Gas Demand Driven By Need to ‘Back Up’ Wind & Solar Using Fast-Start Gas Turbines

Before the obsession with intermittent wind and solar took hold, gas was rarely used to generate electricity if coal, nuclear or hydro sources were available. Gas-fired electricity, in the main, was simply too expensive, by comparison with coal-fired power.

Coal-fired generators are designed to run around-the-clock. Wind turbines and solar panels only run according to the dictates of the weather and, in the latter case, where the Sun sits in the sky.

The crazy and chaotic intermittency inherent in wind and solar has created a place for Open Cycle Gas Turbines and even piston-engined diesels, of the kind used in oceangoing vessels.

Both are referred to as ‘peakers’ in the electricity generation trade, because they’re designed to run for short bursts to pick up peaks in the load (ie rapid increases in demand). Their running costs are such that they were only ever meant to run at the margins. OCGTs – in essence a jet engine – can run on oil (bunker fuel) as well as gas, and piston-engined diesels can run on gas,as well.

Now, however, they are the mainstay of many a power grid, as the massive subsidies to intermittent wind and solar render coal-fired power plants unprofitable and drive them out of business.

The owners of peaking plants love the daily chaos that comes with wind and solar; they get to charge punitive rates for delivering power in an instant whenever the sun sets and/or calm weather sets in. Every single cent of which gets tacked onto your power bill.

Critical to the new generation model is the availability of gas. Bear in mind that the ‘peakers’ aren’t running all the time and, accordingly, are not taking supply from gas producers around-the-clock. The peakers only need gas when wind and solar output collapses. Hence, they pay a premium for gas which would otherwise be committed in long-term contracts to industrial users, whose demand is constant.

The disaster playing out in Germany is all about their inability to obtain the gas necessary to run their OCGTs, which are critical to account for sudden and often total collapses in wind and solar output. The Germans have had a policy (recently relaxed) of driving their coal-fired and nuclear plants out of business, with gas-fired OCGTs doing more and more of the heavy lifting.

In truth, the wind and solar transition is a transition from cheap and reliable baseload generators to expensive gas generators, which were only ever meant to operate at the margins.

Now that they’ve taken central stage, everyone’s talking about gas.

John Hinderaker (Powerline) and Jack Phillips (Epoch Times) take a look at New England, where the dependence on gas-peakers is about to bite back, with a vengeance.

A Cold Dark Winter in New England
John Hinderaker
17 October 2022

Years of terrible energy policy are coming home to roost, as New England is threatened with blackouts this winter:

New England power producers are preparing for potential strain on the grid this winter as a surge in natural-gas demand abroad threatens to reduce supplies they need to generate electricity.
The region’s power-grid operator, ISO New England Inc., has warned that an extremely cold winter could strain the reliability of the grid and potentially result in the need for rolling blackouts to keep electricity supply and demand in balance. The warning comes as executives and analysts predict power producers could have to pay as much as several times more than last year for gas deliveries if severe weather creates urgent need for spot-market purchases.

What’s the problem that is generating astronomical prices and may lead to blackouts?

New England, which relies on natural-gas imports to bridge winter supply gaps, is now competing with European countries for shipments of liquefied natural gas, following Russia’s halt of most pipeline gas to the continent. Severe cold spells in the Northeast could reduce the amount of gas available to generate electricity as more of it is burned to heat homes.

That’s weird. New England is just a few hundred miles from the Marcellus Shale, one of the world’s biggest sources of natural gas. So why should New Englanders be shivering in the dark?

New England has been grappling with fuel-supply challenges for more than a decade because the region has limited pipeline capacity. … The Jones Act, a law restricting the movement of ships between U.S. ports, makes maritime delivery of domestic supplies nearly impossible, so the region relies on gas produced abroad.

But wait! Why does New England have “limited pipeline capacity”? Because anti-American “environmentalists” in New York have blocked construction of pipelines that would bring domestic natural gas to the region:

The main problem is that New England can’t get enough natural gas from the rest of the country. …[R]esistance to natural gas infrastructure, specifically pipelines in New York, has left New England relying on oil for electricity and heat when the gas can’t flow fast enough.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016 used administrative maneuvering to block the proposed Constitution Pipeline, which would have brought gas from Pennsylvania into existing pipelines that supply New England. Several other gas projects were subsequently nixed or withdrawn because of obstacles created by New York state agencies.

So Andy Cuomo’s sins go far beyond sexual harassment and killing elderly residents of nursing homes.

I don’t know whether there will be widespread blackouts this winter or not. (The Midcontinent Independent System Operator has also warned about potential blackouts in the Midwest.) It doesn’t really matter. If there are not widespread blackouts this year, there will be next year, depending on the vicissitudes of weather. Or, if not next year, the year after. As long as our country continues on the destructive path of replacing reliable energy with inefficient, intermittent “green” energy, blackouts and other system failures are inevitable. Only a major policy change, a rejection of “green” energy, can stave off that fate.

New England Is Facing Blackouts This Winter: Grid Operator
The Epoch Times
Jack Phillips
17 October 2022

A major New England grid operator stated that it’s preparing for a possible strain on the power grid amid a surge in demand for natural gas that threatens to reduce supplies.

ISO New England, the power grid operator in the northeastern United States, stated that an especially cold winter could spark blackouts due to it not having enough natural gas that’s designed for power generation, officials told The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 17.

“The most challenging aspect of this winter is what’s happening around the world and the extreme volatility in the markets,” Vamsi Chadalavada, ISO New England’s chief operating officer, told the paper in an interview.

In a statement to The Epoch Times, a spokesperson for the grid operator said its “initial analysis shows that the region should have sufficient fuel supplies under mild and moderate winter conditions, which in New England is quite cold.”

“In the event [of] prolonged cold snaps develop, ISO New England has procedures in place to monitor energy supplies and identify potential problems early enough for the region to take proactive measures, such as expedited fuel deliveries or asking for public conservation,” the spokesperson continued. “Since the region is reliant on imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) during the winter months, we can expect to see price volatility when global events impact demand for this fuel.”

And LS Power Development Vice President Nathan Hanson said his firm is filling backup tanks with oil to produce in case the natural gas supply dries up.

“The grid overall is in a much tighter position,” he told the media outlet. “If we get a sustained cold period in New England this winter, we’ll be in a very similar position as California was this summer.”

Thad Hill, CEO of Calpine Corp.—an operator of plants in the Northeastern region—said fuel supplies for the winter will be expensive, but he doesn’t anticipate any power outages or strain on the grid.

“The goal should be to put in place a market mechanism that’s actually durable for all but the most egregious situations,” he told the Journal.

The Energy Information Association’s short-term energy outlook, which was posted last week, shows that wholesale prices at trading hubs will be 20 percent to 60 percent higher on average for the winter of 2022–23.

“The highest wholesale electricity prices are likely to be in New England because of possible natural gas pipeline constraints, reduced fuel inventories for power generation, and uncertainty regarding liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments given the tight global supply conditions,” the agency stated.

No Curbs on Exports
Earlier this month, unnamed White House officials told Reuters that there will be no ban or curbs on natural gas exports this winter. The officials say they want to help alleviate energy shortages in Europe following the Russia–Ukraine conflict and bans on Russian energy in recent months.

Biden administration officials are bracing for the prospect that inflation-fatigued Americans will pay higher home-heating bills this winter. Inventories of natural gas, the nation’s primary heating fuel, are at historically low levels after U.S. companies exported record amounts to Europe in recent months to counter a cut in supplies and higher prices for European power plants.

“And because of the steps we and our partners have been taking, gas storage in Europe is at a significantly higher level than last year. More work remains,” one official said.

The average cost of U.S. home heating is expected to rise by 17.2 percent from last winter to $1,202, putting millions of low-income families at risk of falling behind on their energy bills, according to a recent report by the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEAD).

Cold Air
This week, temperatures in the Midwest and on the East Coast are slated to plummet as a mass of Arctic air is forecast to descend on areas east of the Rocky Mountains.

“Much below normal temperatures with morning frost/freeze conditions are expected for much of the eastern U.S. behind a strong cold front for the first half of the week,” the National Weather Service stated in an Oct. 17 update. “The Northwest will remain warmer than normal over the next few days thanks to the continued presence of upper-level high pressure resulting in some record temperatures and areas of wildfire smoke with unhealthy air quality.”

Representatives for ISO New England didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time.
The Epoch Times

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