Retirement of Huntly power generator

Energy News has announced an inaugural survey of the electricity industry. The headline promised to test the market on “renewables, smart grid, Huntly retirement, Brownlee reforms”.

Some folk saw “Huntly retirement” and took it to mean the station was about to be closed. Understandable, but that’s not the case. The first clue was in the description of the survey:

Key topics covered in the inaugural survey include the options to replace Genesis Energy’s coal-fired Huntly units

So the unadorned “Huntly retirement” becomes “replacement of Huntly coal generation” – not the whole plant, just the coal-fired parts of it! Big difference. It’s covered in the first survey question:

1. With the impending retirement of the Huntly coal-fired units (1000MW) this raises some questions around generation fuel mix. What should replace it? Taking an NZ Inc view and thinking about transmission capacity, dry-year risk, fuel diversity, smart grids and fuel availability what do you think Huntly should be replaced with as it’s phased out?

  • One new mainframe gas-fired generator (assume gas availability)
  • Lots of small sub-25MW generation
  • 8 mid-sized, geographically positioned gas-fired peakers (assume gas availability)
  • Demand response and energy efficiency
  • Solar PV and battery storage at a residential level
  • Scale renewables

Industry insiders wouldn’t have been confused but this clears things up for the rest of us. When they’re filling out their survey, let’s hope those insiders aren’t persuaded that avoiding about 1 °C of warming is better than the multifarious benefits brought to us by public power reticulation. In other words, let’s hope they choose a properly reliable source of base-load power generation like gas, oil, coal or nuclear. Oh, that’s right, nuclear’s verboten in God’s Own. – h/t Robin Pittwood

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57 Thoughts on “Retirement of Huntly power generator

  1. Andy on 16/05/2012 at 9:40 am said:

    I don’t think we are going to see nuclear energy in NZ anytime soon. However, I have been interested in Thorium power for a while now.
    There is a new book out by Wired writer Richard Martin

    In particular, the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) design offers a safe, small scale design that overcomes many of the concerns over the current generation of Uranium generators.

    There is a documentary entitled LFTR in 5 mins that is worth a watch. It is actually over an hour long but the first 5 mins are here

    There is a new project to create a 2012 version of this documentary, in a better format, that I contributed a small amount of money to via Kickstarter.

  2. Clarence Kay on 20/05/2012 at 1:10 pm said:

    The options seem to be one large gas plant or many small gas plants. Huntly’s base-load can’t be substituted by intermittent sources.

    Efficient gas generation needs to be combined-cycle, when the waste heat from the first pass is used for steam-raising which increases the kw-per-kj by about 40%. Such plants respond to scale, so the smaller the capacity the higher the cost. The survey is a no-brainer.

    Huntly is dual-fuel. It can run on either gas or coal dependent on input prices, so it’s small (imported) coal usage plays a major role in keeping a lid on gas prices. After the ETS raised the coal price, gas went up immediately. Why would we want to change a system which has worked well for deacdes?

  3. ChrisM on 16/06/2012 at 12:06 pm said:

    For two shifting (running 6am to 10pm) open cycle GTs are better than CCGTs. This is because they can be brought up to load very quickly. CCGTs can take more than 12 hours to get from cold to full load and have very severe limitations from cycling boilers designed for base load. The trade off in efficiency isn’t that big either. For CCGTs are now up around 55% while GTs are 45%. Take out the wasted gas to start and GTs win on fuel costs for the two-shifting.

    The more wind on the grid, the more you need fast start machines.

    • Andy on 16/06/2012 at 4:26 pm said:

      Chris, is there an online resource where you can see live grid usage by energy type for NZ?
      I have one for the UK that shows Uk wind at around 0 .5% of the grid for much of the week past.
      It has also never shown OGCT above zero. CCGT is often at 25 % or more of the grid

    • ChrisM on 16/06/2012 at 6:20 pm said:

      There isn’t any that are open to the punters that I know of. We get a lot through my job and you can look at nodal flows in real time. Energy News have it on there front page, but that is subscriber access.
      Energy Market Services gives the overall data

      With a bit of nous, you can work out who is generating and how little wind really does. Be careful of the total generation bar sizes though. Both Rotokawa and Te Huka are local network embedded so are in the bar, but not in the %. The same for a lot of run of the river schemes as well.

    • Andy on 16/06/2012 at 7:14 pm said:

      Cheers Chris for the info

      What does Cogen mean?

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 1:44 pm said:

      Does the EMS hydro data for the SI include generation for the Tiwai point Aluminium Smelter?

  4. ChrisM on 16/06/2012 at 9:56 pm said:

    Co generation.
    It can be something like an open cycle GT where the exhaust is used for process heat albeit in a steam generator(Te Rapa), or Kinleith where the steam turbines are back pressure sets and the lower pressure steam exhaust from the turbines are used to dry the paper.

    Many big buildings in the mid-West and NE US have a little (>10MW) backpressure steam turbine on the plant heating boiler. Onece you boil water, getting to a higher pressure / temperature takes relatively little energy so a turbine significantly improves the benefits. They are in use maybe 6-8 months of the year. Becomes very significant embedded generation.

    From memory, Genesis was also involved in selling these little gas powered cogen sets for use instead of boilers in british homes. They provided both electricity and hot water from the waste heat. Makes for very high efficiency and sensible if you have heavy heat loads like a lot of cold homes.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 1:45 pm said:

      “Once you boil water, getting to a higher pressure / temperature takes relatively little energy”

      Except that electricity as an energy source is effectively limited to just boiling the water (unless you have a Manapouri handy for furnaces).

      Basically, electricity is limited to HVAC lighting, cooking, air heating, water boiling etc but motors are a big application for cooling as in refrigeration (lots of cool stores here in BOP).

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 2:00 pm said:

      E.g. see this Product Catalogue and the difference between direct fossil fuel fired and electric hot water boilers :-

      Steel Standard Efficiency

      The AQUATHERM/YGNIS model AY hot water boiler is our most commonly supplied boiler to the commercial and institutional market. The AY boiler is suitable for schools, hospitals or high-rise office buildings.

      Available for firing on Oil, LPG or Natural Gas in sizes from 100 kW to 3000 kW of boiler output, these are locally manufactured with the benefit of short delivery times New Zealand and Australia wide.

      Electric Hot Water Boilers

      The AQUATHERM Electric range of hot water boilers use electric resistance type elements and are locally manufactured using modular pentapost constructed cabinets. These boilers are suitable for commercial and industrial applications and are available in sizes from 15 kW to 1000 kW. Larger sizes are available on request.

      One of the most important features of an electric boiler is the way the elements are controlled. A good temperature control system proportions the number of elements to suit the heat demand of the system. Aquatherm boilers are equipped with the most accurate and sensitive control systems available

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 2:12 pm said:

      Steam Boilers are another thing entirely, see this service provider for example:-

      # Steam Boilers
      # Hot Water Boilers
      # Coal Fired Boilers
      # Boiler Burners

      And this Boiler Catalogue:-

      Package Steam Boilers
      Hot Water Boilers
      Coal, Combination and Biomass Boilers

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 2:43 pm said:

      “….electricity as an energy source is effectively limited to just boiling the water (unless you have a Manapouri handy for furnaces)”

      What I’m getting at here is that electricity is an uneconomic means of energy input to raise steam unless you can pay the ridiculously low prices that Rio Tinto does at Tiwai. Then you have the problem that for a 1000 kW (1 MW) boiler (just for hot water, not steam), your local lines company will have to install a 1000 kVA transformer on site or you will have to install it yourself. If it’s lines company owned, they will require a certain level of utilization for it to remain there (guaratees) to make it economically viable for them (also incurring a capacity charge along with kWh charges) or they will ping you with penalty charges if you don’t meet those requirements. Not a problem of course if you own it yourself but you will have to have deep pockets.

      To put things in perspective, have a look the transformer capacities along an urban street – mostly 100 kVA. 1000 kVA’s are not common, any clusters of those (if any) would be found at timber milling and fibreboard plants at say Rotorua or Taupo. Coolstores are more likely in my experience to have maybe a couple of 500 kVA’s at each end of a site although I would be interested to know of other situations where 1000 kVA’s are installed.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 4:01 pm said:

      On the other hand you can have electrical applications that just need the temperature of a fluid (including hot water e.g. domestic) to be raised but not to boiling so that supply can be made from the LV reticulation (no 11,000/400/230 transformer required)

      Electroplating baths are a good example. A tricky business to run because the greatest input cost is electricity and things like bath insulation (surface covered in ping pong balls) and disruption to supply (Hiabs taking out OH lines) become critical. Used to be a lot of electroplating work for chrome car bumpers but nowadays that work is restricted to restoration, hot rods etc.

  5. Richard C (NZ) on 16/06/2012 at 11:35 pm said:

    There will be no rush to stop coal generation if the time Meremere was used after design life is anything to go by.

    I’m curious about the relative efficiency and economic costs/benefits of Huntly using Indonesian coal (as it does now I think) vs Huntly coal. I had a head full of it long ago but long forgotton

    I and many others will not be sad if/when the coal transfer facility is abandoned on the Mt M side of Port of Tauranga (needed for the coal importation). The dust gets everywhere, whether home windowsills or industrial warehouses, coal dust gets in. Southern Produce stores Class II kiwifruit boxes (used for export to Australia and Pacific Islands) somewhere nearby because the top layer of pallets are covered in coal and/or palm kernal dust. They are filthy when they turn up for packing.

  6. ChrisM on 17/06/2012 at 7:09 am said:

    Meremere continued to be used hard right at the end because they used it to get rid of all the slack (coal dust/ fines mixed in with dirt and rubbish) from the local mines. This was basically free fuel but only the old pulverised fuel boilers could use it. There was a lot of ash and corrosion from burning the material, but it didn’t matter in something about to be cut up for scrap.

    Steaming coal from Indonesia is a lot cheaper than any NZ coal. Its calorific value is close to that at Huntly East/ West. It has a higher ash content but that is a valuable by-product for concrete. I have heard that overseas coal is cleaner with a lot less stone in it, but that could just be anecdote.

    Huntly was originally designed to run on just Huntly West coal. However, when Solid Energy was run by the Rogergnomes, they first flogged off all the longwalling plant for a song, then set fire to the mine with their el cheapo mining practices. To get coal to Huntly PS now, it has to be railed to Rotowaro, trucked to Huntly West pithead, then on the conveyor to the mine. That adds a lot to the cost. If they are on a full coal burn (1000MW) there is no way the transport system could keep up, so it means a large on-site sockpile is needed.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 10:10 am said:

      Thanks for the background Chris, that jogged the memory. Huntly kept me in work, first as an engineering drafty e.g. as-builting the HE transfer facility (startup fraught, had to be tied down with steel guy wires) and I went down the HW mine on a tour once (instant respect for miners). Later on as a technician/drafty I did a lot of work at Huntly on electrical reticulation and saw rows of buildings at HE that were abandoned after subsidence.

      Is there anything that can retrieved from HW or is it a lost cause in terms of production for the PS? I recall, although haven’t seen, that much of Rotowaro was/is opencast.

      Also Solid Energy recently re-opened Kopuku (Kopako 1) south of Maramarua that originally served Meremere. According to this 2009 Stuff article “….coal handling and transportation to Huntly or Glenbrook will occur from 7am-7pm, Monday-Friday and 7am-6pm on Saturdays

      Don’t know if it does actually go to Huntly. Kopuku also meant work for me because they had pole-mounted transformers that had to be moved from time-to-time.

      In short, I think stories of the death of Waikato/South Waikato coal are premature and possibly coal firing at the PS too. Looking at the EMS link, coal is still #3. There’s a massive untapped reserve west of TeKuiti that never gets a mention although I don’t know what the grade is.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 10:28 am said:

      It was the revolving screens that had to be tied down, not the transfer tower now I come to think of it. The steel supporting columns were flexing alarmingly and I think they had to be filled with concrete.

      Similar thing happened with the steel dive platform at Hamilton swimming pool where rigidity was a requirement. Extra bracing was put in and the columns filled with concrete from what I recall.

  7. Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 12:24 pm said:

    Just to provide some slightly OT perspective and to alert lurkers and recent arrivals (ChrisM you may be interested) that there is an ‘Energy and Fuel’ thread in ‘Open Threads’ where you can find such illumination as this from Andy:-

    Andy says:
    January 8, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Wow, check out these coal projects in the pipeline for Germany:

    – EVONIK, Walsum (Duisburg), 800 MW black coal (2010)
    – RWE, Neurath (Cologne), 2 x 800 MW lignite (2009)
    – RWE Westfalen (Dortmund-Hamm, 2 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
    – EON Datteln (Dortmund), 1 x 1100 MW (!) black coal (2011)
    – ENBW Karlsruhe, 1 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
    – Trianel (municipality) Lünen, 1 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
    – Vattenfall Moorburg (Hamburg), 2 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
    – Vattenfall Boxberg (close to Leipzig), 1 x 800 MW lignite (2011)

    Ideas about “keep coal in the hole” evidently haven’t made any inroads in “Green” Germany. Industries there have found supply so unreliable they have had to install their own backup.

    In NZ, the discussion (e.g. Hot Topic) seems framed around renewables vs fossil fuels but ONLY in the context of electricity generation as in the post above. What the participants don’t realize is that except for Huntly, electricity production is a relatively minor form of coal-based energy use in NZ. Let’s not forget all the coal fired furnaces at hospitals and schools either (many of which have been converted to gas but the capacity is still there).

    By far the greater is the use especially by Fonterra of coal and gas to raise heat and steam for applications such as drying for milk powder production. That is why Cogen has been set up at Te Rapa for example, the electricity production being merely a byproduct of other coal/gas usage.

    Coal-in-the-hole folks are dreaming if they think renewables are a realistic substitute for fossil fuels in that context. They should try raising steam in industrial quantities using wind turbine generated electricity – they wont get far with that.

    Open Threads INDEX here and at top of blog page.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 1:36 pm said:

      Some example timber drying and dairy sector applications from Windsor CDK systems:-

      Continuous [Drying] Kilns – CDK
      CDK systems are today’s fastest growing trend internationally in softwood drying.

      Windsor CDK systems offer three configurations:

      * Dual pass double track – timber moves through the kiln in opposite directions on two tracks
      * Ultra-high temperature single pass
      * Single pass single track

      This technology is extremely efficient – saving about 30% of thermal energy of traditional batch kilns – and incorporates advanced moisture measuring systems.

      CDK systems can be either indirectly heated using steam [coal/gas/geo] or thermal oil, or direct-fired from a wood waste or gas burner.

      More applications in the Windsor January 2012 Newsletter including in the NZ and AU dairy sector

      No mention of wind, solar or even hydro.

      I tried to find a paper on the internet that I have a home in paper form ‘The Energy Cost of Drying’ that’s in the context of the dairy sector but it was pre-internet and is not available through that medium unfortunately because it’s as relevant now as it was then.

  8. Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 1:02 pm said:

    “Oh, that’s right, nuclear’s verboten in God’s Own”

    I’m sure we can make an exception especially when we have a resident thorium advocate on hand (Andy).

    Some benefits of thorium fuel when compared with uranium were summarized as follows:[26]

    * Weapons-grade fissionable material (233U) is harder to retrieve safely and clandestinely from a thorium reactor;
    * Thorium produces 10 to 10,000 times less long-lived radioactive waste;
    * The fissionable thorium cycle uses 100% of the isotope as coming out of the ground, which does not require enrichment, whereas the fissile uranium cycle depends on only the 0.7% fissile U-235 of the natural uranium. The same cycle could also use the fissionable U-238 component of the natural uranium, and also contained in the depleted reactor fuel;
    * Thorium cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction without priming[27] so fission stops by default.

    Commercial nuclear power station

    India’s Kakrapar-1 reactor is the world’s first reactor which uses thorium rather than depleted uranium to achieve power flattening across the reactor core.[35] India, which has about 25% of the world’s thorium reserves, is developing a 300 MW prototype of a thorium-based Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). The prototype is expected to be fully operational by 2013, after which five more reactors will be constructed.[36][37] Considered to be a global leader in thorium-based fuel, India’s new thorium reactor is a fast-breeder reactor and uses a plutonium core rather than an accelerator to produce neutrons. As accelerator-based systems can operate at sub-criticality they could be developed too, but that would require more research.[38] India currently envisages meeting 30% of its electricity demand through thorium-based reactors by 2050.[39]

    Existing thorium energy projects

    The German THTR-300 was the first commercial power station powered almost entirely with Thorium. India’s 300 MWe AHWR CANDU type reactor began construction in 2011. The design envisages a start up with reactor grade plutonium which will breed U-233 from Th-232. After that the input will only be thorium for the rest of the reactor’s design life.[40]

    The primary fuel of the HT3R Project near Odessa, Texas, USA will be ceramic-coated thorium beads. The earliest date the reactor will become operational is in 2015.[41]

    Best results occur with molten salt reactors (MSRs), such as ORNL’s liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR), which have built-in negative-feedback reaction rates due to salt expansion and thus reactor throttling via load. This is a great safety advantage, since no emergency cooling system is needed, which is both expensive and adds thermal inefficiency. In fact, an MSR was chosen as the base design for the 1960s DoD nuclear aircraft largely because of its great safety advantages, even under aircraft maneuvering. In the basic design, an MSR generates heat at higher temperatures, continuously, and without refuelling shutdowns, so it can provide hot air to a more efficient (Brayton Cycle) turbine. An MSR run this way is about 30% better in thermal efficiency than common thermal plants, whether combustive or traditional solid-fuelled nuclear.[29]

    In 2010, United States Congressman Joe Sestak secured funding for research and development of a destroyer-sized reactor using thorium.[42]

    CANDU reactors of Atomic Energy Canada Limited are capable of using thorium as a fuel source.[43][44]

    At the 2011 annual conference of the Chinese Academy of Sciences it was announced that “China has initiated a research and development project in thorium molten-salt reactor technology.”[45][46]

    Verboten in God’s Own – gung ho in India, Germany (?), USA and China (now what have they all got in common or is emerging that NZ only just clings to?)

  9. ChrisM on 17/06/2012 at 4:09 pm said:

    I believe that Huntly West is beyond salvage for underground mining and too deep for opencast. That is on the old rule of 10m of overburden for every metre of coal. They were looking at it for coal gasification. The mine had a lot of problems with lots of faults crossing the coal beds so they were sawtooth in cross-section so it may not be as big a loss asinitially seems

    If you go back to the old mid 80s power plan, they were going to build the next 1000MW thermal at Clune Road, near the drag strip. They had already aquired the land, but that went to Tainui in the treaty settlement. The next 1000 MW unit was going to be down in King Country, exploiting the reserves around Bennydale. After that, it was back into the Aria and Mokau coal.

    I don’t even bother lurking on a lot of the other discussion forums. The main inhabitants are academic types who push their own agends. Most have never been to a power station, even as a visitor. I have worked and continue to work with engineers who have their nuke ticket. Things are not as rosy as made out on a lot of the alternatives either. There isn’t a Thorium powered reactor going yet and pebble bed heating helium to drive a turbine was very promising but too many technical issues to sort out. Both have a lot more promise for the long term than wind ever does though;-)

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 5:51 pm said:

      Mokau was what I was thinking of although I don’t know where a PS would be sited to take the feedstock. The site does not necessarily have to be local and could be Huntly or even Port WaikatoAuckland/Glenbrook depending on cooling water availability if a rail connection could be made to the freight-only line running from Taumarunui to Stratford. See New Zealand’s National Rail Network:-

      Bennydale is right on the NIMT, I worked on design (south portal drainage gallery) of the new Poro-O-Tarao tunnel just south of Bennydale back in the 70s I think it was.

      I’ll be interested to see what Andy has to say about how realistic thorium is when he turns up in view of your “not as rosy as made out” comment . He’s probably out enjoying the last of the snow sports this winter now that “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”.and “very rare and exciting events” (just as he’s done for the last 12 years since CRU’s Dr David Viner made the pronouncement).

  10. ChrisM on 17/06/2012 at 6:10 pm said:

    Almost any power station nowadays, except coastal) would need cooling towers. That actually makes them a lot easier to site as the steady state water demand is in the region of 3-500t/h which is just a small stream.

    It always makes a lot more sense to have a PS near a pithead of the main mine with railway line nearby to bring in the make up. That is why Drax and Latrobe Valley are where they are. Electricity is a lot easier to move than coal.

    Everyone says Thorium is realistic and I don’t doubt them. It is just no-one has done it yet. You learn a lot more out of the first five years of one operational reactor than all the paper studies can ever tell you.

    • Andy on 17/06/2012 at 7:05 pm said:

      The reason we are using Uranium and not Thorium is largely a political decision made over 50 years ago. Alvin Weinberg had a working prototype In the 1950 s at Oak Ridge Lab

      I’ve been following Kirk Sorensen for a while. It is a big uphill climb to get the nuclear industry to change a fairly major track, especially with all the regulatory overhead.

      The interesting thing for me, is that Thorium is potentially the golden bullet that could solve all our energy needs and any potential problems with CO2 emissions.

      The fact that the environmentalist movement seems to reject Thorium out of hand, for the most part, speaks a lot about their ideology rather than a genuine desire to fix problems.

      I am definitely in the skeptics camp with regard to co2 emissions, yet I am prepared to adopt realistic strategies to reduce those emissions. These reasons may also include the need to find more abundant fuel sources that doesn’t require us to carpet bomb countries into submission in order to exploit their oil reserves. Australia, for example, has abundant supplies of Thorium.

      I see the environmentalist movement as largely irrational and anti human. Gareth Morgan alluded to this recently on tv which I posted elsewhere here

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 7:52 pm said:

      “Electricity is a lot easier to move than coal”

      My perspective is coloured by what I’ve seen in North America i.e. Hansen’s “The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains”. I concede that dead flat and straight rail lines in the Mid-West are not comparable to even the NIMT but I point out that Contact are happily railing coal from PoT to Rotowaro as we’ve discussed and a lot of coal can be moved by just one train of US proportions – they seem endless and they move it VERY long distances.

      The same rationale could be used in terms of Australian iron ore but much of that is railed 100s of miles to port then shipped overseas to India and China where (some) Australian coal, also mined in Australia and shipped to those countries is used to fire the smelting furnaces rather than the ore going to a local Australian smelter sited somewhere between mine and energy source.

      Moving energy electrically is not the simple “easier to move than coal” as per your proposition in the NZ context I don’t think in view of the problems Transpower have had with transmission upgrades of late even given the less than ideal rail topography. I would perhaps agree if there were no constraints on transmission lines and transmission capacity continually met growing Auckland demand without CAPEX considerations but that ideal is just not the case. Then there’s continuity to think about. It doesn’t take much to disrupt movement of bulk electricity long distances when things go wrong (failure of plant or structures for example). There’s been some spectacular examples around the world and in NZ and there’s no reason to assume that NI transmission is catastrophe proof. Same can be said for rail e.g. earthquakes are not kind to rail infrastructure either.

      I think the problem is essentially Auckland – it’s in the wrong place and unable to support itself e.g. every regional purchase of fuel incurs a tax to subsidize Auckland roading infrastructure. By contrast, the major US industrial region of Pennsylvania is right next to Appalachian coal fields so its a case of industry AND PSs being next to the mines in the ideal economy, not just the PS next to the mine. I think the same can be said for much of German industry. The industry, mines and PSs will all be located .near the new coal projects linked up-thread and same for anything existing.

      Some of North American electricity jargon and terminology comes from rail e.g. “wheeling” because the older sector pioneered cost and ownership structures that electricity has adopted because they are essentially doing exactly the same thing – tolling traffic (electricity = rolling stock) over a network (railways = transmission/distribution lines) using prime movers (PS = locomotive).

    • Richard C (NZ) on 18/06/2012 at 2:12 pm said:

      Chris, you say:-

      “Everyone says Thorium is realistic and I don’t doubt them. It is just no-one has done it yet. You learn a lot more out of the first five years of one operational reactor than all the paper studies can ever tell you.”

      This is contradictory to the Wiki quote up-thread:-

      (#1) Existing thorium energy projects

      The German THTR-300 was the first commercial power station powered almost entirely with Thorium.

      (#2) THTR-300 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      The THTR-300 was a thorium high-temperature nuclear reactor rated at 300 MW electric (THTR-300). The German state of North Rhine Westphalia, in the Federal Republic of Germany, and Hochtemperatur-Kernkraftwerk GmbH (HKG) financed the THTR-300’s construction.[1]

      Operations started on the plant in Hamm-Uentrop, Germany in 1983, and it was shut down September 1, 1989. The THTR was synchronized to the grid for the first time in 1985 and started full power operation in February 1987.[2]


      On September 1, 1989 the THTR-300 was deactivated due to its ever rising cost: in August, 1989, the THTR-company became almost bankrupt after a long shut down time due to broken components in the hot gas duct. It had to be bailed out by the government with an amount of 92 million Deutsche Mark.[3]

      Also, increased public scrutiny following both the Chernobyl accident and the THTR-300 fuel pebble event of May 4, 1986, in which a fuel pebble became lodged in a fuel feed pipe to the core and some radioactive dust was released to the environment, played some role in the decision for shut down. Further German utilities had lost any interest in pebble bed reactors.

      However, Germany’s experience has not deterred India (from link #1 above):-

      India’s Kakrapar-1 reactor is the world’s first reactor which uses thorium rather than depleted uranium to achieve power flattening across the reactor core.[35] India, which has about 25% of the world’s thorium reserves, is developing a 300 MW prototype of a thorium-based Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). The prototype is expected to be fully operational by 2013, after which five more reactors will be constructed.[36][37]

      That’s one country that has done it and one country that is doing it.

  11. ChrisM on 17/06/2012 at 8:15 pm said:

    As I earlier said I don’t doubt thorium will work. It just hasn’t been proven yet. It will be the engineering not the science that lets it down. Remember the problems with disortion in both the graphite blocks and zirconium? covered fuel rods in early reactors? Those were only found by running a plant.

    It is Genesis, not Contact that runs Huntly. From memory, a 1000MW coal burn goes through 3000t/d of coal. That is a full train turned round every 12 hours. The US can do it out of the Powder River Basin because of large open cast mines with 20m thick seams, and multiple tracks of standard gauge railways. It can’t be done from the pithead of a single underground mine. Steel mills aren’t really a valid comparison to steamers. Most steelmakers have rolling mills attached. They need a very large labour force so the pay costs are the driver.

    You are right about Auckland. The grid has massive constraints getting power in. It needs big stations north of the city. Originally it was going to be nukes on South Kaipara Heads. Now it has to be LNG. Transpower won’t properly allocate the cost of supply because of all the votes up there. The tyranny of the majority.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 10:44 pm said:

      I see the new German coal PSs are mostly 800 MW. What would be the lower limit whereby coal is profitable?

      Huntly has 4 x 250 MW units from memory and you say in a following comment that today 3 of them are working to make 700 MW.

      Wouldn’t it be possible to site separate 250 MW units in different locations as per Contact’s Otahuhu (got that right) I’m not talking about fuel because Otahuhu is gas but the fact that a smaller scale PS is located right in Auckland. The smaller scale is no different than the new geothermal plants dotted around Rotorua.

      So my compromise scenario is 4 x 250 MW PSs sited: 1 adjacent South Waikato mines; 1 at Huntly (or refurbish1 or more of the existing units); 1 at South Auckland; and, 1 at North Auckland. The railing would only be an issue for the Auckland units (1500 t/d, 1 train turnaround per 24 hrs). This would get 500 MW into Auckland where it’s needed at each end and it’s just a matter of Aucklanders living with some emissions and being educated about modern scrubbers if they don’t want brownouts in the future.

      What’s wrong with that scenario?

      BTW Meremere is not necessarily dead and buried. A 2004 report ‘Electricity generation: NZ and selected OECD countries’ states:-

      Possible Future Plant Changes
      Genesis Power is also undertaking a feasibility study on the recommissioning [of] an old coal fired plant at Meremere in the Waikato, with a projected generation capacity of 500MW

      Report here

      Don’t know the conclusions of the Meremere feasibility study but it would make interesting reading if nothing else.

  12. ChrisM on 17/06/2012 at 9:31 pm said:

    A bit OT but notice how the wind geration now is only about 20MW and the market price of electricity is over $300. And this on a Sunday when the factories aren’t working. That is what most except the Greens said would happen. There is an inverse relationship between wind and power demand through the peaks. That is why the country needs thermal hydrofirming plant.

    That evil coal is doing 700MW as they only have 3 units in – it takes about 48 hours to get a unit up from cold and then they want to keep it running at above $150 /MWh to be profitable. The units can only easily go down to 150MW. Every time they have to shut off, it takes a lot of life out of the boiler and other high temperature components.

    • Andy on 17/06/2012 at 10:09 pm said:

      It would be really great to get more data. I appreciate your efforts Chris, and realize that this info is not available for the punters. Sorry, the ones who are paying for it.

      Bottom line for me is, whether it is climate change, energy policy or whatever, we should share the data and share the code, especially if the taxpayer or consumer is funding it

    • Andy on 17/06/2012 at 10:46 pm said:

      The best UK site I found is this

      When I looked, wind was at 3% of UK grid, better than the 0.5% it has been for much of last week.

      At 3% though, it is still less than the imported energy via the French and Dutch interconnectors.

      NB this website is Flash, so it doesn’t work on iPad etc

    • Richard C (NZ) on 17/06/2012 at 10:57 pm said:

      So can it said that every time wind picks up and thermal has to shut down, wind is effectively destroying thermal componentry?

    • Hmm, good question. It would be terrific to get a financial value on “takes a lot of life out”. Putting that together with the built-in extra cost of wind might give Joe Public reason to reject his forced obligation to pay for wind. The feel-good factor alone won’t suffice when times are hard.

    • Andy on 18/06/2012 at 10:33 am said:

      What is there to feel good about? There is little evidence that wind energy reduces CO2 emissions, let alone provide any kind of decent amount of energy

    • You know that, and I know that, but who else?

      Since wind turbines are expensive, produce only a little high-cost energy, reduce any sense of energy security, don’t reduce CO2 emissions and won’t last long, why else build them except on a feeling? The only reason for those good feelings is that wind is endlessly “renewable”.

    • Andy on 18/06/2012 at 11:19 am said:

      This whole “renewable” concept is totally flawed. It’s only the wind component that is “free”. The steel, concrete and other parts are most certainly not renewable

  13. Andy,

    Yes, nicely identified. But it’s the same with hydro, solar, even oil, gas and coal – the fuel itself is free, courtesy of Mum Nature. The only difference is that wind and solar arrive on site without effort. But all systems have costs. With the “fossil” fuels those costs include transporting the fuel and dealing with their polluting effects.

    That’s enough, in some people’s eyes, to preclude their use.

    Oh, I forgot: they also cause global warming, which enters the religious realm. Trumps reason, that does.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 18/06/2012 at 12:53 pm said:

      “Green” Germany has shut down 8 nuclear PSs and now Austria is banning import of nuclear fueled energy. Czech Republic is a major exporter to both countries but now (quoting), both Germany and Austria, the Czech Republic’s second-largest electricity export destination, are raining on ČEZ’s parade with measures to stop imports of electricity generated by nuclear plants, which account for 30 percent of Czech production:-

      Austria to ban import of nuclear fueled energy

      Presumably though, neither country has any qualms about import from Czech of coal sourced electricity which accounts for 57% of Czech production:-

      Euracoal: Czech Republic

      In 2010, approximately 57 % of the total gross electricity production (85.9 TWh) was generated from coal, 33 % from nuclear energy and 7 % from renewable sources. Conventional coal-fired power stations have a total capacity of approximately 10.8 GW. The Czech electricity market has been fully liberalised since 2006 and the gas market since 2007.

      Czech Electricity – exports (million kWh)

      2011, 22,230 million kWh exported

      Not sure how they (Germany and Austria) will go about separating the nuclear generated electrons from the coal generated electrons though but if they ban all imports in order to stop the nuclear ones they would be cutting off their nose to spite their face.

      Discovered this situation talking to a Czech guy working in the same kiwifruit packhouse as me. He had a geology degree specializing in environment impacts from mining etc but he couldn’t get work, hence a trip to NZ.

  14. Andy on 18/06/2012 at 2:02 pm said:

    I quite like the forthright contextual ads that appear for me at the top of this page.
    it says “Alternative Energy Sucks”.

    • Me too! I’ve just seen it. Touts the coming shale gas revolution in Australia – invest now!

    • Richard C (NZ) on 18/06/2012 at 4:22 pm said:

      Ha!, I’ve just been getting top of page:-

      Hyundai iX35 Family Wagon
      More Power, Space & Safety. The Rational Choice. Find Out More!

      Boring. but probably because I’m on the lookout for a diesel SUV with gobs of power and torque (CO2 emissions not in my criteria)

      That will have wait until after a new computer though. My old ex-lease Dell Optiplex GX1 with Windows 2000 Pro is bursting at the seams running apps that shouldn’t run according to system requirements (spends most of its time swapping browser/apps in and out of RAM). Looking at an HP Omni 220 1130a from Dick Smith $1400 down from $1600 with 6GB RAM, about 10 x what I’ve got now..

      Andy, I’ll email you one day when I get up to speed and can communicate coherently on some IT work that I’m trying to make headway in. Basically, model driven architecture (MDA) model based systems engineering (MBSE, SysML) business process modeling notation (BPMN) and CIM (aka Computationally Independent Model, Common Information model, Domain Model as used by networks, banking, ports, logistics etc and being implemented by Vectorl) in a ‘Zero Code’ CASE tool environment where the initial unified modeling language (UML) diagrams become the application after translation (BPEL) using Bizagi Process Modeler and Suite, Enterprise Architect or Modelio and EditiX and Syntext Serna for XML

      BPMN is just the standard Activity Diagram in UML 2.2 (1 of 14 others).

      It may be of interest to you Andy that Bizagi Suite sits on .NET but can also invoke J2EE and reverse engineer from the code. Are you familiar with these tools? I get the impression that you are a low level code developer so may be off your radar but it seems to me to be the new “business agility” paradigm (BizAgi – get it?) for web apps although been around for over a decade now.

      I make no apology for the acronyms RT, this zone is acronym hell and understandably anathema to you I’m sure. Have a gander at this 282 page UML specification for plain English that doesn’t even come close to the acronym-rich environments of some of the specs above e.g. BPMN 2.0

    • Andy on 18/06/2012 at 4:44 pm said:

      Richard, I am not familiar with the specific tools you mention, though I have come across various .NET to UML tools.

      Generally I stay away from this kind of stuff and do the dirty coding way.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 18/06/2012 at 5:15 pm said:

      The link was to the SysML spec not UML. The SysML spec gives some real-world examples that reveal what its all about relatively easy from my viewpoint anyway.

      Pity you stay away from this stuff Andy, I was kinda hoping you\d cleared the path.

      ‘Zero Code’ is just blurb, someone like yourself with low-level coding skills would make gigantic productivity gains using those tools I would have thought. That’s my aim but I’ll probably trip myself up once I move from modeling and diagramming (doddle for an ex drafty with a bit of CAD) to turning those models into executable code.

      If nothing else, the interactive models and diagrams (e.g. CIM) pre translation are very powerful in that an enterprises’ assets, processes and messages are standardized so that everyone in the organization along with external contractors etc are looking at exactly the same information and updates. The XML messages generated sidestep proprietary EDI too.

    • RC,

      I make no apology for the acronyms RT, this zone is acronym hell and understandably anathema to you I’m sure.

      No need to apologise. You almost nailed it, my friend. But I don’t mind acronyms at all so long as they’re defined on first use in every session of use until they become well known. Like asap or lol. They save time and unite us. Where would we be without Anzac, Qantas or rofl?

      But only if we know what they mean else our writing is punctuated with Romulan.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 18/06/2012 at 5:25 pm said:

      Yes that’s my MO (Ha!). I try to define at first use then use acronyns thereafter but not always when conversing with someone who seems to be on the same page.

      I sometimes forget others may be reading who give up on encountering a barrage of jargon and acrobyms. Bad manners in a public forum i guess.

    • g’day Richard and others!

      Just came across this thread. Very interesting indeed!

      hey, I’ve been working with BizAgi the past few years in a biodiversity context and have a back ground in UML,MDA, J2EE. we should connect! @biowebplusplus

    • Andy on 18/06/2012 at 5:03 pm said:

      UK grid contribution from wind now at 0.5% as I write this.
      Those ads must know something…

    • Richard C (NZ) on 18/06/2012 at 5:30 pm said:

      Is that 0.5 % really a “contribution”?

    • Andy on 18/06/2012 at 7:29 pm said:

      “Contribution”, yes every little helps /sarc

  15. ChrisM on 18/06/2012 at 6:41 pm said:

    Yes, undipatchable wind generation does shorten the life of thermal assets. In the old days (early ECNZ) there was a merit order that was religiously adhered to. Once a boiler had started, the dispatch controller kept it on for as long as practicable, holding back water. Since the market came, that has gone ou the window. Nowadays it is open slather. I believe Contact pays Genesis to keep at least one of the coal units running but that is supposed to protect the CCGTs which have their own big problems.

    The generation data costs a lot of money to collect and bring through the firewall. It is also on limited distribution – generally only senior managers and traders get full access. I think it is about $2-300k pa. I’m certain if you have that sort of money, you can get access to it as well.

    • Andy on 18/06/2012 at 10:10 pm said:

      It’s a shame the data isn’t more widely available so we can form objective opinions rather than second guessing.

      You have to wonder whether a pure market is the best solution for utilities like electricity.
      Sometimes, a bit of state intervention works ok

  16. ChrisM on 19/06/2012 at 6:58 am said:

    The data is available from a lot of public sources. It is just not in forms that are easily analysed or morselised. When we see the shit written by a lot of analysts who do have access to the right data, it is hard to argue for more transparency. Most reports seem to use rumours to push their own agendas. Anything out of the Wind Association or their advisors is generally garbage. They are just leeches sponging on the rest of the grid.

    My personal view is the market doesn’t work as it can be gamed. It also works on short term signals to drive long term investments. State intervention is not necessarily good. The Tongariro scheme got given the go-ahead so Hugh Watt could keep the NI hydro construction workforce busy until they could start work on the Mohaka dams.

    There are problems with all the alternatives to electricity operation, it is probably a matter of choosing the best of bad alternatives.

    • Andy on 19/06/2012 at 9:43 am said:

      Anything out of the Wind Association or their advisors is generally garbage. They are just leeches sponging on the rest of the grid.

      Good to get that from the horses mouth, so to speak.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 19/06/2012 at 9:56 am said:

      “It also works on short term signals to drive long term investments”

      And the criteria for long-term investments getting the go ahead is company IRR, NPV depending on risk and with revenue gain so does the salary and bonus of CEO and top tier mgt as in all other company investments in other sectors. The consumer doesn’t get a look in and bills are way ahead of CPI.

      Compare to the Power Board/ECNZ era. Minimal mgt at sensible salaries (NZ is just not that big). Security of supply on networks that made security a focus (e.g. undergrounding overhead lines, current companies are still dining out on that). Consumer charges kept pace with CPI. Simple jobs could be done by a few people at minimal cost (non profit) in the one organization instead of the present owner/contractor/subcontractor structure where everyone has to extract a profit. Lots of small hydros developed (although they had to be bailed out when interest rates went through the roof). Generation “merit order that was religiously adhered to” as described by Chris and so on.

      I’m not saying the old way was better because there were flaws in that too but the present structure has not delivered the efficiency gains Max Bradford et al envisaged.

      The good things left over are the trusts e.g. TECT and the WEL Trust that retain shares in the companies and return dividends to consumers (along with keeping the debatable “charities” going e.g. surf and helicopter rescue i.e. social causes). I’ve always wondered whether ownership in trust (non govt and kept in NZ) and contestable management was a better structure with the owners/trustees making the long-term decisions on advice from incumbent mgt checked by independent consultants.

      Top tier Telecom mgt on $million plus remuneration packages are discovering that they are dispensable if Telstra took over and ran NZ from AU.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 19/06/2012 at 10:05 am said:

      By “contestable management” I mean mgt is a service just like any other that can be put out to contract. Powerco contracts out line services to Tenix Alliance (Siemens prior to that) so there’s no difference between that and a lines owner/trustee contracting out mgt to get market rates.

      “Race-to-the-top” mgt remuneration rates would soon adjust to a realistic levels in that scenario.

  17. Robert on 13/04/2018 at 12:28 pm said:

    There is a lot of talk about our steam power generation. First Meremere was shut down because of politics not because it ran out of life as it had many hours left in the rebuild that had just been done and not because of coal running out.
    Second is Marsden A/B this was pretty much the same as Meremere. But mainly the political views of the day as it would be smarter to truck coal from the port to Marsden than from Mt m to Huntly.

    Such a waste of yours and my money.

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