4 trillion cubic feet that we talked about in March.”

    A move of reserves from 2.4 to 26.5 is not insignificant and in my mind points to the potential significance of the shale plays.

    For full transcript, see
    http://seekingalpha.com/article/104290-devon-energy-corporation-q3-2008-earnings-call-transcript?page=-1

  57. Jim Bullis says:

    Theta, thanks for the leads.

    The cogeneration equipment can be in the house as described in the article, and it will cost quite a lot. If most of the equipment is in the car outside, there is not much additional cost for cogeneration. The payback is probably similar to that for the in house equipment, but minus the up front capital cost.

    As for the Devon hopes, this might or might not come up to 26.5 trillion cubic feet. But take note these folks are selling stock, and there is no penalty for exagerating. That is the nature of the business. I do agree however that we probably will not be completely out of gas in eight years because there will indeed be additional discoveries. But it seems that the natural gas resource situation should not be described as “plentiful.”

    If it is agreed it is not plentiful, then it seems unwise to increase usage of that resource when it seems more prudent to seriously reduce that usage.

    Regards, Jim

  58. Passive says:

    This article is certainly interesting, but I would love to see a follow up that addressed whether we could reduce our oil usage by a few percent simply by switching the trucking fleet to LNG or CNG.

    From watching Pickens on the Daily Show last night, he seems quite clear that his plan is merely a stopgap, to reduce some of our existing consumption. I was really prepared not to like him (given his history, there are plenty of reasons), but he seemed like an old man just trying to do his part for the next generation, not some opportunist looking to make a quick buck.

    As part of a family of Truckers, my experience is they replace their trucks every 5 years or so, and they are extremely concerned with fuel costs. The trucking industry is one of the most involved in reducing fuel consumption, as even a single point improvement in efficiency can save thousands of dollars.

    As a big fan of electric vehicles, I’m also aware of their shortcomings. At the moment, we are YEARS, if not DECADES away from a working hybrid or all electric truck. The long distances required, combined with the heavy loads, would require batteries that either weigh quite a lot (reducing efficiency and available capacity), or (possibly and) have an incredible energy density. Those laptop battery explosions? Multiply that by tens or hundreds of thousands.

    Given these two factors, it seems to me like converting the long fleet to NG could be a very good step.

    What are the arguments against converting the truck fleet to NG?

  59. Jim Bullis says:

    Passive,

    I do not think it is known how to get the diesel process to work with natural gas. Therefore, a first problem would be efficiency. Large truck engines probably get about 35% efficiency. Also, just getting the heavy duty capability out of a gasoline like engine is not necessarily straight forward.

    The fact that the Prius engine running on gasoline is so efficient is that it is very optimally loaded and it runs over a limited speed range, with peak loads being supported by the electric system.

    So as you suggest, there is more to this than Pickens seems to have considered.

    I also am a fan of electric systems, but it the impressive capabilities of diesel engines can not be ignored. If the encouraging developments of catalytic converters that remove NOx gases from the exhaust, these will be very hard to beat. The diesel efficiency could actually go up if NOx could be removed, so peak burning temperatures could increase.

    Even as things are now, diesel engines beat electricity from coal, because the efficiency is better and the CO2 per BTU is less. Diesel comes out about even with simpler natural gas power plants.

  60. Theta B. says:

    Jim,

    Do not understand what is meant by “I do not think it is known how to get the diesel process to work with natural gas.”

    However, it is known how to get large trucks to operate with NG:
    http://www.agweb.com/Get_Article.aspx?pageid=146577&src=uftruck

    Many, many NG trucks operate in Europe, which does not have a dearth of NG refueling stations. That infrastructure issue needs to be solved in the US.

  61. Jim Bullis says:

    Thanks Theta B. for the info. It sounds like there is something real here, but in my feeble defense, the article you referred me to says that the engines are spark ignited. The mix of natural gas and diesel fuel does not mean these engines are diesel.

    But I am not sure it matters. These engines are clearly different from the natural gas powered engines that have long been used which were just gasoline engines converted to use natural gas. These conversions were relatively simple. Certainly gasoline engines can be quite large.

    However, the real question is, “What is the thermal efficiency?”

    But even more important is, I think, the question about how much natural gas is really here without use of expensive extraction processes. I think we have not really settled that one.

  62. Walter Stuermer says:

    Article calls Picken’s plan “half-brilliant”. But Picken’s makes two good points about electric vehicles that is totally missing here.

    Firstly, because of the low energy to weight ratio (something perhaps that the EEStore battery, if it is real, may change), it is impractical to use batteries for anything except for short range transport.

    Secondly, for the same reason, battery based vehicles are useless for truck transport.

    And don’t even bother with the switchable battery pack idea. When I see that at my local fuel station, I will know that Rube Goldberg is still alive.

    Green Vehicle’s “Triad”, a nifty 3-wheeler, 2-seater, boosts a range of 100 miles. That is a remarkable achievement, but likely does not take into account energy consumption for Headlights at night, A/C in the summer or Heat in the winter. Also, I take it for granted that this range does not account for Aging of the battery pack.

    After we take these things into account, the net range of the Triad is likely 50 miles, which is still GREAT, but let’s not pretend that too many families are going to have two of these in the driveway.

    Under the best set of circumstances, we might be able to replace HALF the cars in the U.S. with E.V.s like the Triad and NONE of the trucks that more everything across the country.

    And this, my friends, is the reason that use of CNG vehicles have to be part of a better U.S. produced, and lower carbon, future.

    Half-brilliant???

  63. shop says:

    Wind energy is a more promising part of his plan, but even that does not seem to be economically viable and this includes the problem of both generation, dependability of strong winds, and cost of distribution systems. Just because Boone says so, does not mean we should hear real details with numerical analysis before getting very excited about it

  64. azdırıcı says:

    Green Vehicle’s “Triad”, a nifty 3-wheeler, 2-seater, boosts a range of 100 miles. That is a remarkable achievement, but likely does not take into account energy consumption for Headlights at night, A/C in the summer or Heat in the winter. Also, I take it for granted that this range does not account for Aging of the battery pack.

  65. Bob Klare says:

    There is a serious problem with this article on natural gas. It uses cubic feet of natural gas as the comparison standard. It should use weight per pound of CO2 emitted. The combustion energy of natural gas per pound of CO2 emitted is 30% greater than that of gasoline. That alone would solve the CO2 greenhouse pollution problem for years to come. Moreover, there are many more advantages to using natural gas as an auto fuel.

  66. I am impressed at how many things I see wrong in such a small bit of information. The rest was in my opinion, the author’s opinion. When one says, “…as we all know…” then states something that we don’t know, I am wondering who is using the real strawman. OK, T. Boone Pickens is now trying to swiftboat Obama’s healthcare plan. The swiftboat reference is because he did sponsor the swiftboat against Kerry attack that was as full of holes as the Joe the Fake Plumber fiasco. Now, the Democrats in the white house are seriously going ahead to get this deceptive advertising represented as what it truly is -propaganda. Now, the reason I know about T.Boone and Obama’s characterization of him is because I saw the announcement on the news. Some newscaster asks Obama why he is hanging out with the person who funded the whole Swiftboat Pilots Against John Kerry thing. Obama smiled and says he doesn’t want to get involved in that speculation at the time and suggested that Pickens was the world’s utmost authority on Energy. Pickens sometime later comes on his own commercial for the pickens plan and says that Iran who is sitting on the richest oil fields in the world, have already switched to natural gas vehicles. No, it doesn’t take the auto manufacturers to inform us of anything or restructure their plants. I read an article at About.com concerning these kits which reads: “…Converting a conventional gasoline car to CNG is complex, but not necessarily difficult, and quite do-able. And if you are mechanically inclined, it could feasibly be done in your own garage. The other option is to find a willing mechanic that will install a CNG kit for you. One potential hoop to jump through could be emissions certification for your particular state—some states require special conditions since you’d be changing the vehicles “engineered” fuel type. They all differ, and some are easier to work with than others.” Now that that is out of the way, unless one is planning to build a wind turbine themselves and put it in their own backyard (your neighborhood associations might have a tendency to frown on that. being that they have a height of around 72 feet tall) plug ins that might not be able to supply as much energy at night because of the lack of wind at night (as if you drive your car to work and that would deplete the energy as if you were driving all day long). A conversion kit can be found online for about $699 to $1499 depending on how many cylinders your car has. So much for factory rebuild. Anyway, there are some people like one guy, here where I live, who runs his diesel car on used cooking oil he gets for free from restaurants. The problem with supposed “experts” online is that people can find ONE study to tell you ANYTHING you want to say if you don’t research it. That is why a 50 year old medical journal says that cigarette smoking MAY cause shortness of breath when exercising while coffee was said to have 21 poisons in it. If you explore and research this yourself you find out something someone else uncovered.