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Presented by the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research

Vol. 23 No. 4/2012

It’s Been Described as the New Silk Road – Why China is Important to America’s Energy Future

Don Challman, University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research My first article about China in Energeia began with “I’m going to tell you the whole dam story” – a much overused expression when you visit and hear the story of our nation’s large hydroelectric dams [Hoover, Grand Coulee, et al]. The article was about my first excursion to China in 1999 as a delegate for People to People Ambassadors to visit and examine the implications of the massive Three Gorges Dam [then under construction along the Yangtze River]. Neither the proponents nor detractors of that dam would tell you the “whole dam story.” My purpose in writing that article was to do just that: to review the arguments for and against constructing that dam [see vol11_1-2-combined.pdf].

found only in the temperate forests of the eastern United States and China. And, we share a common geological and economic resource, that being coal.

After a dozen trips to China related to energy and environmental matters, I’ve come to appreciate that North America shares an ancient geology with Asia – or at least the theory goes that a good bit of the Appalachian mountain range chunked off and ended up in east China when the giant continent Pangaea broke up 250 million years ago to form today’s continents. As a result, we share some identical species of flora

In my travels abroad, I’ve also come to appreciate that meeting world energy requirements for a growing population is an absolute imperative. This essential factor of production drives industrial growth, rising personal incomes, higher standards of living, and an improved quality of life. People around the globe need and want improved nutrition, housing and healthcare, and productive workplaces and good wages.

Shenhua Group Coal-to-Fuels Direct Coal Liquefaction (DCL) Plant and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Demonstration Project, Ordos, Inner Mongolia, P.R. China: By 2020 around 1 million tons per annum of carbon dioxide (CO2) would be captured at the plant, with a total life time capture capacity of 21–30 million tons.

They’d also like to have all of the other creature comforts from labor saving devices to mobility to communications to greater leisure that come with abundant, reliable, and low cost energy. In America, we made this possible partly on the base of inexpensive coal, which propelled the nation during the industrial revolution - as it does today. China is on a similar and rapid path to do the same – and its industrial revolution is also built on coal. And, their aspirations are the same - to provide these benefits for a great people that I’ve come to know in my travels across China. continued on page 3

“Power UP” Provides Energy Education Resources to Teachers and Students UKCAER and the UK Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments have developed an iPad app, videos, and a website dedicated to energy education called “Power UP.” The app and website are specifically designed for high school teachers to use in

their curriculum, as well as to serve as a resource for students who want to learn more about energy use. The app and website include a series of seven videos, teaching points, and information about energy topics. Many teachers are using iPads in their classrooms

and are excited about using “Power UP” through this new medium. “Today’s teenagers will be the future leaders of our state,” said Rodney Andrews, director of CAER. “In their lifetimes, they are going to see dramatic changes in our energy infrastructure. continued on page 2


“Power UP” Provides Energy Education Resources to Teachers and Students...continued Educating them now in a way that they can identify with is the best way to get their attention.”

working with CO-PI Julie Martinez with the Vis Center, Rodney Andrews, and others from the Vis Center.

“Power UP” was funded by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet through coal education funds.

“It’s important that we begin addressing the energy questions that face our state today,” said Martinez. “This project allowed us the exciting opportunity to present key energy facts in a fresh, multimedia format that will prove to be a

CAER researcher Courtney Fisk was principal investigator on the project,

great resource for Kentucky’s high school teachers.” For more information, visit the website at The app can be downloaded for free on iTunes and the videos can be found on the YouTube page.

The short videos (around 2 minutes each) explain these topics in a fun way: • • • • • • •

Energy 101 ( Energy Sources ( From Rock to Electron ( Energy Use and Conservation ( Water and Energy ( Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage ( Coal By-Products and their use (

Western Kentucky High School Students Learn about Energy from CAER Scientists Electricity isn’t magic — it’s science. And on Thursday, Nov. 1, high school students from Union and Henderson County, along with students from the Earle C. Clements Job Corps Academy, learned just what allows them to use their iPhones, hair dryers, and other muchbeloved electrical appliances. This interactive energy seminar featured researchers from the CAER and was part of the fourth annual Energy Week, sponsored by Plugged In-The Northwest Kentucky Energy Initiative.

ing of how coal, a resource familiar to students from these counties, and its byproducts, are used by utilities and industries. We also want to share the research we are performing at UK.”

Sarah Mardon, Western Kentucky energy coordinator for CAER, helped organize the event.

They also discussed how algae are being developed to capture carbon dioxide from power plants, and how algae biomass can be used in several ways.

“We are excited to host the seminar for high school students for the second year in a row,” she said. “It is important to further develop the students’ understand-


CAER researchers Jack Groppo and Robby Pace showed approximately 150 students the important role that minerals, such as coal, play in their lives. They demonstrated how coal is used to make electricity and how technology is used to capture and recycle the ash that results from burning coal.

Afterward, the students viewed and learned about solar panels and wind turbines installed on the Job Corps site.

“We are very excited to host this educational event for local high school students and our Job Corps students,” said Job Corps Business and Community Liaison Nyra Syers-Ford. “The Job Corps Academy solar panels and wind turbine, which power our material handling warehouse, are a highlight for students interested in alternative energy. This is our second year and we hope to continue and grow this great event.” Plugged In-The Northwest Kentucky Energy Initiative’s goal is to support the region’s energy producers, help develop work force training opportunities and educate students about energy-related fields. It also promotes northwest Kentucky as a potential leader in energy technology and innovation. “With numerous students from across continued on page 7

It’s Been Described as the New Silk Road – Why China is Important to America’s Energy Future...continued At the same time, we can’t outstrip the capacity of planet Earth that sustains us – and we know of few issues that will have a larger impact on our people and livelihoods than the move to a low-carbon economy in an effort to arrest global climate change. For this reason, America and China, as the world’s two largest economies and two largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions [together comprising 40% of world emissions of CO2], have a special and important responsibility to lead the world in energy innovation and technology. So what is reality with respect to meeting world energy requirements and moving to a low carbon-economy?

The Reality of Renewables: “Green is good” and every reasonable effort should be made to bring on-line renewable energy resources from hydro to wind to biomass to geothermal and solar, and each will certainly make a valuable contribution to the energy mix of the world. The rub is that, except for solar [which has the potential to be our savior], back-of-the-napkin estimates show that there will never be enough hydro, wind, biomass or geothermal to satisfy world energy requirements – at least not without very significant tradeoffs [for a

good primer visit “Powering the Planet,” Prof. Nathan Lewis, Caltech at http://nsl.]. There simply are few free-flowing streams that we haven’t already economically dammed around the world for hydroelectric [at significant expense to the ecosystems of river basins and the culture and livelihoods of indigenous people]; or cultivatable agricultural lands that we can convert to biomass energy production [at least if we intend to feed the world’s growing population]; or Class 3 land for wind resources [which also brings tension to people, critters and ecosystems].

gies should be pursued with all diligence and speed.

The Reality of Fossil Fuels: They are here to stay for sometime into the future. With global energy demand projected to rise by greater than 50% by 2035, fossil fuels will continue to hold a dominant share of the world’s energy mix. In the case of coal, it currently provides about 27% of the world’s energy needs, mostly employed in the generation of electricity but also in steel and other heavy industries for heating boilers, furnaces and chemical feed stocks. Coal as a share of world energy consumption

Solar holds perhaps the greatest promise in the future, theoretically delivering continued on page 4 1.2 x 105 terawatts of energy to Earth every day but perhaps 600 TWs on a practical basis [depending on land base], still enough to provide world energy requirements many times over. However, the technologies are presently at best 10-15% efficient with respect to recovering useful energy - and we’ve got a ways to go on the twin problems of energy storage [read batteries] and distribution [read grid]. All of these transformational energy technolo- e-Cube Energy Technology, Nanshan Creative Industrial Park, Sanya, Hainan Province. P.R. China. The facility is the first of its kind on Hainan Island, consisting of a 1 MW modular heliostat – concentration solar power (MH-CSP) demonstration project.

Solar Farm, Aksu, Xinjiang, P.R. China. Shanghai Donghai Wind Power Generation Company, Ltd., Donghai Bridge Wind Farm, Shanghai, P.R. China. Located in the East China Sea, the 102-MW Donghai Bridge Wind Farm began transmitting power to the national grid in July 2010. The farm, which is slated to expand in the coming years, eventually will generate annually 267 million kilowatt-hours of electricity—enough to power 200,000 Shanghai households.


It’s Been Described as the New Silk Road – Why China is Important to America’s Energy Future...continued World energy consumption, 1990-2035 (Quadrillion Btu)

Coal share of world energy consumption by sector, 2008, 2020 and 2035 (percent)

World coal consumption by region, 1980-2035 (quadrillion Btu)

Source: EIA, International Energy Outlook 2011

compared to other fuels is not expected to change appreciably over the next 25 years. However, the pie is getting bigger, so that to meet this same share of world energy consumption the demand for coal could rise by 60% in absolute terms. Most of this growth is expected to take place in non-OECD countries. The Reality of Controlling Global CO2 Emissions: We can’t go it alone. Reducing global

Coal share of China’s energy consumption by sector, 2008, 2020 and 2035 (percent)

greenhouse gases can only be accomplished through the cooperation of all the world’s nations, and particularly the growing economies of Asia. China surpassed Japan to become the world’s second largest economy behind the U.S. in 2010. Coal is presently China’s primary energy source, providing some 70% of the nation’s total energy requirements. Power generation accounts for 50% of China’s coal consumption today, with industrial and other end-uses for metallurgy, chem-

World energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by fuel type, 1990-2035 (billion mectric tons)

icals, and building materials accounting for another 50%. As a consequence of China’s reliance on fossil fuels, it’s now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Eighty percent of these emissions are from burning coal. The United States is the second largest emitter, followed by India. We really are in this all together or the objective of controlling global greenhouse gases can’t be accomplished.

Cumulative carbon dioxide emissions by region, 1991-2005, 2006-2020 and 2021-2035 (billion mectric tons)

Source: EIA, International Energy Outlook 2011

The Reality of Advanced Coal Technologies: Assuming the foregoing is reality, that we will continue to rely on coal in some measure to meet world energy requirements yet will pursue the goal of reducing green-


house gases, then why not in the near term develop and deploy the best, cleanest, and most efficient coal technologies as a means of transitioning world economies to a greener future? Advanced coal technologies are among the most cost effective ways of meeting world energy require-

ments while improving environmental quality. The demand for these technologies is growing and potentially huge on a worldwide basis because coal is expected to play a dominant role, mainly because of its low cost and availability. They refer to the set of technological or chemical

continued on page 5


processes that increase the efficiency of burning or converting coal and reducing emissions, including carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS). Technologies for CCUS will be particularly crucial in sus-

prove to be transitional technologies for transitional fuels. The Reality of China’s Leadership in the Field and Among Nations:

Artist’s rendering China Huaneng Group GreenGen Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) Plant, Tianjin City, Bohai Rim, P.R. China. The goal is to complete a 400 MW IGCC GreenGen power plant before 2020 with efficiency between 55%-60% and over 80% of the CO2 separated and stored.

taining coal as a viable fuel under increasing carbon constraints. Advanced coal technologies also represent an important trade and export opportunity for America. The U.S. is presently the world leader and exporter of advanced coal technologies, with a 25% share of a world market estimated to be $254 billion through 2030. China accounts for $163 billion of this demand [Commerce - ITA, Potential Exports of U.S. Clean Coal Technology through 2030]. And, China is the United States’ largest trading partner. U.S. technology vendors and buyers that have a keen interest in the China market include the Who’s Who of American industrial, utility, and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies – along with the jobs and economic activity that these industries sustain here at home. Advanced coal technologies will

financial risk.

We have much to learn from China’s investment and experience in advance coal technologies. The deployment of pioneering energy technologies requires billions of dollars of investment and brings with them certain technical and financial risks not associated with proven technologies. Consequently, project “hurdle” rates are higher for early adopters. To improve buyer and investor confidence, it’s an accepted premise that with successive deployments there comes learning-bydoing, lower cost, better vendor “wraps” or guarantees, and lower

U.S. investment in deploying advanced coal technologies has been slow. At the same time, China has become the major market for advanced coal-fired power plants with high-specification emission control systems; it now has the secondhighest number of supercritical or ultra-supercritical power generation units in the world behind the United States. China has emerged as the world’s leading builder of more efficient, less polluting coal power plants, mastering the technology and driving down costs - such that it costs a third less to build an ultra-supercritical power plant in China than to build a less efficient pulverized coal plant in the U.S. In addition, China is making excellent efforts to become a leader in advanced coal technologies of its own superb innovation. Underpinning China’s leadership in low-carbon coal power and

coal-to-chemicals is broad expertise in gasification. Since 2004, China has installed or has on the drawing board, some 26 gasification projects, compared with zero in the U.S. Our purpose should be to facilitate the exchange of China’s valuable industrial experience for the benefit of America’s deployment of these technologies. The Reality of Collaboration Built on the Strengths of Nations: We have always been more successful by engaging the world community and by demonstrating American leadership. While China is making excellent efforts in advanced coal technologies of its own superb innovation, China stands to benefit from US advantages in innovation of the newest and most advanced technologies for gasification and carbon capture and sequestration, in addition to the United States’ very long development history for conventional coal cleaning, combustion and emissions control systems. If we don’t facilitate the transfer of this important knowledge and technologies [and the trade and commerce that comes with it], then we can’t expect to meet world goals for reducing global greenhouses gases. The governments of the United States and China have had many successful Science and Technology (S&T) exchanges in fields ranging from fisheries, agriculture, medicine, civil infrastructure and transportation, disaster response, aerospace, and earth, atmospheric and environmental sciences. Today’s focus must be on emerging commercial, field, and development projects related to power generation and coal conversion processes; carbon capture and utilization, and geological storage. In this instance, our purpose should be to advance American and Chinese leadership and collaboration in energy technologies and innovation – and it should be done in a long-term, sustained and deliberate manner. The Winning Formula of People to People: In my travels around the globe I’ve also come to appreciate the winning formula of people to people; that much is to be continued on page 7


What happens if we miss the werewolf? Rodney Andrews, Director CAER

“Lycanthrope –a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or an anthropomorphic wolf-like creature”. 1,2 The idea of the wolf-man is found in many cultures, dating back to reports by Herodotus in his Histories. Most folklore puts these creatures in the dark and evil category, needing to be hunted down and destroyed. Killing the beast generally entails enraged peasants, flaming torches, and poorly thought-out weaponry. And, of course, the lone hero saving the village with a well aimed shot.3

for power sits. Similarly, the currently trendy ideas about switching petrol vehicles to LNG or CNG have not calculated the costs of switching pipeline, fuel stations and distribution networks. This is a good idea for fleet vehicles (if we are now abandoning electric cars again), but for the average family sedan or long haul carrier, the best way to get natural gas into the system is likely as diesel fuel.

This sounds eerily familiar to our national energy policy. If ever growing demand for energy is the ravening beast, then “new” unconventional sources of fossil energy are the hero. Shale gas is the new national silver bullet. I would apologize for returning to the topic of ill developed energy policies, but I’m going to make a different argument this time around. You are already aware, dear reader, of my belief that abandoning coal as our base load fuel is unfeasible and economically delusional. However, I have similar feelings towards betting everything on natural gas. We need to approach these issues rationally, not just declare all problems solved and pretend we have addressed the real, fundamental issues in our energy supply.

I also have concerns that the “one silver bullet solves everything” approach will have long term repercussions for our national ability to meet energy demand in the future. Somehow, we need to insure that policymakers realize that shale gas is still a FOSSIL FUEL. Yes, it has a cleaner footprint, but it will still run out someday. And, unfortunately, the declarations that all our energy needs are forever met are beginning to be reflected in de-emphasis on the emerging renewables technologies. While this does make economic sense in the near term, we must not lose sight of the real goal: meeting our own energy demand while providing for future generations. The idea needs to be that we will take advantage of the fossil resources we have to fuel today’s economy, but also reinvest some of that wealth in research and development to meet energy demand in the future.

The newfound abundance of natural gas is an economic win for the U.S., but the almost rabid rush to drop everything else in the energy mix in our excitement is not. It simply isn’t as easy as dumping coal and petroleum for lower-carbon natural gas. The pipeline infrastructure needs to be developed extensively if we are to move the gas from where available to where the most significant demand

Eventually all fossil resources will be exhausted, or at least limited, and no longer able to meet future needs. When this happens, we must have made the necessary investments to meet demand in other ways. If we don’t make those long term investments now (and by this

I mean longer than a 2-yr election cycle), the hangover when we wake up from the Dash-to-Gas is going to be crippling and painful. Don’t get me wrong; the expansion of domestic production of natural gas is a huge benefit to the country. We will be able to meet our domestic needs while reducing overall carbon emissions (provided we don’t forget that methane is much stronger greenhouse gas itself). We will have new revenues and increased energy security. And hopefully the jobs created can offset the losses in other sectors. Overall, natural gas expansion will be a great complement to our current energy profile. It may allow us to keep up with demand growth. But we need to be careful in embracing it as a savior. It’s not a cult; it’s just another option in keeping the lights on and the wheels turning. So while I am enthusiastic about what shale gas development offers, I worry that it is being seen as that classic panacea, the silver bullet that solves all our problems at once. We may have that, but I’m the guy who always wonders at the end of the movie: what happens if we miss our single shot at the werewolf? I’d much rather have a shotgun full of all options.

1 Wikipedia, that font of all known knowledge, entry for “Werewolf.” 2 I decided on this literary allusion a while ago. It was somewhat reinforced by watching classic movies on Syfy, some excellent, some awful in a can’t-stop-watching way. It has NOTHING to do with the bastardized dreck currently showing in theatres and popular in the books my 12-yr old daughter is infatuated with. 3 Interestingly, the idea of the silver bullet solving werewolf problems developed more than a millennia after the myth began. Observationally, I am not so sure that this belief in one quick solution to everything moving from fiction into mainstream techno-economics is such a great thing.


Western Kentucky High School Students Learn about Energy from CAER Scientists... continued the region showing interest in energy related topics we look forward to another successful Energy Week in Northwest Kentucky,” added Kevin Sheilley, president and CEO of Northwest Kentucky Forward. The CAER maintains energy coordinators in western and eastern Kentucky. The purpose is to assist local governments and industry in the development of energy projects by introducing them to the capabilities of the center as well as the university as a whole.

It’s Been Described as the New Silk Road – Why China is Important to America’s Energy Future...continued gained through personal diplomacy and improved cultural ties and understanding across nations and peoples. All over the great nation of China I’ve found a warm and generous people, infectious humor and laughter, outstanding hospitality, and well, an exceptionally talented and industrious people. Representing a flagship university, my institute takes a special responsibility for teaching and train-

ing young people to compete in a global economy – and China is a big part of that future. Among our remit is to build up the future generation of skilled energy technologists, engineers and operating personnel that will be needed to sustain emerging energy industries. And, one of the best ways of creating this skills base is to stimulate and fund R&D at appropriate institutions which have the facilities to teach and train students in the practical

applications of science and engineering. Lastly, I’ve been privileged over many years to have facilitated research and academic exchange, study abroad and higher education training opportunities for 100s of visiting scientists and students. This, too, needs to be done in a long-term, sustained and deliberate manner – for our children and a better planet.

Don Challman is Associate Director and General Manager, University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research; and UK co-Investigator, the US-China Clean Energy Research Center, Advanced Coal Technologies Consortium. He can be reached at


Announcements Carbon Capture 101 Workshop

Organized by the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research This workshop will offer a series of informative technical presentations that will provide an overview of carbon capture technologies and recent research progress. The intended audience is primarily power industry engineers, professors, and scientists along with other key stakeholders wishing to become more informed in carbon management issues and recent technical advances.

Location: Hilton Downtown, Lexington, KY Date: February 4-5, 2013 Cost: $300 per attendee, $100 per students For registration, agenda, and other information, go to:

2013 World of Coal Ash Conference (WOCA) WOCA is an international conference organized by the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) and the American Coal Ash Association (ACAA). The 2013 conference will mark the two organizations’ fifth joint biennial meeting. It will again focus on the science, applications and sustainability of coal ash worldwide. As such, it will encompass all aspects of coal combustion products (CCP’s) as well as gasification products.

Location: Lexington Convention Center, Lexington, KY USA Date: April 22-25, 2013 For more information, go to:

Energeia is published online four times a year by the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER). The newsletter features aspects of energy resource development and environmental topics. Online subscriptions are free and may be requested by sending your email address to: Marybeth McAlister, Editor of Energeia, The mailing address is: CAER, 2540 Research Park Drive, Lexington, Kentucky 40511. Past issues of Energeia may be viewed on the CAER web site at Copyright 2012, University of Kentucky


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