Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Energy Game



Some super people have been developing ways of presenting energy numbers and engaging the public and policy-makers in consensus-building conversations.
The next 'Energy Game' will take place at the Science Museum in London at the Dana Centre on 3 Dec 2009 at 7pm-9pm, organized by Serious Change.

22 comments:

Damon said...

Good stuff, looks like progress!

Rgds

Damon

R said...

Chevron created a (VERY simplistic) online simulation along seemingly similar lines:

http://www.willyoujoinus.com/energyville/

I would be curious to understand the Energy Game's level of realism and complexity.

Damon said...

R,

From the brief time I was talking to them I think that they may have been covering the same chunk of MacKay's book that I was (Chapter 18):

http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c18/page_103.shtml

This was my simulation, though I suspect that they've done a better job than me by far!

http://www.earth.org.uk/can-we-live-on-local-renewables.html

Rgds

Damon

R said...

Damon,

Neat tool - thanks for sharing!

Would love to see a way to compare costs and GHG emissions reductions (perhaps vs. a BAU energy supply baseline)...

Damon said...

Hi again R,

Well the unhelpful answer is that the resultant CO2 would be nearly nil and we don't have anything like enough at the moment to constitute a baseline. B^>

But maybe if you wish we can take this "off-line" out of the Prof's blog (mail me at the address on the site) and we can work something out. That tool is meant to be actually useful, but I'm not even at the starting line yet!

Rgds

Damon

David MacKay said...

The Chevron/Economist "Energyville" that I tried was a sham. There was a pretence of choice, but in fact your hand was forced: progress through the steps of the game was possibly only when you agreed to explore for more oil; you could only put up a limited amount of wind power, and after a "decade" elapsed the "game" informed you that wind hadn't delivered as hoped, so you had to drill for more oil and gas to keep Energyville going!

R said...

David,

Energyville certainly isn't perfect, but it's not as unreasonable as you make it out to be.

- It's not realistic to think we could phase out oil as a transportation fuel by 2015, and even by 2030 is a stretch

- Intermittency (and just construction rates compared to existing generation infrastructure) limit the proportion of our electrical power that could be generated by wind/solar by 2015

- Random events (both positive and negative) happen during both elapsed periods of the game; sounds like you played it once and wind got dinged, but it would happen differently if you played it out again ten times

Thanks for SEWTHA (both book and blog) - really enjoy and appreciate your work.

Best,
R

John said...

Damon, you left nuclear power out of your calculator. It would be good to include that source in your scenario modelling.

Damon said...

Hi John,

Nuke is not in the chapter that I'm modelling, and by many definitions it isn't 'renewable', and we don't have a local supply in the UK other than any stockpiles imported from elsewhere AFAIK.

Now if the Prof asks me to extend this with a nuke option, I'm happy to do it, and I may anyway when I have time. Brings a whole new meaning to the "nuclear option"!

Rgds

Damon

GRLCowan said...

"we don't have a local supply in the UK other than any stockpiles imported from elsewhere AFAIK"

Just as the energy cost to ship petroleum 10,000 km is on the order of one percent of its energy content, so is the energy cost to ship uranium that far on the order of 0.0001 percent of its content.

So if uranium is cheap anywhere on Earth, it is cheap everywhere on Earth that it can legally be shipped.

But if Britain passed laws against the import of uranium, it would be easy to find abundant supplies on the island. What is natural gas costing there? $10 per GJ?

Without import barriers, British nuclear plant operators will of course import $0.20-per-GJ uranium, but if those barriers were in place, the operators could buy locally mined $1/GJ or even $3/GJ uranium, and that sort of price summons up enormous, gigantic, brobdingnagian amounts that are big.

(How fire can be domesticated)

Damon said...

Indeed, but the point of that particular simulation is *local* *renewables* which Uranium/Pu/Th are arguably neither.

Doesn't mean that a simulation with those can't be done.

Also, maybe there is some indigenous source that I don't know about in our coal or granite or old tin mines or something, or simply in our sea water.

(Please note that I am moderately in favour of some nukes in the mix.)

Rgds

Damon

Ashley Mills said...

I just played Energyville a few times.

Electric cars are missing from the game. This forces the player to purchase fuels at both stages.

Whilst it may be realistic to begin with fossil fuels as main providers in the game, it is simply false to assert that we can only power our future transport networks either via fossil fuels directly or via hydrogen derived from fossil fuels. To me this seems like a deliberate attempt to mislead, either that, or the makers of the game are grossly ignorant of extant technology.

It seems to me that game is therefore biased toward promoting both the continued inefficient use of fossil fuels, and ignorance of the alternatives.

David B. Benson said...

For aqround three times the current cost one can obtain uranium from sea water.

Damon said...

Hi Mr Benson,

Is that being done commercially on any scale yet? I believe that Japanese researchers have had some success with 'sticky sponges' but probably extracting mg rather than kg!

Rgds

Damon

BPK said...

It would be interesting to see any output from the Energy Game put onto the wiki (http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/wiki/sustainable/en/index.php/Main_Page) if anyone has it.

My Energy Plan for the UK that adds up

Andrew Smith-Gibbs said...

Damon, David B Benson,

no, Uranium extraction from seawater isn't being done commercially. And let's hope it never is: it's certainly not sustainable. Filtering millions of tonnes of seawater through a fine plastic mesh would destroy its ecosystem.

Which would be inconvenient, because if it dies, so do we.

GRLCowan said...

"Filtering millions of tonnes of seawater through a fine plastic mesh would destroy its ecosystem."

This presumes incorrectly that the way to filter very dilute substances out of fluid is to run the fluid through a membrane.

The example of photosynthesising plants show us better: trillions of tonnes of air has its carbon extracted by turbulently flowing over, not in one surface and out the other. Thus, plants don't have fans, and neither did the Japanese demo.

It is reasonable to expect seawater uranium never* to become commercial, but the reason given is silly. The true reason is that seawater, with respect to today's U burners, is 3000 times less energy-dense than petrol is with respect to today's reactors of it with air.

Many thousands of cubic miles of rock and earth are the opposite: even though they are subeconomic uranium ores, their U content makes them much richer in energy than an equal volume of petrol.

(How fire can be domesticated)



* For ~100-kiloyear values of "never", and assuming none of the trade restrictions that might make Britain's known uranium deposits locally competitive.

GRLCowan said...

For "turbulently flowing over", please read "turbulently flowing over leaf surfaces".

Andrew Smith-Gibbs said...

"This presumes incorrectly that the way to filter very dilute substances out of fluid is to run the fluid through a membrane."

Seko et al used waves & ocean currents to force seawater through a cage packed with adsorbant. This filtering, done on an industrial scale, would devastate the ecosystem. I just re-read the paper to ensure that I'd made no incorrect presumptions - see figures 2a and 2b to see what's going on.

Many thousands of cubic miles of rock and earth are the opposite: even though they are subeconomic uranium ores, their U content makes them much richer in energy than an equal volume of petrol.

True, but mining and processing the ores takes increasing amounts of energy as deposit qualities decrease, further lengthening the nuclear payback time from its current 5-10 years. And it means more and more demand on resources, more destructive land-take, and more pollution. The environmental impact gets worse and worse. That's the problem with any non-renewable fuel source - coal, oil, uranium - and is one of the many reasons why it's unsustainable.

Andrew Smith-Gibbs said...

Perhaps in my bid for conciseness I used too few words.

I do understand that the process Seko et al used to get the seawater was one of adsorption: that is, the extraction of the uranium was adsorption, not filtering. But the physical construction of the adsorption cages means that the seawater is filtered through these cages, and it's that, that I'm drawing attention to as one of the ways in which this is unsustainable.

HTH,
Andrew

Damon said...

Wikipedia suggests significant Uranium deposits in Orkney and possibly Cornwall.

Does anyone reading this have a feel for the GWh of practical available energy in those deposits with conventional or breeder-style reactors?

Rgds

Damon

PS. Yes, I should do my own research over Christmas

GRLCowan said...

The Darlington plant near me claimed, in a leaflet I got at their visitor centre about 15 years ago, to get 164 thermal GWh per tonne U. All water-cooled reactors get roughly that same yield per tonne of natural uranium, although some of them require a 235-U-depleted fraction of it to be kept elsewhere and only a 235-U-enriched fraction to be fed to them.

Multiply that by a typical heat-to-electricity conversion factor, if it is electrical GWh you have in mind, and then, for the British ores you mention, multiply by the U mass fraction in the ore.

So for instance 0.33 heat-to-electricity conversion and a 0.00005 mass fraction U in an ore means each tonne of that ore gives 0.0027 GWh(electric).

That's really all there is to it.

(How fire can be domesticated)