Archive for Coal

Windmills – Still Rubbish

Posted in Mining, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings, The Wicker Man list with tags , , , , , , on December 13, 2010 by awickerman

Durham University have sent one of their research students to look at offshore windmills, I’m not sure why, perhaps he had offended them in some way. In any event he has come back and worked out exactly how good/awful they are, using numbers rather than the vague insults and projections I’m usually forced to rely on. The summary is here with the bewitching title;

UK offshore wind farms: must do better”

Which, while accurate, is kind of like saying ‘Harold Shipman: must stop killing people’, it’s a nice idea, but it’s not going to happen.

So why must the windmills do better, well they were only actually available 80% of the time. That’s not generating electricity 80% of the time, that’s just potentially available to generate some electricity 80% of the time, the actual load factor (how much of the total theoretical production was actually produced) was far lower. As we saw last time on off-shore windfarms that ain’t good. The deep ff-shore windmills would hope to be available 90% of the time, if the ones in shallow waters can’t manage it what chance in the middle of the North Sea?

On the plus side the costs weren’t as bad as feared at a mere £70 per MWh (Not counting the fact taxpayers were been fleeced by the government to provide the subsidy to build the windmill, which then produces the expensive electricity your electricity provider is legally compelled to buy. Bastards).

Sure that’s more pricey than coal, say £45 per MWh for the average European coal fired plant, but it could have been a lot worse. You could be buying electricity in Germany where they have to contend with lignite power station trying to generate electricity by burning muddy twigs and costing fortune while doing so. Then there are the proper coal burning German power stations which have to buy coal from DeutscheSteinKohle, a company who’s mines really should be closed, but aren’t because the German government really likes miners and wants to carry on paying £200,000 a year per miner to keep them mining over-priced coal no-one outside Germany wants. Then there is the German solar industry which continues to cost a fortune, and of course they subsidies their own windmills.  Basically it all costs a fortune, apart from Nuclear and Russian Gas, which is probably why the Germans use so much of both.

Today’s thought for the day; Chris Huhne is a twunt who will be one of the first into the Wicker Man come the revolution.


The Inevitable General Election Post

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Mining, Tunnels, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on May 2, 2010 by awickerman

Having resisted for much of this seemingly endless campaign my will power has snapped, in this vital last week I now present the official Wicker Man electoral guide. Dismissing such common sense ideas as analysis or indeed actually reading the manifestos we will be using the tried and failed technique “Counting the words in a manifesto and pretending that has any relevance to anything”. You may think this is a stupid idea, and you’d be correct, but it hasn’t stopped the ICE from pissing my money against a wall by doing it.

For this exercise I will be using the keywords of “Tunnel” and “Mining” and limiting ourselves to only manifestos. I did also check for “Wicker man” but sadly, if not surprisingly,  absolutely no-one included it. So onto the summary;

  • Almost Every Party – 0
  • The Communist Party of Great Britain – 1
  • The Official Monster Raving Loony Party – 1
  • The English Democrats – 1

So therefore your choices are; Loonies, Communists or the only party publicly committed to moving Monmouthshire from Wales to England. Having actually read said documents it comes down to the Communists want to keep the Channel Tunnel Rail Link in public hands, the English Democrats wanting more Tin Mining and the Loonies wanting the Channel Tunnel to be a no fly zone.

Frankly from that shower of  ideas I have to go Loony. As far as I know nobody is proposing sell the CTRL (if nothing else who would risk buying it after Labour illegally nationalised RailTrack?) while deep level Tin Mining died out for a reason; there is no cheap tin left, if you want to restart that industry you will need massive subsidies to compete with dirt cheap dredged Malaysian tin.

So there you have it, the Wicker Man advises you to vote Monster Raving Loony Party as they have the best (and possibly only) policies on tunnels.

Politicians are Idiots #481 – US Edition

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Mining, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on April 13, 2010 by awickerman

A return to my mining roots for this story, while most of the platitudes uttered are fairly standard post-disaster boilerplate one thing didn’t stand out;

“We cannot bring back the men we lost. What we can do, in their memory, is thoroughly investigate this tragedy and demand accountability,” Obama said.

“… we must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that all our miners are as safe as possible so that a disaster like this doesn’t happen again.”

First off there is an alarming presumption that there is someone to hold accountable, underground mining is fundamentally dangerous and shit does happen down there. Now while there certainly are accidents where management is to blame for skimping, the vast preponderance are either an individual making a mistake, the natural danger of underground or normally a bit of both. Like this one for instance. So if the report comes back and says ‘One of the miners skipped on a time consuming procedure and caused the accident’ should we hold one of the victim’s ‘accountable’? Somehow not what I think the President intended, but hey it’s a good sound bite and isn’t that what actually counts?

The second part was just as bad, the one thing I can utterly guarantee is that disasters like this will happen again so long as their are underground mines. Coal mines are by their very nature stuffed full of explosive materials like methane and coal dust and have no shortage of ignition sources, hell the last big disaster, the Sago Mine explosion, was caused by lightning strikes at surface setting off methane in the closed (and flooded) portion of the mine. As the old saying goes the only safe mine is a closed mine. Though on this one this could be what Obama meant, I doubt he’s much in favour of dirty but functional coal mines. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d prefer them to all be closed and replaced with trendy (if useless) windmills.

Final thought for the day, a cheering insight into the attitude of miners. The US Mine Safety chaps have coined the marvellous term  “Fatalgram” for their ‘Why someone died’ updates they issue to the industry.  There is something reassuringly irreverent about that.

Another Gratuitous Waste of Money

Posted in Rantings, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , on March 16, 2010 by awickerman

This is a stupid idea. As no-one is mentioning costs I can’t comment on the economics of it, but I can say (and indeed the bloke in the film admits) this will be be sod all use on calm days. Or more technically half the capacity will be sod all use on calm days (600 MW is wave)  the other 600 MW is tidal and so if guaranteed to be producing nothing half the time. And the company is inexplicably proud of that. Sure compared to wind power that is quite a good achievement (In Spain a 25% load factor would be considerably above average), but in terms of reliable power generation it must class as a fail.

If nothing else it’s a clear admission that the country will need to maintain 100% backup for every watt of ‘green’ generating power in the UK. Not only is that not cheap it sure as hell isn’t green. Wouldn’t it be easier to stop wasting all this money, spend it on getting fusion power sorted with the added bonus my energy bills go down? Who loses?

Still nice to see some amusing green-washing from E.ON. They have a whole 1.5 GW of renewable capacity ‘under development’, which is a big number to be sure. But at the same time they’re also trying to build a new coal power station at Kingsnorth which is 1.6GW of definite capacity on it’s own, and that’s before considering all the other non-renewable stuff their doing, but inexplicably that fact doesn’t make their ‘Note to editors’.

Still we shouldn’t mock them too much, we’ll need some reliable power stations to cover all that wave and tidal energy which will only work intermittently.

Coal Glorious Coal

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Mining, Rantings with tags , , , , on March 15, 2010 by awickerman

No more of this London centric transport rubbish, it is time to broaden my horizons and move up ‘tut north with some UK coal mining related news.

UK Coal, the people who optimistically brought the remnants of British Coal, have decided that turning a regular stonking loss isn’t a good idea (it didn’t work well for British Coal so they can’t say they weren’t warned) and so are looking at ‘expanding their options’. Or in other words being brought out by someone else.

In the finest British Coal traditions the deep mines are haemorrhaging cash, digging out ~6 million tonnes of coal but contriving to lose £14 million while surface pits churn out a mere ~1.5 million tonnes but make a profit of over £10 million. To put in context quite how awful the coal mining side of the biz is look at the market cap (£170 million) and compare with the valuation of the property portfolio around all the mines they’ve shut (£420 million). Thus the coal industry is valued at approximately -£300 million, all of which is almost certainly due to the loss making deep operations. Of course the 2009 results could be a stormer, but as only the first half interim report is available (and it looks even worse than the figures above) I doubt it.

While it’s always nice to see even more confirmation that deep coal mining in the UK is a damned stupid idea I fear the Guardian, despite reporting this news, will fail to learn anything from it.

To conclude I bring your attention back to this picture from the Guardian article;

A closed mine

The quite delightful Wistow mine which as the Guardian correctly notes is on the site of the Selby Mine Complex. However the slight problem is that both the Wistow Mine  and the entire Selby Complex are closed and has been for many years. Whether this is ignorance, incompetence or just an excellent illustrative picture of the problems with UK Coal (all their mines have been shut because they lose a fortune) I know not, but on past Guardian form I’d guess one of the first two.

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