Posts Tagged ‘energy security’

Hydrogen fusion to create ‘mini-sun’ in the South of France

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

 by Felix von Geyer

A 500 Megawatt hydrogen fusion plant based in South of France is now over halfway to completion and on target to produce FirstPlasma by 2025 in the bid to produce a scalable zero carbon emissions energy program to combat climate change, it was announced Wednesday.

Where since its inception, nuclear energy has over-promised and under-delivered in its ambition to create limitless energy at a price too cheap to meter, the world’s most complex scientific undertaking could alter the course of this energy pathway by the time it is completed in 2035.

Hydrogen fusion, where two atoms combine to make one larger atom, effectively mimics the sun’s own hydrogen-helium fusion process. The hydrogen fusion facility located in Aix-en-Provence will effectively create its own ‘mini-sun’ by heating to 150 million degrees Celsius a doughnut shaped magnetic field known as the Tokamak that would confine particles and plasma. At approximately the same heat as the inner core of the sun, the Tokamak would contain its own burning and self-sustained plasma, or ‘mini-sun’ Dr Bernard Bigot, Director-General of the hydrogen fusion facility ITER told on Wednesday.

ITER – the Latin expression for ‘the way’ – uses heavy water or deuterium freely available within seawater with tritium separated from lithium to create its fuel. A two-ounce pineapple-sized quantity of hydrogen would produce the energy equivalent of 10,000 metric tonnes of coal.

‘Each gram [of hydrogen] produces as much energy as 8 tonnes of oil,’ said Bigot.

Whereas it is estimated ITER will cost $22 billion by the time it is completed in 2025, Bigot expects the costs to reduce by a factor of five or ten ‘and will be competitive with other energy worldwide,’ he said.

The reason for the projected reductions in capital and operating expenditure result from the learning process already acquired and the tools and metrics since developed and implemented in passing the pivotal halfway point towards completion.

‘We now have all the tools in place to monitor the project and the progress,’ explained Bigot ‘The largest challenge was to assemble all the pieces from all over the world. We have learned how to work together,’ he stated, underlining the nature of the project where 35 national governments including EU countries, the US, Russia, Japan, China and South Korea.

‘Many investors and countries don’t see the current global energy scenario as sustainable so it is encouraging that fusion is taken seriously,’ Bigot said.

ITER’s hydrogen fusion project started at the 1985 Geneva Sumit where former USPresident Ronald Reagan and the former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev signed a memorandum of understanding to embark on joint research into hydrogen fusion.

Indeed, the challenges now facing the scalability of hydrogen fusion in order to produce enough clean power to combat climate change will require governments to send strong investor signals, for example low or zero-tax dividends to investors, and encourage public private partnerships in the quest to find alternative options to rare earth magnets Niobium Tin and Niobium Titanium in order to scale up the implementation of hydrogen fusion globally.

Approximately ten thousand imperials tons of Nobium have been used to produce ITER’s Tokamak, that Bigot describes as the ‘first of a kind magnetic cage.’ Bigot expects almost 200,000 tons of Niobium will ultimately be used whereas previously global annual production of this superconductive magnet has not surpassed 10,000 tons.

‘It [Niobium] is the best technology for now but we will need to find alternative options for more and more superconductive materials,’ added Bigot.

Bigot stressed the pacific purposes of hydrogen fusion for energy and agreed that the international co-operation surrounding hydrogen research could in fact provide a cornerstone to peace around mutual clean energy security. No laser technology is used in the fusion process. Instead only a highly dense hydrogen plasma similar to the sun is used to overcome the repulsive forces of the nuclei. Also as only two to three grams of hydrogen are introduced at any one time, there is almost zero chance of any meltdown and neither is there any radioactive waste.

The safety factor of hydrogen fusion plants is crucial in making the plants available to power large cities, allowing plants to be constructed near their target markets, diminishing the risk of energy loss through long power transmission grids and networks.

Regarding the long-term future of hydrogen fusion, Bigot played down the possibility of ITER’s hydrogen fusion process becoming the catalyst for similar projects in space where hydrogen fusion could theoretically fuse with the moon’s estimated 100 million tonnes of Helium-3 – compared to approximately ten tonnes of Helium-3 on Earth – and transmitting the resultant energy to Earth via Nicholas Tesla-style radiowaves or, alternatively, using fusion with tritium on Mars which would also allow for mining of the nearby asteroid belt.

Bigot laughed. ‘Yes, it is true that we have very little Helium-3 on earth compared to the moon but we are not yet at that point that we will be rolling this out to Outer Space! We’re keeping our feet firmly on the ground!’ concluded Bigot.

A pipeline, a pipeline, my kingdom for a pipeline

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

by Felix von Geyer

Canada needs more pipelines to enable the country’s economy to export its land-locked energy resources and enable economic growth, Canada’s Finance Minister and former Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told the annual Conference de Montreal/International Economic Forum of the Americas on Monday.

“We have much to be proud of but there are many challenges,” Oliver told the opening of the 20th International Econmomic Forum of the Americas as he highlighted that Canada’s resources comprise 18% of gross domestic product (GDP) with Alberta’s oil sands proving much of that driver, he said.

That is not enough. Canada’s oil and gas must be further developed within a landlocked country to enable it access to markets, notably South-East Asia, especially as looming US energy independence has started to stifle demand for Canada’s fossil fuels. On an economic scale, uncertain US economic growth and weak European growth remain risks to Canadian economic growth. Oliver took time to point to Canada’s two largest provinces Ontario and Quebec for not proving their economic potential, particularly in terms of job increases.

In a subsequent press conference, Oliver was adamant that a market for Canada’s oil and gas existed in countries such as Japan, China and South Korea. Russia’s invasion of Crimea and the continuing threat to Ukraine’s remaining territorial sovereignty has also placed increased value on Canada’s potential as an oil and gas exporter, but now to Western Europe where countries are looking for energy independence from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

“Europeans knew they were excessively reliant on Russian oil and gas,” Oliver told, stating that six European countries had become reliant on Russian gas due to the initial low price.

“Canada is an obvious reliable source for oil and gas,” said Oliver, “but we need pipelines that would achieve that objective – not immediately – but in the near-term.”

Canada’s oil and gas resources remain controversial, especially as Environment Canada predicts the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to reach over 800 million tonnes by 2035 through increased oil sands production, leaving the country in a rogue position amid international action to combat man-made climate change. Former Environment Minister Peter Kent withdrew Canada from the Kyoto Protocol in 2011 to avoid the country being held to account for failing to reduce its emissions 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. By 2035, the country is predicted to produce at least 33% more emission above 1990 levels.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, acknowledged Canada’s role as an energy-producing nation but asked for oil growth to be turned into green growth during her lunchtime talk at the Conference de Montreal. Her address included Oliver in the audience as well as former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Québec’s provincial Prime Minister Philippe Couillard. Growth needs to be balanced, she said and, while Canada’s energy potential could increase GDP by 2 percent if it developed the necessary transport infrastructure to unleash not only South-East Asian markets but also European ones; “attention is needed to take care of the environment,” she stated.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is scheduled to make a decison on the controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline cross the country’s Rocky Mountain range and sensitive water resources to reach the port of Kitimat in northern British Columbia where tankers would transport Canada’s energy to South-East Asia.

Approval for the Keystone XL pipeline has been suspended pending a Nebraska Supreme Court decision on the proposed route. The pipeline would cross much of the United States’ largest water aquifer, the Ogallala Aquifer. Republican Senators have recently introduced legislation to Congress to speed the approval of the pipeline that according to Congressman Ed Markey would only benefit the so-called Koch brothers, owners of Koch Industries, who own the export terminal in Alberta and the receiving refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. Port Arthur according to Markey is an enterprise zone meaning the refined petroleum products would be sent out for export, with no taxes being paid to federal or state governments in the US nor being sold to fill the gas tanks of US motorists.


Canada will not embargo China over energy in any US-China conflict

Friday, June 15th, 2012
by Felix von Geyer in Montreal
Canada would honour its commercial and contractual obligations in the event of any future conflict between the United States and China, said federal Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver on Tuesday.
While Canada looks to enrich its relationship with its southern US neighbour whose trading relationship is valued at $1.6 billion a day, Oliver explained: “We need to diversify,” he said.
Asia’s burgeoning demand is now an important strategy for Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, said Oliver who stated that there was more oil and gas supply coming from North America than there is domestic demand.
“China remains a high priority; India is important,” said Oliver.
With the exception of oil from Myanmar, much of China’s energy and trade routes are shipped through the Malacca Straits between Indonesia and Malaysia. Any future dispute between China and its neighbours over contested sovereignty over territories such as the Kurile Islands, the Spratley islands or any conflict with Taiwan would mean a US-led blockade of the Malacca Straits to embargo China’s energy and other supplies would not stop Canada from shipping liquified natural gas and oil sands crude across the Pacific in the future.
Asked whether Washington could now expect Ottawa to bend to its will and place any embargo on China over energy supplies, or whether Canada would instead demand greater sovereignty rights over the disputed Beaufort Sea or the North West Passage shipping route, Oliver replied: “We honour our commercial and contractual commitments.”
Pressed on the same point Wednesday, Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast who is also Canada’s Minister for the Pacific Gateway did not directly disagree with Oliver’s position. However, he cautioned that the US would continue to remain Canada’s largest relationship as could be witnessed in its security, trade and investment relations and that there is no reason to believe that relationship will change. “I spend more time in the US than elsewhere,” said Fast.
Fast was quick to add however that it is in Canada’s interest to diversify and deepen overseas opportunities but stressed that: “We would not retreat from our US relationship but want to strengthen it,” he said.