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Portland needs cleaner transit, but electrification isn’t the answer

Guest Opinion in the July 13, 2018, Oregonian 

Jessica Vega Pederson is right: it is time for Tri-Met to continue its tradition as a leader in our community by eliminating their diesel fleet (“Portland needs TriMet to prioritize electric buses,” July 4). Unfortunately, she and many others get it wrong on how to get it done. Relying on overpriced and underperforming electric bus technology will only set us back in our goal of eliminating harmful diesel emissions. We should refocus on natural gas-powered buses, and explore operating those buses on recovered methane — called ‘renewable natural gas’ — from Portland’s wastewater treatment facility (“Portland plans to turn ‘poop to power,” April 20).

There is no way around it: Oregon has a diesel problem. Transportation is Oregon’s largest source of greenhouse gas emission. Diesel-powered trucks and buses make up a third of the on-road transportation emissions. Not only do these emissions harm our region’s climate goals, but they are toxic pollutants that cause smog, acid rain, and many dangerous health conditions. We are all affected by diesel pollution, but especially the most vulnerable populations of children, elderly and the sick.

The best place to start in solving this problem is by replacing the 700 diesel buses that zigzag through the heart of our metro area. The conversation is already occurring, but it has largely focused on one limiting question: How soon can we electrify the bus fleet?

Los Angeles Metro was faced with this same problem. The LA Basin in the ’90s had some of the worst air quality problems in the world, and their 2,500-diesel bus fleet was a large contributor. Their solution: move to near-zero emission natural gas engines fueled by renewable natural gas, which offers up to 115 percent reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and 99.9 percent air quality pollutant reductions. Their fleet is no longer a significant polluter, and they have saved their customers money on fuel and maintenance costs at the same time. This is a home run, and Portland should take note.

The time to act is now. Every day we wait for electric bus technology to be ready is a day that we make our air quality problems worse. Natural gas buses are proven, affordable and ready to tackle our air quality and climate issues today.

Connor Reiten
Director of Policy and Operations
NW Alliance for Clean Transporation

 

What’s going on with natural gas research and technology development?

The Department of Energy is committing $30 million to the research and development of domestic unconventional oil and gas, both onshore and offshore resources. DOE has selected six projects they believe will improve processes in resource development while advancing technology and engineering practices. Objectives of the research include minimizing environmental impact and risk while building domestic supplies to enhance U.S. energy dominance and security.  To read the full press release, click here.

Meanwhile, engineers are researching technology at The Ohio State University that may have the potential to produce electricity without emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.

The technology is called chemical looping, which utilizes produced CO2, metal oxide particles and high pressure to burn biomass and fossil fuels without oxygen. To read the full article click here. To learn about this process in-depth, click here.

GUEST BLOG: Coming Solar Eclipse Further Proves that Renewables Need Natural Gas

Anti-fossil fuel activists like 350.org’s Bill McKibben often pretend the United States can run on 100 percent renewable energy without the use of any traditional fuel sources. McKibben recently wrote in Rolling Stone that “the sundown problem is being solved fast, as batteries are able to store the energy from the morning sun and the wind from a gusty evening to keep the power running overnight.”

McKibben’s claims simply aren’t true though, and preparations for next week’s total solar eclipse illustrate this cold, hard fact.

Because storage technology to allow for solar power to stand alone — even during a brief loss of sunlight — doesn’t currently exist, the solar industry has been actively preparing for how to mitigate the issue in places like sunny California where that industry thrives. The solution? Natural gas.

NWGA Releases Natural Gas Facts Booklet

Natural Gas Facts

This booklet provides an overview of natural gas and the myriad of benefits that this domestic, clean, safe, low-cost and reliable energy source offers the Pacific Northwest consumers. 3.2 million regional natural gas users are enjoying its economic and environmental advantages, but expanding the use and applications of natural gas will help provide an economically feasible, cleaner environment for future generations.

To download and read more, click here.

Welcome to the Northwest Salish Orca and LNG as a marine fuel!

salish-orca

This is a picture of the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueled marine vessel to operate in the Northwest, Salish Orca. Salish Orca left its shipyard in Gdansk, Poland last November and arrived in British Columbia (BC) last week after a 50-day, 10,440-nautical-mile journey. Salish Orca will go into operation later this spring after inspections and training are complete.

Salish Orca is the first of three liquefied natural gas (LNG) Salish class vessels that BC Ferries is adding to its fleet. Its sister ships, Salish Eagle and Salish Raven, are expected to arrive in BC this spring and go into service later in 2017. BC Ferries has also commissioned the retrofit of its two largest vessels, the Spirit of Vancouver and the Spirit of British Columbia, to run on both LNG and diesel.

“This is a very exciting day for all of us at BC Ferries, as we proudly welcome this beautiful ship, Salish Orca, home to British Columba and into our fleet,” says Mike Corrigan, BC Ferries’ president and CEO. “The Salish Class vessels will provide us cost savings and efficiencies, with standardized vessels and greater interoperability, as well as enhanced safety, well into the future. They are very well-built ships, which will serve our customers for many years to come.”

According to BC Ferries, using natural gas as the primary fuel source is expected to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by approximately 15% to 25%, reduce sulphur oxides by over 85%, reduce nitrogen oxides by over 50%, and nearly eliminate particulate matter.

Natural Gas is Critical in the Energy Future

Jim Piro, President and CEO of Portland General Electric (PGE) was recently interviewed by the Portland Business Journal about the significant transition underway in the energy landscape. The key takeaway is that PGE is carefully and deliberately moving through it. Mr. Piro wants PGE to learn from others, not pioneer new, unproven resources and regulatory regimes. Mr. Piro also reaffirmed the critical role that natural gas must play in PGE’s generation portfolio to ensure that customers always have electricity when they need it:

 “[I]f the wind doesn’t blow for a day or so batteries can’t help you through that. Gas is needed to bridge that difference… If the lights don’t go on, customers aren’t going to worry about whether the gas is in the ground or not in the ground; they’re going to wonder why [PGE] didn’t meet their needs.”

 Not everyone is happy with PGE’s approach as indicated in a guest editorial by the Sierra Club and other Oregon environmental organizations recently published in the Oregonian. Unfortunately, the authors of the opinion piece use inflammatory language and outdated information to support their case. Their claim about “notoriously volatile” natural gas prices caught our eye and we’d like to set the record straight.

According to the to U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) natural gas prices were relatively stable from 1981 to 2000, averaging $3.95/Dekatherm (Dth) when adjusted for inflation ($2015). Gas prices during the first decade of the 21st century were indeed volatile as North America struggled to produce enough natural gas to meet growing demand. From 2001 to 2010 natural gas averaged $6.61/Dth and experienced significant volatility associated with cold and hot weather, and hurricanes that disrupted conventional supply resources.onemoretime

 All that changed with the advent of shale gas which began to come online in 2007 and reached game-changing status around 2010. The average price of natural gas from 2011 to 2015 was $3.57/Dth. In 2015, natural gas averaged $2.62/Dth. The future looks equally stable. EIA projects that natural gas prices will rise to $5/Dth ($2015) and remain there as production technologies become more efficient, quicker to come on line and better for the environment. This is a dramatic change from its 2008 price forecast.

Natural gas is an abundant, cleaner, affordable energy resource. As Mr. Piro notes, it is a vital part of enabling more renewable resources in our region and elsewhere. Without natural gas, our power supply will become less reliable and more expensive. Those are the facts.

Natural Gas Supplies in the Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwest natural gas customers benefit from their proximity to the prolific Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) and U.S. Rocky Mountain (Rockies) natural gas-producing regions.

June 7 -8, 2017: 14th Annual Energy Conference

  • Annual Energy Conference
    June 7, 2017 - June 8, 2017
    11:00 am - 4:30 pm

NWGA Releases the 2016 Gas Outlook

This study, compiled by the NWGA and its members, provides a consensus industry perspective of the Pacific Northwest’s current and projected natural gas supply, demand, prices and delivery capabilities through 2026. The Pacific Northwest, in this case, includes British Columbia (BC) and the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

We have updated data in this 2016 Outlook, but most key conclusions are similar to last year. Most of the trends identified in the 2015 Outlook continue to be relevant. Where appropriate, revised analyses and updated tables/graphics provide details of what’s new.

To download the complete study click here.

Reaping the Shale Natural Gas Bounty

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council recently published a blog, Reaping the Shale Natural Gas Bounty. The Council recognizes that as trite as it has become to say it, North America is in the midst of an energy revolution.

The North American natural gas resource is abundant. Once a pipe dream, technological breakthroughs have made vast gas supplies available. Less than ten years ago, natural gas was thought to be so scarce we were building

facilities to import it from other countries. Once we asked, “Where will we get the natural gas we know we need?” Now we ask, “How can we use the natural gas we know we have?”

North American natural gas is affordable and becoming more so as producers refine extraction technologies. Through the 80s and 90s, the commodity averaged about $4.40 per dekatherm (Dth) when adjusted for inflation. In 2015, the average price was $2.62/Dth. Northwest consumers alone have saved hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs over just the last few years.

North American Natural gas is also a cleaner energy resource. Whether as a flexible generation fuel that makes renewable resources viable and displaces coal; as a transportation fuel to replace diesel, gasoline and bunker fuel, or used directly to warm homes, cook and heat water, the increased use of natural gas is reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The EIA reports emissions are at the lowest rate since 1993. Using natural gas responsibly and directly will drive GHG emissions even lower.

The Council poses a number of good questions in its blog. We maintain that natural gas is an abundant, affordable, cleaner and more efficient energy resource. It is already helping to address many of the energy, economic and environmental issues confronting North America. Natural gas is an immediate and enduring solution to today’s concerns, using today’s technologies.

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