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Save Petroleum from Extinction – Save your Business with a Green Idea


The New Year began with three Headlines grabbing my attention. And all of them were good news depending on which side one was looking at. In my favoured news paper DNA Money section were these lines –

The USA postpones Armageddon; The US Senate, controlled by Democrats, finally agreed on a deal to neutralise a double whammy of tax hikes across the board and spending cuts, which kicked in as the New Year rang in, hours past a self-imposed deadline for action. Negotiations to avoid going off the cliff have been on for months, the tension building as D-day drew closer. The final details came together hours after President Barack Obama said Congress was making progress on a short-term deal to avert the fiscal cliff..

Boost for oil cos as diesel off-take growth dips; Oil marketing companies, burdened with under-recoveries on the fuel sold by them, have got a much-needed breather as growth in diesel consumption moderated for the third month on the trot in November. Consumption for the month came in at 5.8 million metric tonne (mmt) as against 5.7 mmt in November 2011, a growth of a mere 1.7%, according to data from the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell, a statistical body under the petroleum ministry.That’s the slowest pace of growth this fiscal and brings down the cumulative growth rate in consumption to below 10%. Diesel accounts for the bulk of the sales of oil companies. The fuel finds widespread usage, ranging from transportation, mobile towers and power generators. Hence, any change in its consumption pattern has a direct bearing on the financials of these companies…
“This is good for the country as this will not only help in bringing down the under-recovery of companies, but also reduce the subsidy bill of the government and also have a positive impact on inflation,” said a senior oil & gas expert from an international consultancy firm, requesting anonymity.

Car sales fall despite sopsDecember stayed slow for the auto manufacturers as most of the companies reported decline in sales despite heavy discounts on offer. Sales are traditionally lean in December as customers prefer to postpone purchases to the new year. After a subdued 2012, the industry is hoping for some corrective measures by the government for boosting sales in 2013.Hyundai Motor India, the second-largest car manufacturer, reported a 9.6% year-on-year decline in sales in the domestic market as it sold 26,697 units in December. Sales of Toyota Kirloskar Motor dropped 24% in December. The company sold 12,071 units in December 2012 as compared to 15,948 units a year ago. Sales of General Motors (GM) dropped 21% to 7,067 vehicles in December as against 9,039 units sold last year.

While to many these are unrelated events happening in the USA and India, to me they seem connected. The reason is whatever happens in the United States of America, it has a direct bearing in the markets of the World. And slow growth in the other markets finally reaches the shores of the USA to compound the gloom further. And this is precisely where I would advocate that the USA, which lost yet again the chance at the UNFCCC Doha, to regain leadership position with a re-think on their global approach towards Climate Change. And in the process drive the Economy in an all new Avatar. An Economy driven by the KP-2 agenda and the other declarations which if infused with practical approach can cause a sea-change in the economic scenario with minimal disruptions to Climate. And more importantly the practical approach would be more welcome by the vulnerable Nations than the last 20 years of legal text which perhaps killed more trees for the paper than saving them.

As one notices that while the Car-makers mourn, the Oil Co’s party in India. Thus a complex chain of advantage and disadvantage from seemingly unrelated events start to unravel. But what we need are solutions which all benefit from.

A Green Business Idea can take off from these seemingly unrelated information posted above and adding a few more to this as we progress.

In my earlier post Save Petroleum form Extinction – Save Earth ! the ways to take advantage of petroleum while containing the GHG has been explained in greater detail. We could perhaps call the suggestions therein as a “Carbon Capture” program and look for an CDM advantage in KP2. Most importantly, as long as we are not burning up the fossil-fuel but converting its properties into products, we still have a chance to contain the 3°C rise in Global temperature. This suggestion must merit some attention to the Indian Oil Co’s who can thus finally see some profits form what it does. Because in India, this would directly translate in the Union Government saving some vital petro-dollars its gives away in form of fuel subsidy. Having saved on that, it could go into a public – private partnership and fund the auto-makers to create Hybrid or perhaps more efficient Electric & Bio-fuel Cars.

One of the primary reason for low Auto sales are the runaway cost of fuel. With the Urban centres nearly saturated, it was the rural markets which was feeding them. But, an average Indian is extremely cost conscious and is not driven by glib advertisements. The high operation & maintenance costs with every rise in fossil fuel cost would only drive down the sale of Auto-mobiles in India. An alternative fuel car could change that. And when we speak of leading technology, the USA holds sway over many. Thus the full circle across Nations gets completed.

 

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Green Business Ideas – Abandoned coalfields can boost RE and save forest in India.


Through this article, an attempt is being made to be on the top rung of the IWR-2012. We as a Nation must understand the meaning of Wealth as opposed to Riches. As the World reels in the clutch of economic depression; of its own making through continued myopic vision of the leadership, India my beloved nation is gearing up to tear away the last remaining virgin forests in the name of “development”. That development is a fundamental right of humans, the right of live of all living beings (trees, animals and even moss, lichen and bacteria)  and their importance in keeping this world alive can’t be discounted. As always, I abhor unlawful protest and mindless activism, but would attempt to find an idea for mankind to earn more riches but in the process create & preserve the natural wealth of the Nation.

In the recent report published, it is stated that the USA is abandoning RET for cheaper Gas. Many companies especially in the Solar PV business have closed shop.This is primarily because, people will adopt technologies which are cheaper. To this argument I have only one question to ask, is Gas renewable energy? It is not and it has its own set of problems, both ecological as well as geopolitical. Thus if the sum-total is added up, Gas is not cheaper as it is presented via a series of complex mathematical calculations. These calculations are made by “experts” who have no expertise on the environmental and ecological consequence. Neither are the experts on the physiological impact it would bring in the long term on the Peoples who, addicted as they are to fossil fuel go into depression, for want of continuous supply of the same. Every middle east upheaval can be attributed to this fear of change in the absence of another addictive fossil fuel, Oil. On whose slippery ground the modern civilization stands today. As far as I know in the India context, we are having a major Geopolitical tension with our Northern neighbours, who seem to be claiming a sea zone for itself. Although War is also a form of ‘renewable’ action, I don’t think it is sustainable and green, just as the shale gas for which we are going into so much trouble.

While we have some time unlike the USA, to really have an impact from gas; we surely have created a World record recently – by having the largest grid failure in the history of the civilized world. And this has renewed the baying for more coal field allocation, which is fatal to the preservation of the Ecosystem.

A modern Nation, with weak infrastructure is a recipe for disaster, as it becomes vulnerable to external malicious attacks. Imagine if we are in a grid-lock, with all  critical systems off-line ( although external defence may have back-ups but civil defence in disarray would only cause problems) and disaster strikes. Either natural or man-made, the resulting mayhem is to scary to discuss.  And this is exactly the matter which the mandarins at the Capital must be discussing. The sudden explosive actions across the Nation to increase electric tariff and diesel price, points to the direction that the last remaining saner voices within the administration are being heard and untenable subsidy may be on the way out.

The danger however is that, historically politicians across the world have a very myopic vision but superb oratory skill. And with this Devil – gifted skill, they would convince the Nation that “coal-gate scam” is actually a boon. And we must allow to rip the heart of Mother Earth ever more and extract coal, to fuel our thermal power plants and thus produce more electricity. And a few more Nuclear plants would actually ease the pain .

Environment be dammed! Already preparation are on to create a sham of the Madhav Gadgil report on the western ghats, which suggests detailed recommendations and suggestions on preservation of the Ecologically sensitive region which has even got the UNESCO status. ( details in DNA news).

But, as in all problems my beloved Nations faces, in this Great National Blackout too I see a fantastic Green Business opportunity. Together we the people, the environmentalists and the think-tanks can help our Corporate Czars, perhaps members of CIICESD and WBCSD to build upon the renewable energy options and reap the benefits. Before we delve into it let us first understand coal.

Coal is perhaps one of the most important discovery which catapulted the human civilization to its present form. Coal has various grades Lignite, Sub-bituminous coal,Bituminous coal, Steam coal, are mostly used for industrial purpose, where as Peat, Anthracite, Graphite have also found use in residential heating, agriculture and making lubricants and most importantly the Pencil . However the primary use of coal lets say to keep it simple, is for two basic purpose – It is primarily burned for the production of electricity and/or heat, and is also used for industrial purposes such as refining metals. The five largest coal users – China, USA, India, Russia and Japan – account for 77% of total global coal use. Coal & Oil along with their derivatives are here to stay and no amount of protest would stop its use and extraction completely. Let us not for a minute, forget that even the rudiments of protest which we as environmentalists are advocating & sharing via electronic media today would  be possible if the production of coal is stopped abruptly. Because we are using the very infrastructure built via use of coal.  Over the ages, with knowledge which we had during that time, coupled with complete absence of any form of protest against pollution; we have built this modern high-carbon life style completely dependent on one form of carbon or other.

However, if concerted action is taken we can within an acceptable and accelerated time-frame perhaps be able to switch over to more cleaner and renewable options which are already available in the alternative energy basket. And the way forward may be the idea I’m about to present. It would in no way be perfect, but just a seed of thought which I’m sure people with expertise can work on. And coupled with the renewable energy mission our country is attempting to take, we may just be able to increase  that scope. Especially Solar, Hybrid Solar  and Solar thermal power stations. And I propose another type of idea that which may be named – Geo-thermal + Hybrid solar, if it finds currency among the experts. And to this I appeal CAN-International, WRI and Green Peace International to find the experts who could make this possible.

Having established that Coal ( as is oil & gas ) is  a fuel, we need to see where it is being used. Again to keep it simple, we will take the largest consumers namely – 1. The Steel Plants  2. The Thermal Power plants.

In India, our steel plants come under the banner of Steel Authority of India (SAIL) and they are situated in the city of  Bokaro, Bhilai, Rourkela and Durgapur. To begin with let’s see look at the area a steel plant requires and what are the allied industries within it or at close proximity. Clicking on the image one would be able to zoom into the Rourkela Steel plant, Odisha.  On one end you would notice the Slag dumping ground and exactly opposite between the CISF grounds and the Diesel Colony railway station, a massive coal yard. The coal to this plant comes from  the once beautiful place around the now famous Mahanadi Coal fields thermal power plant area  around the historic IB river valley between  Jharsuguda, Brajrajnagar and Belpahar. ( “Bel” = wood apple + pahar = hill, one should know that there are no more hills because the open cast mining has ripped this place apart ) and the the iron-ore from the last dense forest cover of Kiri Buru. A place so beautiful that it could have made one of the best hill-station of that region, if humans had not found iron -ore there.  While my limited knowledge can’t find the alternate to steel, it is however a different matter about how we can limit the use of coal.

To begin with, let us switch the use of coal as being envisaged for thermal power plants  in the  steel plants too. And use Solar Photo Voltaic to the extent possible. As the supply of coal becomes more and more scarce, the massive land area within the Steel plants which has to stock up coal  can easily be converted into land for Concentrated Solar Power panels. Coal is required as a fuel, to be burnt in blast furnaces to produce heat to produce steel. Now if we can still provide the heat through heating coils, which are powered by CSP, the job can be done. The fundamentals would be more or less the same which is being advocated by NREL Coupled with heat recovery units and in time other innovations, CSP may well be able to supply the electricity required for night-time operations too, perhaps with Nickel–iron battery (NiFe Batteries) which are reborn and  presently showing promise better than the Lithium-ion batteries. But it is obvious that the land required to produce the amount of electricity needed will not be sufficient within the plant premise. For this I would like to draw our attention to the following.

The attached     table    on degraded and wasteland  from a research paper by Indian  Council  of Agricultural Research and National Academy of Agricultural   Sciences       (double click on image for full report) shows that we have an average of 133.95 Million Hectares of degraded and wasteland. A detailed and easy to understand report it warns of the impending food crisis and climate change due to the continuous degradation of land. Excerpts – Forests occupy about 19.4% of the total geographical area of the country against the ideal requirement of 33%…. Per capita availability of inelastic land resource is rapidly declining in  relation
to annual population growth of 1.4% in the country.  Increasing GDP growth is expanding urbanization and industrialization and, therefore, more and more of agricultural lands are being utilized for non-agricultural purposes. The complex interplay of natural and anthropogenic processes compounds problems of land-use planning further. Maintaining and enhancing productive potential of our land resources is vital for progressive introduction of sustainable technologies, and thereby resilience in crop production….This challenge must and needs to be met in the face of the changing consumption patterns, impacts of the climate change and degradation of the finite land and water resources. Management of land resources, in general, and potentially cultivable lands in particular, encompasses, crop production methods that will keep pace with country’s food needs, sustaining environment, blunting impacts of climate change, preserving and enhancing natural resources, and supporting livelihood of farmers and rural population in the country. Thus, there is a pressing need for enlarging area under arable lands, by the way of reclaiming degraded lands for sustainable intensification of agriculture, in which crop yields can be increased without compromising and yielding to adverse environmental impacts and without reducing area under forests…. Land degradation, like climate change, is an anthropogenic induced process and poses biggest threat to sustainable livelihood security of the farming communities across the country. All of these factors combined with increased rate of land degradation are contributing towards decline in agricultural productivity leading to food insecurity. Since land resources are finite, requisite measures are required to reclaim degraded and wastelands, so that areas going out of cultivation due to social and economic reasons are replenished by reclaiming these lands and by arresting further loss of production potential.
In all this dark and doom, one can see that India’s democratic foundation is strong and its institutions work. Only the reports which can actually make a positive impact gets buried in Crony Capitalism and narrow political agenda of a few. That there is a rot in the cart of apples is evident, therefore the better ones are in grave danger and need all the more to connect to the pulse of the people and do the right thing.

And if the recent buzz is to be believed we are going to lose a massive forest cover sooner than later for mining coal for feeding our thermal power and steel plants. And this can be reduced if not stopped.

And that would be to identify the completely degraded land and set up Solar plants in them to offset the needs of the power and steel industry. According to the Wasteland Map of India–NRSA data, land which comes under Physical degradation that is – Mining and industrial waste 0.19 million hectares; Water-logging (permanent surface inundation) 0.88 million hectares; and as per Salt-Af fected Soils Map of India,CSSRI, NBSS & LUP, NRSA and others, land under Chemical degradation ie; Exclusively salt affected soils amount to 5.44million hectares.

If one visits the coal -belt area between Durgapur Steel Plant and Asansol ( Burnpur steel from British era ) and halt at Andal junction, one would find huge tracts of waste land, where not even a single blade of grass grow. While underground mining is relatively better for the ecology  but how far biological reclamation is possible needs to be understood, as this Newsletter of ISEB India has touched upon.  Therefore one suggestion could be that solar power plants be installed in these degraded land. Even the permanent water logged abandoned mine areas and contaminated water from the mines which are run-off can be taken into good use by converting them into the mini-source of water, which is what in the form of steam runs the turbines of a thermal power plant to generate electricity.

And the most important innovation would be to tap into the heat of the smouldering underground fire which these vast mine fields have ignited.By using Geothermal Technology. It is a phenomena found World wide and I can not fathom how the great corporate Czars have not yet thought of exploring this heat to electricity and earn a Noble Prize in the process.

The Greatest Green Business Idea till now would be that with one deft stroke, where-ever possible ( everything is possible if economics do not come in the way, just as it does not when a Nation hosts the Olympics, spending billions on stadia which would hardly see the same amount of use, ever again ) degraded land especially near Steel plants and Thermal power plants need to install CSP. And capture the latent heat from the vast burning underground coal fields to supplement the night-time requirements.   A strong policy which looks into the aspects of support as required by this fledgling RET industry must be given. And for those who are wondering how to capture the heat from the burning coal-fields just read-up on geo-thermal technology.

As mentioned in my earlier article, the private sector is already geared up to meet this challenge and some of the players would jump into the opportunity of Build Own Operate and Transfer model (BOOT).  The challenge is would the media house and the top environment NGO’s take this matter up to create a crescendo of public awareness, thus making the government take action !

Note:  The images used have their original urls attached to them (and the articles therein are a must read) as are underlined links which contain the complete story to support this article. These images are only for representation purpose, however if the idea in the article helps recover any waste land for good use, I shall be grateful.

 

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Gas Hydrates – Will it be safe for India to harvest its alternate energy needs from the deep sea?


Structure of a gas hydrate (methane clathrate)...

Today’s News paper Headline read India gets closer to the Energy of the future.

Gas Hydrates -The gas hydrate are a crystalline solid, similar in appearance to ice, but consists of molecules of gas surrounded by a mesh of water molecules. Although they were discovered experimentally in 1811 by Sir Humphry Davy, it was later in 1970, that they were detected by geophysical methods in marine sediments from the Blake Outer Ridge Foundation (USA).

"Burning ice". Methane, released by ...Buried deep along India’s 7,500 km of coastline is a vast fuel reserve that can meet our needs for several centuries.These hydrates, which some believe could hold the world’s largest supply of carbon — roughly 4,200,000 trillion cubic feet of Methane in some of the fields discovered. According to Edith Allison, the USA’s DoE (department of energy) exploration program manager, replacing coal in power plants with methane extracted from gas hydrates could slash carbon dioxide emissions by up to 50%. The interesting thing is about these hydrates is that at great pressures and low temperatures in the oceans, they are very stable crystals. If mined and brought to atmospheric conditions they produce 160 times their volume of methane. And that is what is seducing energy hunters. Methane is a readily usable fuel.

Earlier Deep sea deposition of carbon dioxide clathrate has been proposed as a method to remove this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and control climate change! Now we are thinking of extracting it for commercial use, as an alternate energy source.

However there are tremendous risks involved as methane is 21 – 23 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2; as per estimates made in the Storegga slide, Norway; a large underwater landslide may cause the output of about 5 gigatons of methane from the seabed to the atmosphere. Given the track record of all deep sea oil exploration, most recent being the BP Oil Spill we must devise foolproof systems and put them in place so that exploring the sea-bed would not cause a underwater landslide. Should that happen the consequences would be extremely detrimental in the efforts to mitigate Global Warming. This is because, although gas hydrates are stable, where they are; once disturbed can be—due to their great expansion ratio—very volatile.

Now, as India too  has joined other countries into research examining the energy potential of gas hydrates, or methane clathrates and it is surely an exciting matter to see our  scientists  form    National  Institute  of   Ocean   Technology      ( NIOT ) are one step away from quantifying and identifying the gas fields , one must bear in mind that  as Indian methane hydrate sediments are close to coastlines; they can be in layers that are 13 kilometres deep; mining for them can set off ‘landslides’ down there. For India, which has a sorry record of land based mining in various states, it is important that such dangerous activity must not be given out to private companies. Unmonitored mining could cause landslides, releasing methane into the atmosphere and accelerate global warming, with consequences that can only be horrific. Thus the potential of the “greenhouse effect” exploding to uncontrollable proportion must be studied in detail and its effective mitigation, prevention and disaster management methods must be debated in open scientific forum and consensus arrived . The total marine ecosystem is dependent on it.

English: Worldwide distribution of confirmed o...

In fact the UNFCCC must add this into their discussion agenda at Rio+20 and should it be the situation where the World leaders agree that gas hydrate extraction is the next alternate energy they all want to tap; a standard world-class regulation should be created for all to follow, under the watchful eyes of the UN. Perhaps an international watchdog body similar to the IAEA be mooted.

But before we go about mining the sea bed, an ecosystem most of us hardly understand, and could become more controversial than Nuclear. Should India not spend its effort and money on alternate energy which are easier to achieve especially  Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Bio-gas, Bio-fuel, Micro-Hydle and even Wave-energy whose potential are immense? And with India having a good Solar insloation and long coast line, Wind & Solar which are already gaining popularity must be made to run its full potential.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in My Thoughts

 

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The USA has given some of the top inventions to abate Climate Change.


Twelve countries accounted for nearly 90% of clean-tech inventions between 2000 and 2005, according to an analysis of the E.U.’s World Patent Statistical Database conducted by the economists Matthieu Glachant and Antoine Dechezleprêtre. Of those 12 countries, just three accounted for 60% of patent awards: Japan, the United States and Germany. As reported by William Pentland in the Eco-Tech section of Forbes in 2006.

When it comes to the wager about who can save Earth when the last call for saving the planet is given in 2017, U.S.A would be where I would put my money.

Not because they love Mother Earth more than any other Nation, they simply love to live life large size and for this reason alone they would help stop any event which could spoil their party.  While its true that Industrial Revolution started in Europe, it’s the Americans who taught the world how to pollute in style. A 20 tonnes of CO2e per head ! Wow.

From the automobiles, to airplanes. From telephone, to super large TV  to VoIP. From high-tech  homes which can communicate, to Skyscrapers, a simple sandwich to a fat hamburger;  the United States of America, depending on which side you’re, has fortunately or unfortunately created or popularized or exported around the world, everything with so much hype and business acumen that everyone ( let’s agree to tell the truth to ourselves) wants to live like an American.

In the bargain it has encouraged either by omission or commission a stupendous climate problem for Earth. Now, the World loves to deride USA for the high carbon life-style, yet paradoxically we all try to ape the very same and call it “our right to develop”.

In the past one month while researching for the various articles I’ve posted under “Green Business Ideas”, I became more aware of the various Clean technology field of work in which the USA has worked.   What most of us outside that Country do not know is that, there are two Americas. One the United States of America, which is run by proxy by the big oil & coal corporates. And then  the made in USA. Run by the very same people who made the brand USA.

The 2011 Cleantech Open Awards, a non-profit organization, has been rewarding entrepreneurs that espouse clean technology for six years running, reported that to date, 593 companies in the United States alone have finished the entrepreneurship programs of Cleantech Open, which in turn raised funding for an excess of $500 million.

These are astute businessmen, people whose hard work and perseverance made the Country a Super power. And some among them REALLY care about the Ecosystem.

So what is it that is stopping the USA from signing the legally binding treaty on Climate change control? About two year back I had heard Andrew Light, Senior Fellow at American Progress specializing in international climate and science policy, and a professor at George Mason University, when he was in India and a co-panelist at the Indian Business School, Powai, Mumbai. What he was trying to explain that the American people do not see fossil fuel, such as coal & oil; agent for global warming rather as pollution. And this is the reason White House can not sign a treaty so easily. I have immense respect for a person of that stature and do understand he would have a more in-depth knowledge about his Country.

During my interaction with him later, at the American Center, in the evening I had mentioned to him, that the World would always look up to a Leader. Whether we acknowledge it or not, as of now the USA is still considered the leading World economy which would find out a way out of these uncertain times.

In my opinion, it should be the various Climate experts both NGO’s and individual clean tech businessperson who should come together and clearly demonstrate the job opportunities as opposed to job loss to the public in America and thus create a conducive atmosphere to help Washington take the right policy step.

Once this happens, the BRIC or BASIC countries would be the first to benefit from the right technology transfer at a price that they can afford. Which in turn would help Clean technology to grow at a faster pace and percolate down to the underdeveloped Nations, bringing prosperity for all.

 

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